June 13, 2008, - 2:43 pm

Weekend Box Office: Okay “Hulk,” Lackluster, Enviro-Zealous “Happening”

By Debbie Schlussel
Two okay–but not spectacular–new movie releases at theaters this weekend:
* “The Incredible Hulk“: The first motion picture installment of Hulk movies was just “Hulk.” Now, this second one–technically not a sequel–is called “The Incredible Hulk.” But there was not much that made it more distinctly “incredible” from the lackluster 2003 version. In fact, the only “incredible” thing I learned from this movie is the TMI about how Bruce Banner is unable to have sex because he’ll get too excited and turn into the Hulk. Gee, thanks for the tip.


I liked the first 2/3rds of the movie in which Bruce Banner is in hiding in Brazil, learning how to keep his heartbeat slow and pulse lowered. How he’s discovered by the U.S. government, isn’t credible, but it’s fun to watch him on the run in Latin America and then the U.S., as he tries to elude General Ross’ men. It’s also a nice update to have Banner, “Mr. Green,” in encrypted e-mail contact with “Mr. Blue,” a professor who is working to help him get rid of his transformative Hulk blood condition. And I liked this tougher, less-introspective and sensitive Hulk, in contrast to the girlie-Hulk in the first movie.
But once Banner starts fighting a dinosaur-like Hulk nemesis, the CGI battles are fake-looking and not to be believed. For most of the fight Hulk is losing and then he suddenly triumphs because . . .? Well, I can’t figure it out, either. Plus, the movie had like five endings and kept on going.
I’m not sure I like Edward Norton’s tiny, nerdy guy version of Bruce Banner, any better than Eric Bana’s taller, darker, handsomer, introspective Bruce Banner. In truth, neither is superior to TV’s Bill Bixby (of whom we get a glimpse in this movie). Liv Tyler’s acting as girlfriend Dr. Betty Ross is thin. She employs the same act as in every movie–soft, wispy baby talk. If I wanted that, I’d watch the box set of “The Bachelorette” starring Trista. Yuck. Jennifer Connelly was far superior in the first, poorly-scripted Hulk movie. Ditto for Sam Elliot, replaced by William hurt as General Ross in this one.
Yes, this Hulk movie is faster paced and far more of an action movie, than the boring girlie-man first edition. But some of the action–especially, again, the extended animated CGI fight between Hulk and his new nemesis, a Hulk-like dinosaur-esque monster, on the streets of Manhattan–was just absurd. And seeing the CGI Hulk say, “Hulk smash,” when he smashes someone is kind of stupid. Aren’t superheroes supposed to be sorta modest?
Nothing objectionable in this movie, and it’s entertaining–you can take your kids. It’s just that it wasn’t all that exciting or magical. And it felt a little long and sluggish. “Iron Man” is the far superior of the Marvel Comics superhero movies, and that’s kind of hinted at in a cool way at the end of the film. Another bonus: A cameo by original TV Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, who decades later looks like he was on TV just yesterday.
Not bad, just not great.
* “The Happening“: I’ve always thought M. Night Shyamalan was supremely over-rated. His movies are okay. Nothing special. But in Hollywood, everyone believes the hype. And in the wake of this unearned hype, he made a movie into what looks like an extended, substandard episode of “The Outer Limits” or “The Twilight Zone.” Except that “The Twilight Zone” was far better and much tighter. This one was somewhat slow, too.
Oh, and this one has an environmental zealot message. Green politics? No thanks. I’d rather see the color on the Hulk.
In this, the “green” plot is thin and confusing, as if a third-grader made it up and it was cobbled and patched together. Real-life, violent criminal thug Mark Wahlberg stars as a Philadelphia science teacher. Just as he’s teaching his students that we can’t explain every scientific phonemenon–sometimes things just happen in an act of nature–a doomsday bug has hit New York. People are killing themselves all over the place and no-one knows why.
Wahlberg and dull wife Zooey Deschanel–who can’t act to save her life in this movie and sounds like she just read the script for the first time–try to escape to the Pennsylvania countryside. But their train stops. The train “lost contact” even though their cellphones still receive and transmit as do the TVs in a local bar.
They soon escape in cars. But there are dead bodies everywhere. And no-one knows why. Wahlberg thinks it’s the trees and plants transmitting messages and a virus through the wind, but we’re never told for sure. He then surmises that if people travel in smaller groups, they won’t die. Bingo, he’s right–a preposterous and stupid plot. Not sure what the point of the weird old lady hillbilly was, other than to be creepy, which somewhat succeeded.
There have been so many recent doomsday movies, which were far superior, like “28 Days Later,” “Cloverfield,” “I Am Legend,” and “George Romero’s Diary of the Dead,” all of which I liked. This one, for the most part, the movie just seemed to be an excuse for scenes of gratuitous violence–people hanging themselves and pulling the triggers at their heads. And it didn’t really make even the least amount of sense.
Somewhat entertaining and not that much objectionable about it, other than the repeated guesses that this was nature’s way of telling us to stop abusing the planet–cue the Al Gore. But it just wasn’t great.

7 Responses

I liked Sixth Sense and The Village by Shyamalan, but most of his movies are just awful. I think he’s made a career out of the Sixth Sense swerve at the end and people think he will duplicate that…..I think it’s going to be a long wait.
Speaking of The Happening, it has one of the weirdest advertising campaigns I’ve heard, hyping it as Shyamalan’s “first R rated movie.” Huh? Who cares?
I’m going to try to finally catch Ironman this weekend if it’s still on.

Jeff_W on June 13, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I liked Sixth Sense and The Village by Shyamalan, but most of his movies are just awful. I think he’s made a career out of the Sixth Sense swerve at the end and people think he will duplicate that…..I think it’s going to be a long wait.
Speaking of The Happening, it has one of the weirdest advertising campaigns I’ve heard, hyping it as Shyamalan’s “first R rated movie.” Huh? Big deal.

Jeff_W on June 13, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I agree with you on “Hulk”, Debbie…I miss Bill Bixby.

Wahoo on June 13, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Whoops…sorry about the double post….uh oh, make that a double double with this one.

Jeff_W on June 13, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I won’t go, but will the film make money?
“The Village” received worse reviews, yet took in a quarter billion worldwide. And Mark Wahlberg is good even in bad movies. My total video and film costs this year: $11. Hey…microwave popcorn tastes better now.

supercargo on June 13, 2008 at 5:44 pm

If M. Night Shyamalan is such a genius film maker, why did he release an “R” rated movie on Father’s Day weekend?

rishika on June 14, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Hi, I just wanted to comment on a couple items of yur review of The Incredible Hulk. 1) “Hulk smash” was, actually, a catch-phrase of the Hulk in his earlier comics. 2) There is a good reason why the Hulk went from losing to winning in that battle with The Abomination at the end. In the comics, one of the Hulk’s abilities was to grow stronger the angrier he became. Unfortunately, the makers of the movie didn’t reveal that little character trait.
It was nice to see the “flashback” scene of Bill Bixby, as well as the cameo of Lou Ferrigno. Also, I’m not sure if you caught it, but, while he was in Guatemala, the music that was playing while he was walking the street was from the original television series.
By the way, in both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, there are some not-so-subtle hints that Marvel will be making an Avengers movie at some point.

Examined life on June 17, 2008 at 1:27 pm

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