- BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
- Bonus View (Profile 1.1)
- English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
- English SDh
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Short FIlm
Exclusive HD Content
- Production Notes
- My Scenes
- My Chat
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The Incredible Hulk (2008) (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment / 2008 / 114 Minutes
Street Date: October 21, 2008
List Price: $39.95
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Wow, so we're only five years between comic movie reboots now, huh? Ang Lee's previous take on the famous character, 2003's 'Hulk,' made a respectable amount of green at the worldwide box office, but failed to engender the kind of commercial and critical enthusiasm needed to kick-start a new franchise. So here we are, a mere half-decade later, and Universal -- taking note of the huge grosses that greeted franchise reboots such as 'Batman Begins' and 'Casino Royale' -- decided to give the ol' green guy another try. And out popped Hulk v2.0, aka 'The Incredible Hulk,' basically a popcorn-movie version of Lee's angst-ridden, existential take.
After a quick opening recap that fills us in on the Hulk's origins, we meet Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), who is now living in South America doing manual labor in a soda factory, and taking anger management classes. (Seriously.) Hoping to cure himself of his "condition," he chats up the mysterious "Mr. Blue" on the Internet. Unfortunately, Bruce soon has an accident at the soda plant, and a drop of his blood ends in contamination and death. That brings Bruce's whereabouts to the attention of General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), who sends out a troop to capture him, lead by the villainous Maj. Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). That's when Bruce gets angry, the Hulk emerges, and the military's plan goes horribly awry.
Unlike Lee's version, 'The Incredible Hulk' is not content just to give us one Hulky monster. In a nod to dumb summer movie plots (and, if I'm not mistaken, a swipe from the 1982 B-movie fave 'Swamp Thing'), Blonsky becomes so enamored of the Hulk's strength and power that he convinces Thunderbolt to experiment on him with a new serum, eventually leading him to Mr. Blue. Meanwhile, Banner returns to reunite with his old flame Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), who helps him track down Mr. Blue. With Blonsky on his way to becoming his own Abomination, Banner will have to team with Ross and any allies he can find while the military closes in if he is to defeat Blonsky.
'The Incredible Hulk' offers a better balance of comic book elements than Lee's 'Hulk.' There is enough melodrama for Bruce to give the character depth and gravity, but it's not so overdone that it drains the movie of life. Blonsky is also a fun villain (especially thanks to Roth's energetic and witty performance), and Tyler makes a fine Ross. 'The Incredible Hulk' also wisely drops the meany-daddy storyline of Lee's 'Hulk,' which left the movie so inert and talky there was little room for action, adventure, or excitement. Streamlined and commercialized -- but not dumbed-down -- 'The Incredible Hulk' seems like the movie Lee was trying to make the first time around.
Directed by Louis Leterrier ('The Transporter'), 'Incredible Hulk' is effective both as a comic book movie and an action film. Though much controversy was generated at the time of the film's summer theatrical release regarding various cuts of the movie (reports pegged Norton as the bad boy, suggesting the actor overstepped his bounds and demanded creative control over the editing), the 114-minute cut here is lean and mean. The dramatic and story elements are balanced throughout with the action, so we get just enough of both to hold our attention. And refreshingly for a comic book flick, this one is not overlong, as is often the case these days with excellent but still rather bloated movies like 'The Dark Knight.' This 'Hulk' has little fat, yet the film also doesn't feel undernourished. Whatever additional elements were snipped from Leterrier's claimed "director's cut" (and judging by the deleted scenes included on this Blu-ray, they aren't many), perhaps for once the studio (and Norton?) had the right idea.
Though some eyebrows were raised in the fan community when Norton was cast (much as they were with Robert Downey Jr. and 'Iron Man,') he makes a fine Bruce Banner. The actor's natural intensity gels well with the character's innate dual-nature -- Norton always seems ready to explode in some sort of on-set tantrum, as does Banner into the Hulk. Though I liked Eric Bana in Lee's 'Hulk,' he never seemed to convey a true sense of danger or unpredictability. Norton is equal with the inner turmoil, but much better with the rage. While I still may prefer Bill Bixby to both of 'em (hey, I'm a child of the '80s) Norton proves more than capable.
Is 'The Incredible Hulk' a great comic book movie? No. It doesn't transcend the form, or even try, as did 'The Dark Knight' or, to an extent, 'Iron Man.' It's not ambitious film, but it is a well-crafted and more than competent one. It wants to do nothing more than honor the Hulk origin, and give us plenty of thrills and action to munch popcorn to. On that level, it succeeds, and if the film's decent (if not gangbusters) box office doesn't appear to justify a sequel, at least we can rest easy that after two tries, Hulk was done justice on the big screen.
Universal presents 'The Incredible Hulk' on Blu-ray in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (at 2.40:1). It looks absolutely fantastic -- this is reference-quality transfer in all respects.
The source is pristine -- 'Hulk' looks as shiny and glossy as you would expect from a brand-new Hollywood blockbuster. Blacks are spot-on and contrast is excellently modulated -- there's none of the overdone whites or digital fleshtones that so often mar new release Blu-rays. The image is vivid and natural, with a wonderful sense of three-dimensionality and exquisite detail. From close-ups to wide shots, the image never looks anything less than finely textured and sharp. Colors are bright and bold, but as clean as a whistle and with accurate fleshtones. The encode is also first-rate, with no edge enhancement, motion jaggies, or other artifacts. At times, some of the film's CGI can look a bit blurry and not up to par with the rest of the film, but this is inherent to the material so I can't fault this transfer for that. 'The Incredible Hulk' earns a perfect five-star rating.
'The Incredible Hulk' is also a powerhouse of a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit). This film has A-plus sound design, with the Hulk stomping all over the place to smashing effect.
Surround use is a highlight. The "wall of sound" effect in the rears is in full force, with clarity and heft that sounds terrific. Transparency feels seamless, with sounds hard to localize as they bounce from channel to channel, and from front to back. Minor ambiance is sustained and inventive. The score is also wonderfully spread out, giving 'Hulk' an almost constant rear presence throughout. Dynamics are top-shelf, too, with expansiveness between highs and lows very wide, and low bass up there with the best I've heard on a Blu-ray.
Unfortunately, ratcheting the audio down a notch is uneven dialogue balance. Action scenes frequently overwhelm, so I either had to adjust volume or flip on the subtitles. That's a shame, because otherwise 'The Incredible Hulk' would have scored as high for audio as it does for video. Otherwise, this soundtrack excels.
Universal has put together a good package of standard extras for the DVD and Blu-ray of 'The Incredible Hulk.' The majority of the video materials are also presented in full 1080 video, and offer the same subtitle options as found on the main feature.
- Audio Commentary - Director Leterrier is joined by Tim Roth, who is the only cast member to show up. The lack of involvement by Norton is a disappointment, but Leterrier holds his own and does a fine job of filling us in on the basics of the project, from conception to filming. The tech aspects of the film, particularly the CGI Hulk, are the least interesting, but things get better when talk turns to the cut footage that became so controversial last summer. The subject is not glossed over, though it's hard not to feel that Leterrier (and Roth) are not still pulling punches when it comes to the legendarily difficult Norton. Roth also adds little beyond comic relief. Still, this is a pretty good commentary.
- Featurette: "The Making of The Incredible Hulk" (HD, 28 minutes) - This promo featurette is a cut above most fluff pieces, though in light of all the Norton controversy it feels a but superficial. It does provide the set-up on how Hulk came to be rebooted so soon after the last version, the casting, and a quick behind-the-scenes peeks at the shooting of key scenes. The CGI Hulk is also touched upon briefly (though dissected in more detail in the additional featurettes). Weirdly, this featurette is sponsored by a car company -- VW -- making this rather odd product placement.
- Additional Featurettes (HD, 16 minutes) - There are two sibling featurettes, both take a look at the character effects: "Becoming the Hulk" and "Becoming the Abomination" (both 8 minutes). Each shows us early concept designs, animatics, and early CGI renderings as well as the completed product.
- Anatomy of a Hulk-Out (HD, 10 minutes) - Divided into three parts -- "Hulking Out in the Bottling Plant," "Hulking Out on Campus," "Hulking Out in Harlem" -- each gives us a short look at the effects requirements, the location and the on-set production challenges the filmmakers faced in completing each sequence.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 45 minutes) - Here's the big catch of the Blu-ray, a much-fabled batch of 23 deleted and extended scenes, plus the film's alternate opening. Rumors of Leterrier's longer director's cut continue to suggest that we may see a much longer version of 'Incredible Hulk' on Blu-ray someday, but if that cut is going to be culled from this material, I would find it a letdown. The alternate opening is neat to see (Norton heads off to the arctic to kill himself, though why he needs to travel all that way to blow his brains out remains a mystery) but really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. The remaining deleted scenes are all minor gags (including a pizza delivery, no less) or character development between Norton and Tyler that doesn't amount to much. It's nice to see these scenes (though they are the only feature on the disc not in HD), but they feel a bit like fool's gold.
- From Comic Book to Screen (HD, 6 minutes) - Finally, we have this CGI animated comic, which takes a scene from the movie and expands it out. Rather lightweight, but the comic is nicely animated with color graphics.
Universal has gone the extra step for 'The Incredible Hulk' and has outfitted this "Green-Ray" (nice lenticular packaging, by the way) with a host of U-Control and BD-Live features.
- Comic Book Gallery - This picture-in-picture comic book is a disappointment, because it is only enabled for four scenes in the movie. Activate it, and little comic book panels pop up that expand upon the scene in question. One of these, "From Comic Book to Screen" is also available as a stand-alone standard supplement (see above).
- Thunderbolt Files - This graphics-and-text pop-up option offers various data on the film. You can track Hulky's movements throughout, get background info on the fictional characters in the movie and get "Mission Overview" updates on the capture of the Hulk. I'm not a big fan of these types of features because they seem a bit childish, and it's hard to imagine this offers much replay value, either.
- Scene Explorer - Probably the best U-Control feature here, this allows you to watch about a third of the film with various elements, including storyboard-to-screen comparisons (about six in all), raw production footage, and sporadically, production text info on the filming (aka, production notes). Too bad Universal didn't just expand this out to full-length, and interweave cast and crew interviews -- it would have made for a solid, all-around picture-in-picture commentary.
- BD-Live - 'The Incredible Hulk' also comes enabled with BD-Live (Profile 2.0 required), including My Chat, My Scenes Sharing, and a link to the studio's online Hulk destination (though at presstime, there is no original content available for download).
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'The Incredible Hulk' is probably a movie that didn't need to be made, but against all odds it has turned out better than it had any right to. It's a fun popcorn comic book movie, and certainly far more entertaining than Ang Lee's ambitious if dour 2003 version. This Blu-ray looks and sounds magnificent, and has some spiffy extras and exclusives to boot. 'The Incredible Hulk' is definitely worth a rental, and fans of the film and character should pick it up without hesitation.
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