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Ang Lee's Hulk proving somewhat too ambitious and out-there for audiences in 2003, Marvel decided to reboot that franchise in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk. It followed Iron Man as the second film in the MCU and starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, a role he would not revisit.

Directed by Louis Leterrier, this sort-of sequel finds Banner hiding out in Brazil after he's already been exposed to the Gamma radiation that turned him into The Hulk. He's been learning to control his rage and keeping a low profile working in a bottle factory but General Ross (William Hurt) has been hunting him down in order to harness his powers and turn him into a weapon. Liv Tyler replaces Jennifer Connelly as Bruce's love interest Betty (and Ross' daughter) but her role is sadly limited to making sad cry faces, actually crying and the odd awkward conversation. To be fair, the writing in The Incredible Hulk is mostly a little strange as it's not only poorly structured but the dialogues never ring true and it's very easy to imagine the same sort of story being told in a far more interesting way. The main villain in the film is The Abomination (aka Emil Blonsky), played by Tim Roth who hams it up throughout and feels a bit miscast, much like the rest of the cast, frankly. No-one appears to be acting in the same movie as anyone else and this makes the film feel just off all the time.

As for The Hulk himself, the redesign which gives the character a more natural green skin tone, a less chunky body shape and more muscles works fine and it's a good effect overall. The Abomination's look is a little more sketchy but, since most of the action sequences are shrouded in darkness and shot at pretty close range, this doesn't become too distracting. The film's few playful moments such as the Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee cameos, musical cues from the classic TV series and the appearance of Tony Stark right at the end, suggest that there was a fun and worthy MCU movie in there somewhere but a mediocre script, awkward performances and an uneven, gloomy tone means it sadly fails to capture the comic-book feel it was going for, not to mention the energy a film like Iron Man managed to bring to the table that same year. Ang Lee's Hulk might have been too bold and cerebral for its own good but it presented The Hulk in a unique, memorable and entertaining way whereas this movie, while relatively slick on the surface, doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and it ends up as little more than a thoroughly dull, messy and disappointing experience.

Considering the talent involved and the characters' potential, The Incredible Hulk is quite possibly the MCU's biggest wasted opportunity and worst film. It's not unwatchable and it looks pretty good but it is, quite simply, charmless and nowhere near on the level of the Hulk film that preceded it.


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