As a scientist for the US military, Dr. Bruce Banner had been experimenting with gamma radiation when he chose to test it on himself and became contaminated with a body morphing side effect that occurred when his heart rate rose above 200 BPM. Bruce went on the run and found himself a quieter life in Brazil. Several years later, Bruce is working at a bottling plant and communicating with another scientist to try and find a cure. When an incident at the plant causes the US military to discover Bruce’s location, General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross employs soldier Emil Blonsky and a task force to extract him. Bruce goes back on the run and finds himself in Virginia at his old university and in the presence of his former love, Betty Ross (who happens to be the general’s daughter). Bruce learns that if he can meet up with his secret contact, there may be a cure waiting for him. While the general is still in hot pursuit, Thunderbolt uses Blonsky’s obsession to reopen the gamma experiment and attempt to create a new creature to battle the Hulk, the Abomination.
Starring (2003): Eric Bana (Bruce Banner), Jennifer Connelly (Betty Ross), Sam Elliott (Ross), Josh Lucas (Talbot), Nick Nolte (Father), Cara Buono (Edith Banner), Kevin Rankin (Harper), Celia Weston (Mrs. Krensler)
Starring (2008): Edward Norton (Bruce Banner), Liv Tyler (Betty Ross), Tim Roth (Emil Blonsky), William Hurt (General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross), Tim Blake Nelson (Samuel Sterns), Ty Burrell (Leonard), Christina Cabot (Major Kathleen Sparr), Lou Ferringo (The Incredible Hulk), Paul Soles (Stanley)
In an attempt to make up for the “abomination” of the 2003 version, the cast was put together with a little more intention. Edward Norton serves as the scientist and “menace” the military wants to keep under wraps. When living in Brazil, he does a great job of playing a man who wants to stay under the radar. Though he does not exactly play the CGI Hulk, his reactions during intense, heart-racing moments give his character a little more projection of fear, anger and torment. For Liv Tyler, she appears infatuated with her former love and friend. Though she certainly is surprised to see Bruce after several years apart, it is odd that she completely neglects her current love, played by Ty Burrell. William Hurt brings a strong-armed presence to the film and certainly does a great job with being obsessed with his pursuit of Bruce Banner, as does Emil Blonksy who is played by Tim Roth. For Roth, he is a man possessed with the desire to become more powerful and watch the Hulk suffer.
Louis Leterrier’s version of the Hulk succeeds at making up for the problems of the Ang Lee version. In 2003, the release of the movie had a number of different intentions. Lee attempted to make the film feel more like a comic book with overt comic graphics and transitions between scenes, as well as focus more on the creation of the Hulk instead of Bruce’s escape and exile. The CGI was okay but the end result appeared too cartoonish and disjointed. Leterrier’s version starts the film by giving the backstory of the creation of the Hulk all during the opening credits. Bruce’s story starts years after his original radiation and in his self-imposed exile to Brazil. Bruce is certainly portrayed as intelligent, but the focus is not so much on his experimenting and more so on his anguish with his condition. He does not want to feel afflicted with something he sees as a disease, though his secret contact sees his condition as something to control instead of eradicate.
Another interesting comparison between the two films is with the villain. While the Hulk certainly has his anger issues and kills without control, the general in both films takes the front and center role with their obsession of capturing, dissecting and eliminating the green monster. Both men allow their anger get the better of them, but their “sidekicks” have very different portrayals. In the 2003 version, Josh Lucas as Talbot serves as the scientist who causes Bruce’s transformation and attempts to steal away his love. Bruce’s father, played by Nick Nolte, becomes obsessed with simply obtaining power. The ridiculous result of this is that Bruce’s father absorbs the radiation and becomes able to morph into different elements. The image of a giant water bubble serving as Bruce’s villain to battle comes off as horribly unentertaining and the dropping of a bomb that ends the fight is way too over the top. In the 2008 version, Blonsky’s obsession appears to be rooted in his inability to lose a fight and his transformation into the Abomination appears as a more believable counterpart to the massive stature of the Hulk.
Between the two films, the Incredible Hulk completely blows away its disappointing 2003 version. Norton is a stronger portrayer of Bruce Banner and the flow of the film is much more complete. Though Norton will not be playing the Hulk in the upcoming Avengers film, this is certainly a great setup to the character that will be joining the team.
2003 Hulk – Dan’s Rating: 1.5/5
2008 The Incredible Hulk – Dan’s Rating 3.5/5