The Incredible Hulk & When Did You Last See Your Father?

The Incredible Hulk & When Did You Last See Your Father? featured image

by Marc Glassman.

The Incredible Hulk Louis Leterrier, director; Zak Penn and (uncredited) Ed Norton, script. Starring: Ed Norton (Bruce Banner/the Hulk), Liv Tyler (Betty Ross), William Hurt (Gen. “Thunderbolt” Ross), Tim Roth (Emil Blonsky). Cameos: Lou Ferrigno, Robert Downey, Jr.
CGI: Rhythm and Hues, plus “motion capture”

When Did You Last See Your Father? Anand Tucker, director; David Nicholls, script based on Blake Morrison’s memoir. Starring: Jim Broadbent (Arthur Morrison), Colin Firth (Blake Morrison), Juliet Stevenson (Kim Morrison), Gina McKee (Kathy Morrison), Matthew Beard (Blake as a teenager), Sarah Lancashire (Beaty), Elaine Cassidy (Claire Skinner)

The Incredible Hulk

The latest entry in the season’s comic book blockbuster sweepstakes is The Incredible Hulk, one of a host of characters invented by Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee back in the ‘60s. A pop cultural conflation of Frankenstein and the myth of Prometheus, the Hulk is, like Fantastic Four’s The Thing, Spiderman and various Lee creations, a tragic, misunderstood figure, at odds with the Establishment (as we used to call it in those days).

The Hulk’s origin story, referred to here in quick arty flashbacks, has changed over the years but the basic tale remains the same. Dr. Bruce Banner, a genius scientist, experiments with gamma rays in order to create a super-soldier. Positive that he’s succeeded, he bombards himself with rays—and turns temporarily into an immense green monster. Panicking, he wreaks havoc, causing the US military, for whom he was working, to become his enemy. (Do you remember the term military-industrial complex? The Hulk has it in spades!)

Only one person can calm the Hulk down. That’s the love of his life, Betty Ross, another nerd scientist, whose Daddy, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, is out to capture the green giant, no matter what the cost. The ways of love have also become difficult for the Hulk, who changes from Dr. Banner back to being a huge green monster every time he gets excited. And Betty can be thrilling—prompting one of this resolutely serious film’s lighter moments. Realizing that as Dr. Banner, he can’t make love to her anymore, Betty says sheepishly, “can’t you get a little excited?”

Back to more important matters, like saving Harlem. The Incredible Hulk is structured around three immense battle scenes. In the first, “Thunderbolt” Ross, his new Special Forces agent Emile Blonsky and a group of soldiers attack Banner in Brazil, where he’s been hiding. Naturally, the assault terrorizes Banner, who turns into the Hulk and smashes his way out of the favela. In the second, he sneaks on to the campus where Betty is teaching—once again University of Toronto subbing for an American college—and, while talking to her, the attacks begin again. This time, General Ross’ military go to crazy lengths to catch the Hulk, hitting him with tanks, planes and cannons. Betty would have been killed in the attack but the immense green guy comes to her rescue.

OK. What about Harlem—or shall I call it Yonge Street? (Most of The Incredible Hulk was shot in Toronto last summer and it’s a pleasure to report that the multi-million dollar production was environmentally conscious, setting a high standard for other films to follow). Well, Emile Blonsky has become extremely angry over the Hulk’s self-defensive victories over the military, so he gets a dose of gamma rays and becomes a super soldier. A second and stronger dose turns him into a huge reptilian creature, bent on truly demolishing everything around him.

That brings us to the final fight between the Hulk—now once again on the side of the military—and the deranged Blonsky. Film critic code doesn’t allow me to reveal the ending but, rest assured, the Hulk franchise should live to fight another day.

Great CGI f/x by Rhythm and Hues and a likeable cast including Ed Norton (who also co-scripted the film), Liv Tyler, William Hurt and Tim Roth ensure that this “reboot” version of the Marvel comic creation should prove more successful than the somewhat slower and darker Ang Lee production of five years ago.

When Did You Last See Your Father?

A male melodrama, When Did You Last See Your Father? offers the terrific British actor Jim Broadbent (W.S. Gilbert in Topsy Turvy, the father in Briget Jones’ Diary, husband John Bayley in Iris) a chance to shine as a life-embracing country doctor. Clearly up to the challenge, Broadbent etches a portrait of a fallible man, given to stretching the truth for his own ends and not above getting “the leg up” with the ladies, who is, nonetheless, a charming and bright individual. A study in contradictions, Dr. Arthur Morrison is, at bottom, a family man, who can’t help dominating every situation he’s in.

This, of course, can be a major problem, if you’re the son of such a “great” man. Poet, writer and journalist Blake Morrison’s memoir is the basis of this film and I’m afraid that, just in life, he comes off second-best to his Dad. Even the usually affable Colin Firth is at pains to make much of Blake, a dour individual more in love with himself than his father.

Called home to see his father, who is dying of cancer, Blake decides to see out Arthur’s life to the end, accompanied by his mother, Kim, also a doctor. The film shifts back and forth through time, evoking England in the late ‘50s, when the young Blake begins to suspect that his father is having an affair with “Aunt” Beaty, the late ‘60s, a notable period for generational conflicts, and the present. Throughout, Blake comes across as overly sensitive, prone to anxiety over his father’s country manners.

When Did You Last See Your Father? features other good performances, notably by Juliet Stevenson as Kim Morrison and Elaine Cassidy, as a Glaswegian housekeeper who becomes the first love of Blake’s life. What’s lacking—and it’s a major problem–is a good confrontation between father and son. The audience needs better reasons for Blake’s grudging attitude towards his Dad. The dramatic sparks never fly, leaving this a minor film, indeed.

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