Monday, June 16, 2008

Hulk: Green Giant Makes Me Jolly

When I heard they were making The Incredible Hulk, I was less than enthused. The 2003 movie, simply titled The Hulk, simply sucked. The only gamma ray of hope was that they were recasting the entire ensemble and practically ignoring the 2003 movie. Then I started hearing the buzz, and it was good. It was even passing the test of the most important demographic of them all, for this kind of movie, the super hero guys. That was good enough for me. I decide to give the Hulk a second chance.

The Incredible Hulk does a lot right. It’s evocative of both the old TV show and the comic books in equal parts.

First of all, it pays homage to the series that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I won’t give away too much, but if you are at all familiar with the show, look for some cameos and references that will make you smile. And listen for some familiar music as our tortured hero walks the streets. In some ways, this movie is the ultimate updating of that show.

However, the one thing that always bothered me about the TV show was that the Hulk never really fought any super-powered villains. It was always some band of thugs or bullies. One week they were bikers, the next cowboys and the next longshoreman. In the comics, the Hulk battled foes of every shape, size and superpower. In this movie, they finally match him up against every fans favorite Hulk-Villain; The Abomination. This was a similar creature, also created by gamma rays, but stronger and more intelligent than The Hulk.

So what you get is the Hulk event you’ve been waiting for; The Hulk and The Abomination smashing the hell out of each other and New York City. And the special effects are good. In-between the action is a pretty good story of Banner’s quest to control the beast within, while staying one step ahead of his pursuers. It’s a fun popcorn movie for the general public, with plenty of action and references to the Marvel universe for the comic book nerds, like me. Edward Norton makes a pretty good Bruce Banner. In the 2003 movie, Eric Bana was just too big. (Remember, Bana was the baddest badass in Black Hawk Down.) Banner is supposed to be a wimp. Tim Roth is also a standout as the soldier who eventually becomes The Abomination.

With The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, Marvel Comics is starting to make movies that are truer to the source material, while hiring top notch actors to play the characters. They’re also cross pollinating their movies with characters from other books, moving towards future films that will feature two or more Marvel heroes, rather than a series of stand alone films. This is very good news indeed.

I give The Incredible Hulk a big, muscle-bound, green thumbs-up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go get a life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It’s Cloverfield, Not Dangerfield

Show the movie Cloverfield some respect, will ya?

I liked it. I’m not saying it’s the greatest movie ever made. It’s not. But it is a very fresh take on a stale genre. It’s original and takes chances. You can’t say that about too many films these days.

Cloverfield is a movie about a giant monster that attacks New York. However, this movie is filmed from the point of view of a handheld video camera by a regular guy attending a party when the action begins. It’s been described as The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla, and that’s pretty darn accurate. Just throw in a touch of 9/11 video styling for added realism like you’ve never seen before in a movie like this.

“Something you’ve never seen before” is probably the reason to give this movie some respect. You’ve seen plenty of giant monsters, but you’ve never seen one like this. You’ve never seen people reacting like they really would if a giant thing started tearing the city apart. They’d be panicked and totally clueless as to what was happening. Falling buildings, shrapnel and other people would pose just as much a threat as the creature.

Sure, the movie is flawed. There is a lot of talking in the first act, to establish the characters and set up the rest of the movie. There is shaky camera work. There are scenes where you know the camera man would never have kept filming in real life, but we wouldn’t have a movie if he did that. This is reel life. And yes, you don’t get a good look at the monster until the end. That’s part of the fun. It is not a traditional movie.

Watch it to see someone’s take on what a giant monster attack from the perspective of a scared civilian. Admire the balls it took to try something like this. Watch the DVD extras and look at how amazing the special effects really were. You will be amazed at what they pulled off for a movie shot from a handheld camera.

So lighten up and enjoy it for what it is. Love it or hate it, Cloverfield at least deserves a little respect.