Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, ChrisHemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner,Gwyneth Paltrow, Clark Gregg, Jenny Agutter and Samuel L. Jackson.
Running Time: 152 mins. approx.
Seen At: Didsbury.
On: Saturday, 28th April, 2012.
Over the summer months, multiplexes nationwide will play dramatic, huge-scale host to the now customary summer blockbuster, this year in strong comic-book mode. Our very own Andrew Garfield will take over from Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging Spiderman in August, and of course, the outstanding Christopher Nolan has the epic swansong to his faultless vision of the Batman franchise.
Before that double-whammy however, we have a comic-book culmination, with Iron Man, Captain America,Thor – and perhaps most anticipated of all – a new interpretation of The Incredible Hulk.
Certainly the cinematic event of the year so far in terms of scale – this is hugely colossal, blockbusting cinema at it’s most elaborate – bombastic action sequences, with absolutely state-of-the-art effects further enhanced by stunning 3D technology.
But equally interestingly, this seems to be a further example in a canon of the gradually rising trend of how today’s blockbuster is judged by the major awards bodies.
The genius of a filmmaker such as Christopher Nolan, who’s spectacularly taking the modern blockbuster into a stratosphere of epic proportions with the likes of Inception in particular, and his vision of the Batman movies, are a cinematic movement of their very own, combining breathtaking effects-laden visuals with mind-bendingly intelligent conceits. With their cyclically-structured twists and outstandingly clever cinematography, these are filmic experiences that require suitable application of brains as well as widening your eyes in amazement.
Other notable examples include the wonderfully unique and distinct works of Tim Burton, Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean series and The Watchowski Brothers The Matrix franchise. All of these are examples of mainstream films that broke through, and received awards-season accolades other than being exclusive to the so-called ‘technical categories’ namely effects or production design - which now included not only acting plaudits but also recognition of their intelligent screenplays. Happily, this is also increasingly the case for several recent comedies, such as the recent works of Woody Allen.
This combination of huge-scale visuals and increasingly intelligent screenplays and performances in the phenomenally popular studio-based summer blockbuster, complete with a built-in audience, certainly continues here.
It skillfully encapsulates all the knowing witticism of Iron Man, the great propaganda element that made last summer’s adaptation of Captain America so refreshing, as well as the emotional core of Thor. Director Joss Weadon, set for a powerhouse of a year already thanks to the clever, amusing shocker The Cabin In The Woods - knows exactly how to obtain a pitch-perfect balance, mixing humour, action and an emotional pathos.
It opens witha breakneck set-piece involving Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury zooming into his headquarters just in time for a sneering Loki, to wreck mayhem of megalomaniac proportions (some of the set-pieces are actually quite gruesome throughout). Much car-chasing and gun-toting ensues.
One of the films standout performances comes from Tom Hiddleston, reprising, and clearly relishing his role as the gleeful, infinitely articulate, slippery antagonist – he’s all green, ultra-modern suit and sly smile, a characterization made all the more effective by the simple fact he’s so self-assured. ‘How desperate are you… (he enquires to an equally intense Fury), ‘…that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?’
For me, Loki is right up there with the likes of both portrayals of The Joker, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina’s Spiderman villains of The Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus, and Tommy-Lee Jones’s Two Face, just for the sheer magnetic power of all their performances.
The other highlight has to be Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk. After two previously – shall we say – middling cinematic interpretations – he’s back, possibly played by the most relaxed actor in the business, which also presents the opportunity of exploring a far more easygoing, almost lighter element of the personality of its genesis, Dr. Bruce Banner, who here seems much more used to his alter-ego – thankfully we don’t have to stumble over the dark, troubled back-story of his past – and can instead have both sides of him fully established very quickly. Ruffalo brilliantly allows the much more humorous side of him to emerge, and balances the duality perfectly. A Best Supporting Actor nomination on the way? I hope so. He's definitely the best, most fully-fledged Hulk we’ve had by a mile – aside from also being the best character in the heroic hexagon of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and The Black Widow.
Technically, Hulk’s a triumph, intricate, expressive and just the correct shade of lime.
I hadn’t actually seen Kenneth Branagh’s Thor before seeing this, but, it actually doesn’t matter – this stands up perfectly well as a standalone film. Chris Hemsworth, this year’s most popular new star, plays the Greek God of Thunder with strength, depth and humility.
The screenplay maximizes its great amount of humour the most with the interplay between the group of very different personalities. For instance, during a long-awaited stand-off between Robert Downey Jr.’s wonderfully self-deprecating Iron Man and the no-nonsense Thor, observing his Shakespearian-like attire, he asks: ‘Doth Mother know, you weareth her drapes?!’.
Scarlett Johanssonis suitably sassy as the raven-bobbed Black Widow, and Chris Evans is great, returning as the shield-wheedling Captain America – also one of my favourite characters.
The 3D flourishes are at as blistering a standard as ever, whether it is the throw of Captain America’s shield, a speed-ramped shot of Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner’s) arrow, or the exhilarating panoramic rocket-deflection of Iron Man’s flight.
This film has performed a staggering achievement at every corner of the Box Office. In America, having been released more than a fortnight after the U.K., it’s Hulk-smashed numerous records well past the $552million-dollar mark, while within just days of opening over here, it goes down in cinematic history as becoming the third highest-grossing movie of all time, putting it behind only Harry Potter andthe Order of the Phoenix and Titanic in terms of takings.
Isn’t it funny how with the correct mixture of timing (directly at the start of the summer months), an extremely loyal, massive built-in fan-base, and a clever marketing campaign, it can easily take $552 million, as well as well over £4.5 million pounds over here, whereas the recent John Carter was a well-documented flop.
As a studio, Marvel have made such a huge amount of money with this, as well as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor sequels, and another Hulk picture for Ruffalo hopefully in the pipeline, that it now comes as no surprise that fellow comic-book company, DC Comics, are soon to follow suit, hoping to repeat the success with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and all their respective villains –to name just a few – along for the ride. Expect plenty more bombastic comic-book movie conversions for a fair few years!
Delightfully entertaining, and truly epic. Certainly one of the highlights of the year!
Rating: * * * *