I’m a newbie here at CHUD.com so I realize that any piece I write as my inaugural entry will be more open to criticism and scorn due to the lack of an established readership and unfamiliarity with my style and preferences. Ergo, it’s obviously a smart move for my first entry to lambaste the wildly popular Iron Man film that I and probably only seven other people in the world highly disliked. Iron Man‘s opening weekend boasted $102 million before ultimately raking in almost three times that amount and has already (in my opinion, undeservedly) been included on IMDB.com’s Top 250.
Not only do I find it hard to believe that Iron Man is one the 250 BEST films of all time (ranked above the likes of Coppola’s The Conversation (three Oscar noms), Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (four Oscars), and my favorite film ever, Groundhog Day (just damn good)), but I also fail to understand why more people aren’t praising the recently released The Incredible Hulk. Though it’s opening weekend numbers were barely above half of Iron Man‘s and the critical reception has been significantly colder (66% on Rottentomatoes.com compared to 93%) I personally feel that The Incredible Hulk was a superior film and here are my five reasons why.
1. Climactic Fight Sequences - Sure, Iron Man has its share of thrills and adrenaline pumping action fare (I’m recalling his aerial joust with the jet pilots) but satisfying combat is severely lacking. When Obadiah Stane gets his hands on the arc reactor technology, we’re led to believe there will be a monumental clash between the two technological savants in the end. This proves not to be the case. After a brief, one-sided fight in which Stark has his ass handed to him, the fight ends due to a logical leap of faith (which I will address later) courtesy of Pepper Pots. However, the clash between the Abomination and the Hulk at the climax of The Incredible Hulk live up to the billing. A titanic battle occurs between the two giants utilizing flawless special effects, interaction with the surrounding environment (real and simulated), and seesaw swings of momentum. One minute the Abomination is railing on Banner and the next he’s having his face smashed in by green fists. The best part is the fight lasts. You could’ve taken a bathroom break at the climax of The Incredible Hulk and still caught the majority of the action, whereas you would’ve missed it entirely in Iron Man.
2. Suspension of Disbelief - Super heroes exist in a fanciful world, a world beyond reality, and therefore, we need to leave our grasp of the actual at the door in order to envelop ourselves in a world where men shoot lasers out of their eyes and nobody points to the guy in the blue and red spandex in regards to questioning his sexuality. But Iron Man just asks to turn a little bit too much of your brain off. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a film like Batman Begins where every element of the film could probably happen, but there were too many “oh come on” moments in Iron Man. Isn’t it convenient how Stane turns the narrative tide when he steals the prototype from the terrorists with the aide of a previously unmentioned handheld device that possesses the power of instant paralysis? Or let’s not forget about the previously mentioned anti-climactic conclusion. In Iron Man the outcome of the final battle hinges on Pepper Potts operating an ungodly complex machine that emanates a blast which somehow harms only Stane and not Stark, despite the fact Stark was lying next to a gaping hole in the roof from which the blast emanated. In The Incredible Hulk, if you accept the idea that gamma radiation – instead of slowly and painfully killing you – would in fact, give you super powers, then you’re pretty much in the right mindset for the rest of the film.
3. An Actual Love Story - We’re lead to believe, I guess, that there’s some sort of romantic tension between Stark and Potts because at one point he dances with her and at another point she almost kills him when removing the solitary piece that is keeping his entire body alive. Or something. For the most part though, it appears as though Tony Stark’s closest companions are those adorably personified robot assistants. On the other hand, the love story is very much prevalent in The Incredible Hulk with Betty Ross being the key factor in Bruce being able to control the Hulk from going overboard at the end. It may be a little sappy for some but there is genuine chemistry between Tyler and Norton and there’s quite a humorous bit involving the gamma radiation on Banner’s sex life. The love story adds another level of relatability to Bruce Banner as a character as he struggles between what he wants and what he feels he has to do.
4. Louis Leterrier Never Mistakes Himself for an Artist - But Jon Favreau does. What struck me as humorous was a behind the scenes piece on Iron Man where Favreau comments on how ironic it is to see so many indie regulars running around a Hollywood set. Because, you know, Jon Favreau directed indie films like Elf and Zathura. (Don’t mention Swingers. He didn’t direct it). He makes himself seem like a descendant of the movie brats of the 70’s whose auteur aspirations were able to flourish in a desperate studio system. But he never actually compares himself to one of them, does he? Yup, he does. Favreau has described Iron Man as “a kind of independent film-espionage thriller crossbreed; a Robert Altman-directed Superman, with shades of Tom Clancy novels, James Bond films, Robocop, and Batman Begins.” You know, because of the low-budget, multiple protagonist super hero story which is a biting satire of violence in the media yet grounded in gritty reality. It’s one thing to be inspired, but when you publicly declare your film to be one thing and it’s clearly something else, it’s equivalent to slapping a blank canvas on a wall and calling it art. The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier, on the other hand, takes what he learned from The Transporter 2 (not necessarily defending that film) and applies them to the Hulk: people love well choreographed fight scenes. No claims about his Friedkinesque style coming from his mouth.
5. Superior Performances - The one thing I will readily admit is that Edward Norton can’t hold a candle to Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark. Downey is flawless, hilarious, arrogant, and yet so damn cool. Norton carries a certain aura with him where people will automatically like him no matter what role he plays, but Downey stands head and shoulders above. He needs to, because the supporting cast for Iron Man is so damn boring. The film boasts Oscar-winning Gwyneth Paltrow and Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges yet both manage to coast through the film as though they’re bored, hung over, or both. Paltrow, even during scenes of duress, seems to be only half-trying and you’re never sure if Bridges is brooding or ready to fall asleep. On the Hulk side we have Liv Tyler‘s sympathetic and heart-warming turn as Norton’s love interest and the cold-hearted, ruthless portrayal of Emil Blonsky by Tim Roth. No one is either of these films is going to win an award, but in the case of Iron Man they seemed to build a story around a character, essentially making the film pander to Robert Downey Jr.
Pardon my lack of pictures and other visual flair. As I said, I’m a beginner here so I’m just learning the ropes but as time goes by I’m sure I’ll find my legs. That is, as long as you keep reading and/or don’t hate me already.
Jim is an Associate Producer and Film Blogger for Zoom In Online and the direct link to his blog can be found here. Scroll a little down the page to read his Hulk review.