Incredible Hulk, The (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 5-Mar-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary
Additional Footage-Alternate Opening
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-The Making Of Incredible
Featurette-Becoming The Hulk
Featurette-Becoming The Abomination
Featurette-Anatomy Of A Hulk-Out
Featurette-From Comic Book To Screen
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 112:41
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Louis Leterrier
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Edward Norton
Liv Tyler
Tim Roth
Tim Blake Nelson
Ty Burrell
William Hurt
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Craig Armstrong


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When making any kind of film, be it an ultra-violent superhero story or a serious drama about a world in which a minority with superior abilities can be legally hunted down and executed for being what they are, presentation is everything. Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent film adaptations of The Incredible Hulk. For those who do not know, the basic story of the Hulk is that he is a brilliant scientist by the name of Bruce Banner who, in an unfortunate "accident" during an experiment with gamma radiation, is both blessed and cursed with an ability to transform into a giant capable of seriously destroying most Humans simply by flicking them with his fingers. This story, with all its attendant tragic elements, was adapted in 2003 as a film that failed at the box office. Many people have speculated as to the reason for this failure, but it really came down to a combination of different things.

    The Incredible Hulk is one of several films that have so far been made under the control of Marvel, as opposed to Marvel licensing their property out to a major film studio. Among its pros are better direction, better casting, and a better-told story. The last of these points is especially important, as it makes uninitiated audiences more aware of what the big deal about the angry green giant is. For my part, my exposure to the Hulk has been limited to catching a small handful of episodes of the 1978 television series that starred Lou Ferrigno, and of course the film I have just spoken of. To say that 2008's The Incredible Hulk makes for a better introduction to the character than has been previously offered in any visual medium is redundant.

    The film begins in a somewhat peculiar fashion, giving us a very freeze-dried version of the story of how Doctor Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) was gamma poisoned in a military experiment. In about five minutes flat, we learn of Banner's connection with Doctor Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and her father, General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt). After a particularly bad transformation (the film's titles refer to these as "incidents") that leaves both Rosses with serious injuries, Banner flees and begins a game of cat and mouse with the U.S. Army. On the one hand, he is attempting to stay one step ahead of his pursuers at all times. On the other, he is trying to use his scientific skills to discover a cure so that he might one day be able to get particularly excited or mad without expanding a few thousand percent in size and destroying everything around him.

    The story proper begins with Bruce working in a soft drink factory in Brazil, trying to keep a low profile whilst conducting his experiments. In one of those little accidents that can happen simply from not paying attention for a second, one of the bottles ends up with a faint dash of Bruce's blood in it. A man in the U.S. (a cameo by Stan Lee) ends up drinking from this bottle and suffering adverse effects as a result. This prompts General Ross to assemble a team of soldiers to track down and attempt to capture Bruce. One of the soldiers is singled out by the filmmakers for attention, one Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Blonsky is getting a bit old for his job, especially if it involves chasing down angry green giants who can, to use his words, throw forklift trucks like they are softballs. General Ross offers Blonsky a serum from the same programme Banner was working on that could give him similarly miraculous physical abilities.

    As I have said, the film features a number of advantages over the previous film adaptation. First, and probably most important, is the better direction. Although Louis Leterrier's camera is frequently unstable, it is never so much so as to reach the point of shaky-cam, and the absence of cartoon-cell-like abominations with the shot compositions is sorely appreciated. Another improvement is the better acting, which combines with a better script. Edward Norton is so much better at playing Doctor Bruce Banner than Eric Bana it brings to mind comparisons between Adam West and Michael Keaton. But the script's focus on Bruce's attempts to avoid transforming into his jolly green alter ego rather than simply showing him destroying things is what gives this film its Wrath Of Khan as opposed to The Final Frontier feel.

    As an introduction to the world and character of The Incredible Hulk, The Incredible Hulk is highly recommended. It's no X2, by any means, but it effectively demonstrates the universal law that the storytelling success of any comic book adaptation is directly proportional to how seriously one takes the source material.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    According to the IMDB's technical information, The Incredible Hulk was shot with Panavision cameras and lenses. The transfer preserves the aspect ratio this process results in, 2.35:1, within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

    Now, I am not going to bore you with descriptions of how much better this transfer looks than on previous media. Mostly because this is one film I have only ever seen on Blu-ray Disc, and given the quality of presentation delivered here, I have no desire to even bother with other media.

    The transfer is extremely sharp. The different stages of beard stubble worn by Edward Norton during the film stand as evidence to that. The quality of the CGI used to put the Hulk and the Abomination in the film are especially evident in such shots. Shadow detail is very good, especially during the climactic battle at the end. Low-level noise and grain were not evident except during the flashback sequence that opens the film, where it was likely a deliberate effect anyway.

    The colours in the film are very still-life and realistic. The Hulk is a good deal more darkly coloured and realistic than was the case in the previous film and television series, as is the Abomination. The transfer retains this colour scheme without so much as a hint of bleeding or over/undersaturation.

    Compression artefacts were not noted in the transfer. Occasionally, small fragments of footage are presented with lower quality to represent cellphone footage, a camera's point of view, or the Hulk's point of view. These are rendered well, with the intended effect delivered and no additional artefacts to cloud the issue. The transfer uses the AVCHD codec, and generally ranges from the high teens to the early thirties in bitrate. Film-to-video artefacts were utterly absent, just the way I like them, and this being a 2008 film, there were no film artefacts of note, either.

    Subtitles are offered in English. These are accurate to the spoken dialogue, but the absence of audio cues limits their use to people with hearing difficulties.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Accompanying a great video transfer is an audio transfer that proves sound is more than half the experience in home cinema.

    Two soundtracks are offered on this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, at a bitrate I cannot currently determine. My apologies regarding that lapse. The second soundtrack is an audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, despite how low and quiet William Hurt speaks a lot of the time. The one exception to this is Lou Ferrigno's cameo, but this has more to do with his enunciation than the transfer. No problems with audio sync were noted.

    The score music is credited to one Craig Armstrong. It is more generic in nature compared to the score from 2003's Hulk, and yet more effective simply by virtue of being less maudlin and not trying so damned hard to be "deeper" than the usual comic book score. At times comparable to Michael Kamen's score from the original X-Men film, it is a great complement to the onscreen visuals and story.

    The surround channels are aggressively utilised at all times for all manner of sound effects, the music, and the echoes of the vocalisations of Hulk and Abomination. At no point does the sound field collapse into stereo or even less than the 5.1 channels stated in the description. Even during quiet dialogue sequences such as a conversation with one of Doctor Ross' colleagues, there is always some sort of subtle sound (in that particular scene, rainfall) keeping the surrounds busy. My only complaint regarding this soundtrack is that I really would have liked to have heard it in 7.1 channels, as it certainly sounds like the film can easily sustain such a mix.

    The subwoofer was also very aggressively utilised to support gunfire, helicopter rotors, explosions, the footsteps (and voices) of the angry green giants, and a whole host of other bass-heavy sound effects too numerous to fully list. Although its presence is less pervasive than is the case with the surround channels, it is not by much, and its impact is even greater due to being used for things that it is not normally used for.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A small, but well-made, selection of extras are present.
   

Menu

    As is preferred, Universal have seen fit to grant us both a Top Menu and Pop-Up Menu. Both are animated, the Top Menu more so with windowed captures from the film. The Top Menu features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Both are fairly straightforward to navigate, although returning to the Top Menu is a little awkward. The Top Menu button receives a "No menu on this disc" response, and any return to said Top Menu must be done from the Pop-Up Menu. But my biggest complaint, sadly, is the same one that currently pervades a lot of BDs: not enough Chapter Stops.

Audio Commentary - Louis Leterrier (Director), Tim Roth (Actor)

    Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 that is substantially quieter than the main soundtrack, it does take some time to adjust to Leterrier's accent. That said, the commentary is interesting without being too spectacular. Roth has a tendency to get the giggles a lot, and the two interrupt each other with some frequency. Worth a listen, but there is a sense of the participants not wanting to get too far into detail for fear of reprisal from someone involved in production who is more powerful than them.

Scene Explorer

    A U-Control extra that allows the viewer to switch between various stages of the film's completion for roughly a third of the total running time. Storyboards, animatics, shots without any CGI in them, and early-stage CGI are among the featured angles. I could take or leave this extra, but its presentation is solid enough.

Picture-In-Picture

    When switched on, this extra interrupts the flow of the film to display making-of footage in the lower right corner. The footage itself is of fine quality relative to the window size, but there is a noticeable change in the audio quality whenever the window appears.

Alternate Opening

    This two-minute, thirty-five second scene is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window, and features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The scene itself is an interesting alternative to the very blink-and-miss-it opening sequence that was in the theatrical cut, but it is not difficult to understand why this version was deleted.

Deleted Scenes

    A collection of scenes that did not make the theatrical cut. This is, unfortunately, the only extra on the disc that is in Standard Definition. A total of forty-three minutes and six seconds of scenes introduced by Louis Leterrier is presented under a menu with the obligatory Play All option. Each scene is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Most do not really add anything to the film, and were deleted for excellent reasons. The video quality is surprisingly good for SD material, it must be said.

Featurette - The Making Of Incredible

    Twenty nine minutes and fifty-four seconds of behind-the-scenes footage presented in 1.78:1, High Definition, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Surprisingly, mention is made of the previous film adaptation, and early on in the piece at that. Much more than just an electronic press kit, this featurette gives some great insights into the choices made by the production team. Most interesting is Edward Norton's comments about the reasons he initially was reluctant to participate, and what eventually changed his mind.

Featurette - Becoming The Hulk

    Nine minutes and twenty-three seconds of discussion about how the big green guy was realised in the finished film. 1.78:1, High Definition, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The process of capturing Edward Norton's face to render as the Hulk is quite fascinating.

Featurette - Becoming The Abomination

    You could not have a featurette about how the Hulk was realised without doing the same for his opponent. Ten minutes and seventeen seconds. 1.78:1, High Definition, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Again, the processes by which the character was rendered are incredibly fascinating. Watching Tim Roth going through the motion capture motions is frequently hilarious.

Featurette - Anatomy Of A Hulk-Out

    This option brings up a submenu with three featurettes:

    Each featurette is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Again, the comments by cast and crew provide some very interesting insights into the artistry behind the film. Contrary to first impressions, however, they are more about the practical effects and stunt work that make up the rest of the elements for scenes in which the Hulk destroys things. Thus, they tend to be a lot more interesting than mere comparisons of the various CGI stages to the finished film.

Featurette - From Comic Book To Screen

    Six minutes and thirty-four seconds. Presented as a collection of animated cartoon cels in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, High Definition, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. This is a rendering of the comic book scene that inspired the mountain cave sequence in the film, and is quite fascinating.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From analysing the High-Def Digest review of the Region A disc, it would appear that the two versions are pretty much identical. One minor difference is that said review lists the subtitles on the Region A disc as being English for the Hearing Impaired, which may be a factor for some viewers. Otherwise, one can purchase either version without fear or favour.

Summary

    The Incredible Hulk is a lesser example of how superhero films should be made. As X2 or, to a lesser extent, 1978's Superman proved, not only is it more than possible to treat superheroes as subjects for serious drama, the finished films tend to work a hell of a lot better that way. The first two thirds of The Incredible Hulk follow that template. They also demonstrate that a story about Bruce Banner's difficulty in embracing his ability to turn into something that can destroy entire armies is not only the right way to go, but giving such a conflict a credible explanation is absolutely essential. When the Abomination appears and it becomes more about translating that drama into good old-fashioned violence, it also proves that superhero stories are much more effective when the superhero in question is given an enemy that poses a credible threat to him. Seldom has a film grown on me to the extent that this one has.

    The video transfer is of great quality.

    The audio transfer is only in 5.1 channels, but is excellent all the same.

    The extras are moderate in number, and occasionally quite fascinating.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
truehd bitrate - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Alternate Opening Avenged - Le Messor (bio logy class)
Other formats... - Wilson Bros, UK REPLY POSTED
Deleted Scenes disagreement, and cameo appearance. - Chris A.