The Incredible Hulk
So, what do we call this new Hulk movie? It's not a true sequel to Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk, since none of the actors or filmmakers return for this version. Nor is it a remake, since this film doesn't retell the same origin story—in fact, The Incredible Hulk sort of picks up where Hulk left off.
The term that's being thrown around is "requel," and it's as descriptive as anything else short of a flat-out do-over. Despite Lee's inventive filmmaking—most notably his use of comic panels to tell the story on screen—Hulk was a commercial failure. Maybe it had something to do with Hulk battling a mutant poodle and that ambiguous cloud creature.
But failure is not an option for Marvel Comics, as The Hulk remains a company tent-pole nearly as popular as Spider-Man. Besides, if corny dialogue and a shoestring special effects budget are enough to yield a successful '70s TV show, then surely Hulk's story can easily translate to the big screen, right?
The Incredible Hulk never really acknowledges the previous film, but its opening credits montage vaguely explains Bruce Banner's fateful accident in an experiment with gamma radiation. The intense sequence is somewhat reminiscent of the events in the first Hulk, though stylistically it owes more to the TV show. Suddenly Banner wakes up from his nightmare and we're in Brazil; the 2003 movie ended in South America.
The opening 15 minutes are the best: a fascinating character study of Banner (Edward Norton) with minimal dialogue. The scientist is laying low, living in a slummy one-room apartment and working at a juice bottling factory. It's the portrait of a sad, lonely man learning to control his "condition" while quietly searching for a cure. Treating his radiated blood as an infection, he wears a wrist monitor to keep track of his pulse rate, practicing yoga and breathing exercises to manage his stress lest he become his raging alter ego. The film cleverly keeps track of this with an occasional caption, noting that it's been 158 days since Banner's last transformation—a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
Things become more rote and obligatory once the military enters the picture. General Ross (William Hurt) wants Banner captured to unlock the secret of gamma radiation and develop an army of super soldiers. His gung ho special ops agent Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) envies the Hulk's seemingly limitless power and even volunteers for an experimental program that could potentially give him equal strength and speed.
Forced out of hiding, Banner goes on the run and returns home to reclaim his research data. After reconnecting with his girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler)—the general's estranged daughter—they set out to meet the mysterious "Mr. Blue," who could hold the key to Banner's cure.
There's a lot for fans of the comic books to love here. Marvel Entertainment is not just bringing characters to the screen, but also attempting to create a film universe where they can all interact. Blonsky's character receives samples of an experimental WWII super serum which some may recognize as the stuff responsible for Captain America's enhanced strength and speed. Stark Industries (from Iron Man) is referenced concerning groundbreaking technology. And the final scene (no need to stay through the credits) includes a rather cool cameo, though its purpose will likely elude anyone other than the most devoted Marvel fan.