Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Pissed off, and ready for round 3!

In the car on the way to the Incredible Hulk, Friend 3's mum said "We're so glad you wanted to come - Friend 3 was really looking forward to it, and no one else wanted to!", and I smiled while looking the other way. That was precicely why I was going to see it - because there's nothing worse than no one else wanting to see what you do; and it's only because all my other friends had taken it upon themselves to negatively pre-judge this movie that I hadn't myself.

The sacrifices you make, eh?

My point being, aside from the fact I'm always excited to go to the cinema, I wasn't that excited - and you can barely call our local fleapit a cinema anyway. It's a Subplex. What's the point of casting Tim Roth and Ed Norton only to turn them into CGI anyway?

Friend 3 is a real hero-movie nut. Her favourites are the X-men movies, and no doubt next year we'll all be trooping out for Wolverine. It's only been a month since she went to see Iron Man. Is there anything wrong with female sci-fi geeks? Not at all. But it still makes me smirk that we were the only gals in the cinema, and also (probably) the only ones who discussed whether CG-Abomination was hotter than CG-Hulk (he isn't...).

For me, the genre interests me. It's grown out of nowhere, it's its own beast. It just exists. Shakespeare didn't write about normal people discovering powers and fighting crime; it's not one of the seven basic plots (well, it's hero's journey + police procedural, but you know what I mean). But I'd much rather dive into the graphic novels, because the films are mindnumbingly samey.

Which is where Incredible Hulk suprised me; on three counts in particular, of things I was absolutely expecting, which didn't happen. These were:

1 The First 20 Minutes (F20M) - in the modern world, movie synopses aren't hard to come by. The set-up is revealed in the trailer - you go to see Snakes on a Plane because you know that it's about terrorists who attempt to sabotage a flight by putting motherrhubarbing snakes on it. Which makes the F20M, in which the terrorists plot, and getting to know the passengers wasted time. I want to see stewardesses eaten by pythons already!

Unfortunately, few films are brave enough to leap straight to the main interest. They have to spend the F20M setting up a situation you are already aware of. The Matador was horrible - 20 minutes of two separate characters going around their daily life, when you just knew they were going to meet up. Instead, they should have started at the scene in the bar - where square, business-character winds up chatting with drunk assassin-character. We know the film's heading there, so why not start it there and make their personalities come out through other ways?

Ones that get it right? Reservoir Dogs throws you into the action first and then, when you already admire the characters and are interested in them, shows you the setup. Run, Lola, Run starts with Manni explaining the premise of the movie over the phone - "I'm going to be killed by gangsters in zwanzig minuten unless you find me the cash!". In maybe under 30 seconds. Cuts out the F20M by having the character read out the synopsis instead.

For superheroes, this all equals origin story. Unbreakable was unusual in this regard for making the journey of discovery the entirety of the movie; Heroes was basically Unbreakable-TV, and stretched it over 20 episodes. Virtually all superheroes follow the same basic trip of tragic rubber duck + new powers = crimefighting, and the only thing that separates Batman turn to batting after the death of his parents and Spiderman turn to spidering after the death of his adopted parent is style and tone (for Batman, this seems to be an integral part of his story - I've yet to read one of the comics which doesn't reference it at least twice. Being a bit of a DC-baby at the moment, I've yet to get onto Spiderman, but I'd be interested to know if it's such a key piece of mythology.)

So as I was settling down to sit through a new variation on the same theme, thank you, thank you Incredible Hulk. It compresses the F20M into a slickly edited sequence occupying approximately the same length as the credits. Flashes of characters, situations, newspapers and security briefings give us all the information, and spare us the hassel. Incidentally, in admiration, three unusual things happened to me - I realised I didn't know who the director was, I had to ask who the director was, and then didn't recognise the reply. Unfortunately, after this point direction was average. But it's taken me about 20 minutes to write this rant, and I like to think of them as the 20 minutes I was spared last night. Very innovative, I salute you!

2 Bad Special Effects. Friend 1's response to the trailer was "looks like a video game". My response to the video game trailer was "looks like the movie". Films should never rely on their effects alone - but with big summer blockbusters, and superhero movies in partic, they are very very important. Flying, fire and invisibility are like falling off logs for CG-guys these days - but a large green monster is difficult in so many ways. It needs to look realistic, despite the fact nothing in nature is anything like. And it's big - so the audience can have a good look at all the flaws. Again, kudos goes to the director - the opening punch up at the bottling plant focuses on the soldiers being attacked not the beast doing the attacking. Instead of a green blob of pixels, you see shadows, legs, thrown tanks and smashed beams. Cloverlandly, if you like. This had both the effect of concealing the full Hulk effect until the big scenes, but also grounded it in reality as a threat. Even in the later scenes, full-body shots were kept short - you appreciate the effect before you have a chance to examine it too closely.

All this was with the exception of the inevitable final showdown. My dad refused to attend this one because "all superhero films are irrelevant because the plot just works towards a big fight scene at the end". I said Incredible Hulk was innovative, not the second coming - yes, the plot does descend into what the director calls "the biggest bar brawl ever, with New York as the bar". At this point, the CG became the centre of attention - and it wasn't as effective. Abomination wasn't realised as well as the Hulk. It didn't matter too much - because by that point, I felt the film had earnt a proper comic book punchup by its smart behavior with the CG earlier on.

3 Trite romance - winning the princess is the reward at the end of the heros journey. And boy do I hate it - movies with a love interest seemingly bolted on. Jumper was appalling in this regard - he abandons his childhood crush with a snowglobe, then just turns up out of the blue ten years later. In no time, they're off to Italy together and swearing eternal love. It doesn't help that the leads couldn't act their way out of a paper bag; nor that the script consisted of that lousy "hey, dy'wanna go grab a coffee after class?" dialogue.

Part of the problem is the link between "superpowers" and "teenage angst" - which leads to teenage-angsty romances. Spiderman? Even Batman Begins, universally acclaimed as a classy effort, is lumbered with an awful love interest.

Elizabeth Ross and Bruce Banner were already an item before the movie began, which makes their falling back for each other just that leetle bit more realistic. In tow comes a relationship less irritating and slightly more mature. And while kissing in the rain is still completely unacceptable anywhere but Four Weddings, and while Ms Ross inevitably has little interesting to do, their dialogue is for the most part sparky and believeable.

Spared from the torment of F20M of origin, naff effects and nasty romance, I actually rather enjoyed this one. Edward Norton brings his trademark edgy ordinarity to the part (hell, is that even a real word?), and is delightfully sympathetic; Liv Tyler, as noted above, is mostly decorative. And I want that shampoo that keeps her hair looking so shmexy on all occasions (snow, rain, wind, massive fireball, helicopter crash e.t.c.) Tim Roth is doing his evil English villain bit (even though the politically correct script points out that he's not actually English, he's Russian, therefore making it OK for him to be eeeevil). And William Hurt, officially my least favourite actor, was passably un-irritating.

My favourite character was Ms Ross's new boyfriend - one scene, one speech cemented him as a real human, instead of a narrative obstacle. I just wish I could have seen it on a massive-o screen, with shake-the-floor sound, because I did switch off in the inevitable end action sequence - which maybe could have been excited if the screen had been larger than my TV.

I also wish I could have stopped thinking off better movies. Who dared to use aliases "mr Green" and "Mr Blue" in a Tim Roth movie? Randomly cruel dog-killing also reminded me of Rob Roy? And did anyone else think Fight Club! in the opening sequence when Ed Norton was being slapped by his yoga-teacher?

All in all, if you hate the superhero thang you'll probably still hate this. But if you're lukewarm, then this was a cut above what I was expecting. It's not as tonally exciting as, say, Batman Begins, but it did skip the three things I was dreading.

Oh, and a genuine warning - do NOT see this movie if you're not a needles person. Because I don't really mind them, but it was all sufficiently iccky to make me wince.


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