Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE HULK

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incredible hulkUniversal Pictures
2008
PG-13

“I’ve had missions go wrong, and seen good people go down all because someone didn’t tell them what they were walking into. I moved on because that’s the job, and that’s what we do. But this…this is a whole new level of weird, and I don’t think I want to step away from it.”

The second film in the big Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it wasn’t exactly the big blockbuster that Iron Man turned out to be. Mind you, this was the second attempt to bring the┬áJade Giant to the big screen, five years after Ang Lee’s version with Eric Bana, Nick Nolte and giant mutated poodles. Among other things. And while this kind-of sequel to that Hulk movie got much more right with the characters and the story on this go-round, it still wasn’t the SMASH! we were expecting. See what I did, there?

Pointless bit of personal backstory: The night I went to watch The Incredible Hulk, it was part of the bachelor party I threw as Best Man for my friends. We had just spent a couple of hours at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings, so almost all of us were nicely buzzed going into the movie. Except for me, I was the designated driver. So, maybe we enjoyed the movie more than we would normally. That doesn’t factor in my enjoyment due to complete sobriety. But, anyway, enough stalling.

Scientist Bruce Banner scours the planet for an antidote to the unbridled force of rage within him: the Hulk. But when the military masterminds who dream of exploiting his powers force him back to civilization, he finds himself coming face to face with a new, deadly foe.

I can see why a lot of people didn’t enjoy The Incredible Hulk. Technically, this was a reboot that worked also as a sequel, but was its own movie…stay with me, here. I liked the way they did a bit of a retro-summary of 2003’s The Hulk with the opening montage segment. The story itself was compelling, and for the most part kept my attention. It was maybe a bit early to wheel in The Abomination at this point in the game, and that’s probably what dragged the last third of the movie down. Liv Tyler seemed to play Banner’s love interest Betty Ross sans any kind of emotion. And while I kind of prefered Sam Eliott in the role of General Thunderbolt Ross from The Hulk, William Hurt does a rather good job in the role himself. Three times, so far.

Overall, yeah, I enjoyed The Incredible Hulk for what it is: a fun comic book action movies. Norton did a doable job as Bruce Banner, but I really am a Mark Ruffalo fan when it comes to live action portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner. The Incredible Hulk isn’t a bad movie, and I would give it some repeat watchings if the opportunity arises, I’m just in no hurry to put it in my collection just yet.

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Movie Review: THOR: Ragnarok

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thor ragnarokMarvel/Disney
2017
PG-13

“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution.”

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

It seemed like not too long ago that a young and excitable Marvel Studios was releasing what would become their First Wave of the grand-reaching Marvel Cinematic Universe, that included the first Thor movie. I remember being enthusiastic about skipping the first Thor movie, because I really wasn’t a fan of the Marvel comic itself. A comic book hero based on Norse mythology? Hard pass. I prefer my comic book heroes dressing up as nocturnal rodents or bitten by radioactive critters, thank you very much. Or, failing that, written by the British Triumvirate (Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore). You get the idea. Pity my prejudices, as when I finally did get around to watching both Thor and its sequel, I actually enjoyed them. Not my favorites of the Marvel Movie bunch, but certainly not terrible. Good enough to warrant trying to watch the third movie in the theater when it was released. And watch it in the theater I did, with the other members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, which we also recorded a podcast about immediately thereafter. But, since I like to go a bit more in-depth with my coveted opinions on things on this here blog of mine, here’s what I thought of Thor: Ragnarok.

My first thought of the movie was, “This is, hands down, the best Hulk movie I’ve seen.” And no, that’s wasn’t a spoiler, because the trailer to this movie flat-out shows the Hulk, right out in the open. Which is a bit of a point of contention I had, letting that cat out of the bag long before the movie, but then again, I’m just a pseudo-journalist with a blog, and not one of them Hollywood execs calling the shots on this. Not that I’m bitter or anything (wankers). But, yeah, the Hulk makes up about a third of the fun times had with Thor: Ragnarok, what with his gleeful antagonism of Thor like the good frienemy he is.

My second thought: “Wow, they actually managed to get ‘The Immigrant Song’ for the movie, not just the trailer.” Which is a feet unto itself, really. They may be loosening up their iron-clad grip on licensing out their songs, but Led Zeppelin still doesn’t just hand them out like Pez candy. “The Immigrant Song” plays not just once, but twice here. Excellent get. Well, it was either this, or something from the equally tonally-appropriate Amon Amarth. “Guardians Of Asgard” comes to mind…

My third and final big thought on this: “They’re really trying to capture the magic of the Guardians Of The Galaxy formula, aren’t they?” Yeah, while this is a rather dark movie (which is to be expected when the concept of Armageddon and destruction is right there in the subtitle of the movie), there are also a heavy dollop of humor mixed in to help lighten the tone up. This works maybe 85 percent of the time, maybe.

You may have noticed that I decided not to go with my standard method of summarizing the plot of the movie. That’s mainly because Thor: Ragnarok really is an epic fantasy action movie in and of itself. It starts with a massive battle between Thor and the undead army of Hell (or whatever the Marvel equivalent is), and then it ends with a giant fiery demon destroying Asgard. In-between, major characters in the franchise die, Thor goes on an unexpected journey of discovery, we’re introduced to one of the greatest side characters since Luis in Ant-Man, and of course HULK SMASH! A lot of HULK SMASH! All this, and some of the most mind-blowing visuals this side of a Kirby splash page. On the other hand, this may all be part of the downside of the movie, as there’s so much to take in. Also, sometimes the humor itself seems more juvenile than not. And it was mentioned in the podcast we did that Hela seemed to be yet another arbitrary villain introduced without much buildup or fleshing out beyond some brief exposition. I tend to agree with this assessment.

Overall, despite its flaws, I would still urge anyone reading this to try and watch this on the biggest screen you can, and try and take in as much as you can. Thor: Ragnarok may be a filler movie before getting to the main event with the next Avengers movie, but it’s a grandly entertaining filler movie, full of bright shiny things and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, along with great action sequences. In other words, it’s a Marvel movie. Go enjoy it for what it is.