Blu Ray Title: The Incredible Hulk
Disk Release Date: 10/21/08
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
First theatrical release: 13 June 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with multidisc Anamorphic DVD
Director: Louis Letterier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Rim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt
Sound Formats: English DTS Master Audio 5.1, French & Spanish DTS 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0
Length: 1 Hour 53 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
The Incredible Hulk is less of a ‘sequel’ to the recent Hulk film (which was simply titled “The Hulk”) than a clever continuation of all of the Hulk movies, TV shows and even the video games which have come before it. It does this without ever directly referencing them and with minimal disagreement with their plots, which is a pretty remarkable thing. While I really enjoyed the Hulk Comics as a kid, I am not a fan of either the Bill Bixby TV series or the Ang Lee film, but it’s still pretty neat to see all of these elements tied together and featuring a lot of integral cameos like those of Lou Ferigno and Stan Lee and really get things right from a Fan perspective.
In The Incredible Hulk, David Banner (Norton) has attempted to escape his past, by retreating to distant lands and focusing his mind and body in attempt to control his anger and repress the Hulk living inside of him. Lost love Betty Ross (Tyler) has gone on with her life while her father, General Thunderbolt Ross (Hurt), remains on the chase. When a drop of blood from Banner turns up in a most unexpected place, the military turns up the heat and engages Banner, unleashing the Hulk. One witness, Major Emil Blonsky (Roth) is obsessed by the power that the Hulk has and convinces the general to let him revive the testing that led to Banner’s transformation, on himself, in an attempt to match The Hulk’s powers. Only Blonsky isn’t mild mannered like Banner, he is much more ambitious, angry and cold blooded, and when he is subjected to the experiment he turns into something far worse than Hulk, he becomes “The Abomination” and Banner is forced to choose between pursuing his cure (and Betty!) and stopping this monstrosity.
Above all, this film is true to its core and to the character of Hulk. Norton was a superb choice to play this role and Roth brings perfect insanity to Blonsky, they make great adversaries. While Tyler’s doe eyes and sweet presence give a solid foundation to Banner's motivation, both she and Hurt seem to never really get the meaty scenes they deserve here.
As an action film this release is miles beyond the previous one and doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of solid backstory to get there. Banner’s life beyond America is actually interesting and while it takes a bit of time to get there it sets up the confrontation for the rest of the film quite nicely. I’m still not sold on the CGI look of the Hulk either, but it’s a lot more impressive here, the battles are terrific and at least the Hulk doesn’t make ridiculous pogo jumps for miles at a time.
Paired with Iron Man this is a great indication that the right people are finally in control of making the types of Super Hero movies that the fans have known all along are possible but have been stopped time and again by studio suits or directors with their own agendas. Keep true to the core and you can have both a great tent-pole film and one that still makes sense and is a lot of fun.
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
Presented in uncompressed DTS Master Audio 5.1 I had the great pleasure of watching this movie in a properly calibrated room running all SVS speakers and subwoofers, and they put ever inch of their technology to use for this film. All corners of the room come ablaze during the action sequences of course, but even the quieter moments have not so subtle use of the surrounds and low end, especially in the jungle sequences and in the warehouse in which Banner is working as both animal background chatter and the rumble of automation are captured with pinpoint brilliancy. This is a film you are going to want to play at or above the reference level as it’s well worth it for all of the effects that swirl around. And if you want bass, just check out the scene where the army employs sonic wave weapons on the Hulk, I think I had a table vibrating across my floor as that long standing rumble wore Hulk down when I rewatched it in my home.
Musically, Craig Armstrong’s vibrant orchestral soundtrack reminds me, if you can believe it, a lot of Phantom of the Opera, with heavy bass in the string section and a rock sensibility to the percussion. Definitely worth a listen to on its own and the best compliment I can pay it is that it was more memorable to me than Danny Elfman’s contribution to The Hulk!
Visual Quality: 4.5/5
While it’s a dark film, the grittiness of the theatrical film comes through beautifully on BluRay. Every bit of the grain in the original print seems to have been retained and this helps to ground the CGI more than anything else. It’s also a fantastically detailed and sharp film, and when viewed on a properly calibrated 1080p projector I saw zero edge enhancement, dust, pops, scratches or other artifacts during the entire viewing.
There are a number of scenes which look particularly memorable, especially Hulks battle with the military on a college campus and against the Abomination within the confines of a dark city, and there are also a number of city establishing shots that are just jaw dropping. While Hulk himself still looks a bit cartoony, the effect is not so dramatic here and the detail level which comes through in his scenes is perfect.
Extra Features: 5/5
The number of extras here is frankly, incredible, and those that I have been able to go through have been among the best I’ve found from Universal. Let’s start off by noting that a second disk is in the box which allows viewers to transfer the film to an iPod or Zune through “Digital Copy”, which is great except you need to note that unlike movies you buy on iTunes this one doesn’t last forever, it expires on 10/31/09 and this detail is hidden in the small print, which is WEAK. There are also a number of breakthrough BD live tools which are new with this release, including the ability to have a live chat with friends while you are all simultaneously watching the film. Kind of neat but I doubt I will ever do that personally.
It wouldn’t be a Universal film without U-Control and this movie has 4 separate choices using that technology. First up is a set of “Thunderbolt files” which are lightweight puff trivia facts and maps which give minor amounts of data about the Hulk and the Military. Next up is a “Comic Book” pop-up display which is actually kinda neat, and shows the associated frames behind several scenes, similar to what we saw in the Heroes Season 1 set. The standard “Making of” clips are available for almost every chapter, and while I will repeat that I think that it sucks to have to randomly get a clip like this without knowing what is in what chapter, those I viewed were really good. Finally, in a REAL technology breakthrough, a final U-control selection lets you choose from 1 of 5 ways to watch the film, normal, effects previsualization, effects midway, storyboard or all 4 at once! Now THAT is good use of BD technology! Add on top of that that there’s a feature length commentary track too and it has both Tim Roth and the director Louis Leterrier.
As for ‘traditional’ extras, there is a collection of deleted scenes, plus an alternate opening scene and then 4 major “Making of” segments. The first is entitled just that, Making of the Incredible Hulk, plus there are separate featurettes on each Hulk and Abomination plus a breakdown of the effects in one particular “Hulk Out” where the Hulk goes on a rampage.
All in all it’s more than enough considering this is a new release and not some kind of Director’s cut or being billed as anything more than just a big film. Oh, and did I mention the BluRay case is green and covered with a cardboard slipcase that has a lenticular 3-D scene on it? Nice touch!
Overall: 4.5/5 (not an average) – Recommended
There is very little I can complain about in this release, the film is fun and the action is great. The sound blew me away and the visuals were both stunning from an effects perspective and well represented in the home, plus there are more extras than I can possibly go through, including a copy for my iPod Touch.
Uni has been off to a rocky start with Blu, but this is a clear indicator than any that they are in this for the long haul and they will refine their toolbox and add enough content in to make the BluRay worth while. What more can I ask for? Recommended!