Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Tin Roof, Rusted
Edward Norton is ready to play Jesus. Pale, amazingly thin and with long slender arms offered outward, he's decked out beatifically in beggar garb several times in THE INCREDIBLE HULK, just one example of a film that, more often than not has no fucking idea what it's doing aesthetically.
Coming five years after Ang Lee's universally despised (though not by me) HULK, this one is generally more interested in getting down to business. Call it a reboot or a sequel, it features an all new cast that is a step down from the previous iteration, with the exception of Norton. Liv Tyler is burdened with a dumb character arc of apparently really wanting to see the green boy's hulked-out cock, and William Hurt is egregiously bad. I would say he phoned it in and cashed a check, but based on his performance here, he probably ate the check.
Meanwhile as the new villain, Tim Roth fairs much better, capturing the sweaty insecurity of a small, aging guy who wants to even the playing field. Without this nuance the ways in which Hurt's General Ross takes advantage of him wouldn't be plausible. His character immediately becomes uninteresting when he transforms into a crusty Hulk-sized monster for the final fight. Tim Blake Nelson is fine as Samuel Stern, setup to appear as The Leader in a later sequel (or AVENGERS film), whose look will probably have to be changed because of his resemblance to the brain guy in the Ambiguously Gay Duo.
Edward Norton really carries this thing though, bringing none of the apprehensiveness he brought to his last franchise sell-out appearance, RED DRAGON. One of the bigger problems I did have with the first HULK was Eric Bana being far too attractive and masculine to fit the model of bashful underachiever turned hero. The real genius of Marvel has been its ability to tap into vicarious desires by having its alteregos be dweebs on the level of Peter Parker or Bruce Banner. Even Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., is kind of a dork if you think about it.
So if Norton is not the problem, what then? The truth of it is the Hulk is just not a very compelling character, and made less so with the seqboot's further muddying of the thematic waters. Whereas before the gamma radiation tapped into Banner's anger that was already there, now apparently it merely preys on heart rate. 'You won't like me when my pulse is elevated?' Seriously?
Two positives I will include are a generally fascinating opening act set mostly in a Brazillian slum, in particular a sequence in which Banner takes some form of martial arts/yoga class to learn to control his anger. His teacher uses his few moments to make a great impression, and I could have used more of him. Another would be the all too rare use of Arlington, Virginia as the location of the Pentagon. I wish I could say this movie hit me where I lived because it was set where I lived, but it didn't.
And of course, in hiding, Bruce spends his lonely days with some kind of mangy stray mutt. The same black and white texture, the unkempt hair, the warm expression. You watch enough of these things, you realize it's always the same movie, because it's always the same dog.