(director: Louis Leterrier; screenwriters: Zak Penn/based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr.; editors: John Wright/Rick Shaine/Vincent Tabaillon; music: Craig Armstrong; cast: Edward Norton (Bruce Banner), Liv Tyler (Betty Ross), Tim Roth (Emil Blonsky), Tim Blake Nelson (Samuel Sterns/Mr. Blue), Ty Burrell (Leonard), William Hurt (General Ross); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Avi Arad/Gale Anne Hurd/Kevin Feige; Universal Pictures and Marvel Entertainment; 2008)

“Nothing that the director Louis Leterrier or the writer Zak Penn did by pumping up the action could take away from the film’s ordinariness … .”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

After Ang Lee’s more ambitious 2003 arty psychological take on the Marvel Comics Incredible Hulk series, we get a more straight-forward follow-up film from Louis Leterrier (“Transporter”/”Unleashed”) that strips away anything Freudian and goes for the simplistic “POW” and “BAM” kick ass stuff of comic books. I preferred Lee’s version, flaws and all. This uninteresting version is ham-fisted, has one-dimensional cardboard characters and the story line is bland. It’s an inflated special effects pic with three big fight scenes with the angry Green Monster, a CGI creation, as its center pieces, which has to be the main reason one might like such a middling undertaking. The destructive Superhero, Hulk, tries throughout to control his anger, keep his heart rate low, avoid daily incidents and remain undetected from his blood-thirsty military pursuers. Nothing that the director Louis Leterrier or the writer Zak Penn did by pumping up the action could take away from the film’s ordinariness and how it left you with little to think about, except, maybe, what was the best route home from the theater.

The by now familiar story has Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) on the run in Brazil from the U.S. military, hiding out in the hilly Rio slum section of Rocinha Rio. Bruce is an innocent victim of a failed series of experiments in radiation resistance that turned the mild-mannered physicist into a raging giant monster infected by gamma-rays. The military people who authorized the experiments failed to tell Bruce that he was being used as a guinea pig as part of a larger secretive biotech project to produce a new weapon for the U.S. military–the super-soldier. As a fugitive Bruce works disguised as a laborer on an assembly line in a soda bottling plant until located by his nemesis, five-star General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), the madman father of his sweet girlfriend and research colleague at Culver University, Dr. Elizabeth Ross (Liv Tyler). The general, who put the “rage” in Bruce, will stop at nothing to get his hands on the data that turns Bruce into this one-man army wrecking force, while the nerdy Bruce wants nothing more than to get an antidote for his gamma-irradiated blood and to do that makes computer contact with a wide-eyed freaky-nerdy NYC scientist, Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), using the code name of Mr. Blue as he works on the cure for Mr. Green in secret. But Bruce’s cover is blown when after an accidental blood spill of his poisonous blood on a soda bottle finds its way to the States and is drunk by a thirsty man (Stan Lee, creator of the comic), who immediately drops dead. The general sends in the maniacally ruthless mercenary Russian-born Royal Marine Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) and a healthy sized commando force to catch Bruce in the Rio slums, but he escapes. Blonsky witnesses the brute strength of the unassuming Bruce when he’s turned into the Hulk and tosses a forklift across the room to ensure his escape. Bruce then returns to Virginia’s Culver U. to see Elizabeth, and again the general sends in Blonsky and the boys to get him and again the Hulk is too much for the military boys while the campus is turned into a battlefield. The final confrontation between the Hulk and Blonsky, who has also imbibed in some of Bruce’s gamma juice in order to achieve his ultimate aim to be a super-soldier, is in Harlem, after both pugilists meet the Dr. Frankenstein-like madman Sterns.

The pic offers some lame pop-culture jokes and many superficial thrills, like seeing places wrecked, Jeeps tossed like toys, and watching Bruce inflate into a green giant with anger and deflate again back to being a harmless geek. If you’re sated, in this average Hulk flick, by seeing two Macy-like Thanksgiving Day sized floats battle it out in the Harlem located climax, then you’re the targeted audience this uninspired popcorn production is hoping to score with in the box office.