Thursday, March 26, 2015

Recap: "The Incredible Hulk" Part 3: Coulomb Excitation

When we last left our hero, he had saved the girl and escaped his pusuers. When we last left our villain, every single bone in his body was broken.

How is that not the end of the movie?

Aside from, you know, all the loose B-plots.
The next day, Betty wakes up next to a de-Hulked Bruce and ends up checking him into a motel to recuperate in the shower, where the showerhead briefly flashes an image of a Gatling gun, like somebody snuck it into the film. Betty returns to the motel just in time to see Bruce walking out of the bathroom, having just regurgitated the USB drive. Betty gives him a new heart rate monitor and the stretchiest, purplest pants she could find.

Bruce: “No.”

The news later reports the Culver incident as General Ross watches. Teenage versions of Jack McGee (the reporter character from the old TV show) and Jim Wilson (the Hulk’s black best friend in the comics) appear and provide cellphone footage of the green Goliath, describing it as a “Hulk” for one of the only times in this movie.

Later that night, Betty cuts Bruce’s hair and they get to talking. Talking soon turns into hugging, which soon turns into a kiss, which soon results in making out, which… leads to nothing else as Bruce’s heart rate monitor goes off. Yeah, I can’t think of many worse times to Hulk out. Fun fact, this is one of two scenes that was originally in Zak Penn’s script for what became Ang Lee’s Hulk.

Meanwhile, with General Ross, he goes to check on poor Blonsky. He’s all healed up, thanks to the serum. The next day, Bruce and Betty ditch all their electronic devices, credit cards, and IDs as the military starts tracking such things. At the briefing where this is discussed, General Ross brings up the fact that Bruce is good at disappearing. If he wanted to disappear, he’d already be gone. Bruce is looking for help. Bruce borrows a computer to send the data to a, which should logically end in “.edu,” but whatever. The email gets tracked by S.H.I.E.L.D. as a match is made to Dr. Samuel Sterns. Bruce and Betty drive off in a cheap used car and discuss what it’s like to Hulk out.

Bruce: “It’s like someone’s poured a liter of acid in my brain.”

That would be a chemical burn. It will hurt more than you've ever been burned before. You will have a scar. ...Shoot, I already referenced that quote in the last part, didn't I?

Betty: “Do you remember anything?”
Bruce: “Just… fragments. Images.”

Betty assumes that this means that it’s still Bruce in control during the changeovers, but he disagrees. Seriously, people, the obligatory Fight Club jokes have been writing themselves.

“When you Hulk out, you're never really asleep... and you're never really awake. Is Hulk my bad dream? Or am I Hulk’s?”
Bruce: “I don’t want to control it. I wanna get rid of it.”

But on the flipside, Blonsky likes it, he loves it, he wants some more of it, and he’s currently getting another dose of the serum. Bruce dreams about the last Hulk battle before Betty wakes him up to show him that the road ahead has all the cars being inspected by cops, so they get out and head out on foot to hire a boat across the bridge to New York. After a trailer line about the subway….

Bruce: “Me in a metal tube deep underground with hundreds of people in the most aggressive city in the world?”
Betty: “Right. Let’s get a cab.”

Their road maniac cabbie (who must be excellent at Crazy Taxi) gets them there in his own unique fashion, which gets him yelled at by Betty. Bruce offers to show her some meditation techniques.

Betty: “You zip it. We’re walking.”

Finally, they arrive and meet with Dr. Samuel Sterns, played by the ever-adorable Tim Blake Nelson. He takes them to his office where he proceeds to geek out over finally meeting a living repository of Gamma energy before getting to brass tacks. Simply put, Sterns has no idea if his cure (which might not even work in the first place) will be permanent. Or it might just kill him. Or he might just Hulk out.

That night, as the military begins to mobilize, Blonsky inspects himself in the mirror. He’s looking different. A bit paler, there’s a bit more sinew to him.

And he seems to be developing scoliosis.
But he suits up for the job anyway and takes his place in the helicopter as Bruce gets strapped to the lab table for the treatment. Step one: Use dialysis to mix the antidote into his blood. Step two: Induce Hulk-out. And Bruce Hulks out so magnificently that Dr. Sterns can’t help but be amazed. So amazed that Betty has to grab him by the neck and tell him to activate the antidote. Shockingly enough… it works. He soon reverts to Bruce Banner and wakes up with perfect health.

The black helicopters fly toward Sterns’s lab as Dr. Sterns starts geeking out again over his theory as to what the heck a Hulk-out actually is.

Dr. Sterns: “The Gamma pulse came from the amygdala. I think Dr. Ross’s primer lets the cells absorb the energy temporarily, and then it abates. That’s why you didn’t die of radiation sickness years ago!”

Well, good to know that the original goal of making people radiation-proof was achieved. Dr. Sterns simply doesn’t know if this will stick or not, simply because none of his test subjects survived.

Bruce: “What test subjects?”

And as the military surrounds the building, Sterns shows him the test subjects. Bags and bags and bags of blood replicated from the sample Bruce sent him, which Bruce simply cannot abide by. As the snipers find themselves without a clear shot, Blonsky decides to rush in as Bruce and Sterns debate whether or not to continue experimenting on this blood. Sterns implies that Bruce is being overly paranoid as the sniper finds his shot and takes it, hitting Bruce in the square of the back with a tranquilizer.

Blonsky comes in and smacks Bruce around to get the Hulk to appear, but it doesn’t work. The cure has taken hold. Bruce is strapped to a stretcher and wheeled out as Ross tells him that he’ll lock Bruce up forever if he’s cured his own condition. Betty chews out her dad and officially disowns him as an officer inside the lab interrogates Dr. Sterns over what exactly he was trying to do with that Hulk blood. But Blonsky tranquilizes her and had a little chat of his own with the good doctor.

Dr. Sterns: “Why are you always hitting people?”

Using his gun, Blonsky convinces Dr. Sterns to use the Hulk’s blood to make him even stronger.

Blonsky: “You’ve seen what he becomes, right?”
Dr. Sterns: “I have. And it’s beautiful.”

I guess the Hulk really is a “pulse-pounding, piledriving, pound-packing person of profound pulchritude.”

But Sterns is still a little cautious because he realizes that there’s already something inside Blonsky.

Dr. Sterns: “The mixture could be… an abomination.”

Because it sounds too silly to actually call him that, they’re taking the same route as the Iron Man films where goofy nicknames are just used as descriptions and not actually names. Bruce and Betty are soon flown off in a chopper (a Sikorsky, which aviation buff will know has the nickname of “Jolly Green Giant”) together as Dr. Sterns shoots Blonsky up with Hulk blood. Blonsky quickly begins mutating and ends up tossing the doctor into his own lab equipment. Hulk blood drips into a gash on Sterns’s head, and he begins mutating to set the Leader up as the villain for a sequel that will probably never come.

"I have a sudden urge to appear in a terrible cartoon...."
The Abomination escapes and start wreaking havoc to test its strength against the military, taking out most of the remaining ground forces. Ross gets a message over the radio that the Hulk is in the street, which confuses him because Bruce is less than six feet away from him. Ross has the pilot turn the chopper around and tries to view the situation on the monitors. The situation is bad; the Abomination is just destroying stuff for the Hell of it before being revealed in all his glory.

Awesome. Sauce.
He looks much different than he does in the comics. There, he’s scaly and has spikes and pointy ears. The scales were changed because it wouldn’t make sense for Hulk DNA to turn Blonsky into a lizard-man. The spikes were changed to bony protrusions, and the pointy ears were lost because the director reasoned that Hulk would pull a Mike Tyson and bite them off. Seriously. Also, the Abomination has no penis. And on the commentary, you can bet that Tim Roth makes it clear that he’s quite disappointed in the Abomination’s lack of… ears. I mean, how can he hear?

The police’s guns do nothing, and a missile from the Army is similarly useless.

Abomination: “Give me a real fight!”

Because, as I said in Part 2, the Super Soldier Serum simply enhances what’s already inside a person. Blonsky’s desire to fight has become a desire to destroy. The very reason they signed him onto the mission has backfired spectacularly. In a way, the Abomination is exactly what they wanted. An unstoppable force, gone horribly right.

"What did we learn, General?"
"That next time I want to shoot someone up with Super Soldier Serum, it'll be me."
Back on the helicopter, Bruce Banner reluctantly realizes that the Army’s no match for the Abomination. But the Hulk is. With some convincing, General Ross reluctantly agrees and opens the rear door for Bruce. Betty starts crying and tries to convince Bruce not to, but Bruce is adamant. Even if he’s permanently cured, he has to try to rescue the city. And the only way to best ensure a Hulk-out is to drop down without a parachute. That’ll get his heart rate going. Bruce and Betty kiss, and Bruce jumps out to give us the other scene that Zak Penn originally wrote for Hulk. (Though it was based on a scene from The Ultimates).

The music soars.

Bruce falls.

He opens his eyes… and they’re still blue.

Bruce: “Oh, shit!”

He falls to the ground with a heck of a thud for a little guy, and the Hulk soon emerges from the street for the final battle. And what a battle it is. I mean, they go at it. The only problem with this sequence is that it’s a classic Michael Bay-ian case of going on for too long with little plot. But even so, it’s still short enough of a sequence with enough new things added as it goes on to keep it interesting, like Ross’s chopper showing up to fire its machine gun before getting attacked by the Abomination. The chopper is forced to crash land in the middle of the city as the fight between the two monsters reaches its climax.

"That’s right."
"…Surprise me."
"You hit me in the…! Well, I was gonna say ‘ear,’ but…."
Betty tries to escape the fuel-leaking chopper as the Abomination stabs Hulk with his bony elbow. Hulk musters the strength to fight back just before the chopper bursts into flame, which the Hulk puts out with a superstrong clap that blows away the flames. The fight continues as Abomination comes in with a wrecking ball to smash the Hulk once and for all.

Abomination: “Any last words?”
Hulk: “HULK… SMASH!”

He breaks open the ground, tripping up the Abomination before choking him out with his own wrecking ball. Before he kills Abomination, he stops at Betty’s panicked insistence. Hulk kicks the Abomination towards the General and has a moment.

Hulk: “BET-TY….”

But more choppers arrive, and the Hulk leaps away. Cut to an indeterminate amount of time later. Betty watches the seagulls in New York. Bruce is in a cabin in British Columbia.

He makes tea.

He meditates.

He opens his green eyes.

Days Without Incident 31 0

Is he giving in to the monster? Or can he control it now? That’s Bruce Banner’s secret. He’ll reveal it after he turns into Mark Ruffalo.

General Ross, meanwhile, is in a bar getting plastered on Hpnotiq and Hennessey, a drink colloquially known as an “Incredible Hulk,” as a man walks over to him.

Tony Stark: “You know, I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ General, but that Super Soldier program was put on ice for a reason.”

Yeah. A shared movie universe. We take it for granted now, but this blew everybody’s minds back in 2008.

Tony Stark: “What if I told you we were putting a team together?”
General Ross: “Who’s ‘we’?”

Now, The Incredible Hulk takes place after Iron Man 2, in which Nick Fury told Tony Stark that he wasn’t wanted for the Avengers. (Spoiler.) So why is Tony here? It’s revealed in a short film that the World Security Council wanted the Abomination for the Avengers. This is a terrible idea. Abomination is General Ross’s prisoner, so S.H.I.E.L.D. asked Tony Stark to go request Abomination’s release. Seeing as how Tony Stark is a major ass, permission was denied, as was the plan all along. So that scene was pretty much completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things, despite looking like the most important setup ever. Still, it blew minds back in the day.

And all that's left is to review. Was this movie incredible? Or should it have been called The Unwatchable Hulk?

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