Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A HULKing Lack of Inspiration

Hey kids, it’s me, Uncle Cam, returning from my schoolwork-imposed exile! While I've been toiling away on scintillating essays on Chaucer, Shakespeare and Virgil, mucho movie stuff has been going on, uncommented on by yours truly. Why, we've seen the release of the brilliant Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Dark Knight trailers, as well as the release of The Hottie and the Nottie! Well, no more shall these important global events go unrecognized, which is why I feel compelled to escape my studies to comment on the newest bit of studio-produced hype: the trailer for The Incredible Hulk!!!

Now, I have made some disparaging comments about this little indie film in the past. I expressed my lack of confidence in the choice of Transporter director Louis Leterrier. As well, I ruminated on the necessity of making a follow-up/reimagining to/of a film that was mostly disliked by comic-fans and hated by the general public. Sure there are exceptions, but for the most part the Ang Lee directed Hulk is viewed as a boring misinterpretation of a classic character with cheesy effects and an unnecessary obsession with Freudian subtext. Oh, and stupid mutant dogs.

This overwhelming annoyance with the "franchise" made a follow-up a risky notion. So, I have to congratulate Marvel and Universal for having the guts to sign on for a 130-million dollar reinvention. That said, one has to wonder about the decision to keep this movie so quiet that no one outside of the fanatical has any idea it’ll be dropping into theatres this summer. While The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Hellboy 2 have been raising awareness throughout the year, building ravenous anticipation, The Incredible Hulk has just been plodding along, seemingly oblivious of the necessity to raise any sense of excitement or awareness. Well, good on them! Sure they put out a bunch of glossy and semi-nifty screen shots, but let’s face it, no one really noticed (or cared). But that time is over, and the marketing brainiacs have stewed up a colossal, bloated CG-crammed monstrosity of a trailer to plug the collective film-going arteries.

View it here:

So, how does it go down?

You know how McDonalds always has photos of magnificent looking hamburgers on their menu wall that when you get them, they look like they were acting as seat cushions for the Grimace? That's The Incredible Hulk trailer in a nutshell. When viewed in screenshots this thing looked promising, but when actually delivered it makes you want to give up solids. Well, almost.

Let's start from the opening, cuz it’s a doozy. We are introduced to the tormented Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) as he sits in a darkened room, facing a male friend... in front of a roaring fireplace, talking about his "personality problems". Now, I don't know about you, but the duo's locked eye contact and the setting, taken from one of those "Romantic Hits of the 60's" infomercials, gives off a seriously unintentional (?) homo-erotic vibe. I mean, come on! How many guys invite friends over to sit in front of the fire, with all the house's lights turned off??? Stylistic decisions aside, it's never good when a movie trailer like this starts off with bad, ironic laughs.

Anyhoo, what happens next? Well, if I didn't have an understanding of the movie's storyline I wouldn't be able to tell you. Edward Norton appears to be in trouble with the army... And running a lot... And talking in a bland monotone... Oh, and Tim Roth and Liv Tyler keep showing up and not saying anything... What the? Why is Norton jumping out of a helicopter??? Why is Mr. Orange getting stabbed with needles??? What the hell is that??? Wait, what the?... Bah, I'm tired. I'm gonna go watch Everybody Loves Raymond.

But seriously, there is no narrative logic, or true storyline (beyond a vaguely rudimentary sketch) in the content of the trailer. I'll fill you in, though. Liv Tyler is taking over for Jennifer Connelly, playing Banner's love interest Betty Ross, who is also daughter to General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt - Laughing his way to the bank! - Pictured left). The General wants Banner's DNA secrets for the military. Old Tim Roth, on the other hand, is Emil Bronsky, a Russian spy, who gets injected with Hulk-errific serum and becomes the poorly realized CG-menace, Abomination, shown arbitrarily at the end of the trailer. Banner then must deal with his inner-Hulkness and man up and go save the day. While this is a potentially compelling story, there's no dramatic interest from any of these people here (Other than Norton), and indeed no dialogue from anyone other than the star, save for a single Hurt-driven expositional utterance in the trailer! So, since there is not a single human emotion on display, let’s focus on the Abomination and Hulk himself.

Now, I realize this movie is still over three months from release, but boy do these two CG creations look crappy. Abomination (Pictured right), which interestingly bears zero resemblance to Tim Roth, is borderline embarrassing. His design is okay, in that it is basically just a more organic and solid looking Spidey 3 Sandman copycat, but he has all the weight and charisma of a screensaver. The same goes for the Hulk, who looks half-decent... Until he moves. Then, he becomes a glowing, pixellated cartoon. Both characters have zero screen presence, thus packing all the dramatic power of a PS3 cut scene. Their dramatic clash at the end is so underwhelming that it will likely inspire collective indifference from the masses. It's really sad when the whole selling point of your superhero movie looks about as convincing as Shrek the Third. As well, I have dire suspicions that the specific reason the filmmakers chose to film this whole epic clash of the polygons in pitch darkness was as a desperate attempt to obscure their obviously shaky efforts. Call it Godzilla '98 syndrome.

So, now that I've bitched on this long about a two minute trailer, am I still going to slap down my ten bucks on June 13th? Well, I paid to see Elektra and Ghost Rider, didn't I? Despite my unhinged ranting, I'm actually an optimistic person. A bad trailer does not necessarily equate a bad movie, and vice versa. Heck, I loved the Transformers trailer and look at how that turned out! I hope Norton and crew pull it off and impress the hell out of me. I'll give them a glowing review on here and go door-to-door raising awareness of Hulk! But, on the basis of this supremely lame effort I now have to place The Incredible Hulk in the "Potential Flops" category for summer '08. Oh well, at least Speed Racer and The Love Guru can keep it company.

Wow, that was exhaustive! And soon to be redundant... Oh well, come on back soon, I'll have a review of the upcoming Rhona Mitra post-apocalyptic trashfest (Potentially in a good way!) Doomsday by Wednesday. As well, my now pointless "Best of '07" List.

See ya then.

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