Thursday, May 22, 2008

Incredible Hulk: the benefit of no/low expectations?

In May of 2005, like most fans, I went to see Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith at the first general midnight show, slightly nervous that I would dislike the movie. In June of 2005, I went into Batman Begins under the same circumstances, wondering if I would like this new interpretation of my favorite fictional character. Of course, both fears were unfounded. But, come July, 2005, I didn't give a flying crap about whether I was going to enjoy Fantastic Four.

Ironically, I did enjoy it far more than I expected to (my original review... pardon the weird formatting that is not my doing), but the point was that for me, Fantastic Four was a no-pressure comic book adventure. There were no expectations, no childhood memories being risked. It promised colorful family drama with slightly campy comic book adventure for a lazy Saturday matinee, and that's exactly what it delivered.

Yes, it is more fun to love a film that you wanted to love, but as people go into Indiana Jones 4 this weekend, a part of them will be nervous. Will they like it? If they don't, will it diminish their appreciation for the other three films? And the expectations for The Dark Knight are even more potent. Some will complain if its too long, others if it's too short. Some will complain because it's not the gore-soaked bloodbath that they inexplicably expect. Some will complain because The Joker wears a neck tie and not a string-tie, some will complain that Dent's 'incident' differs from the comic is some minor way.

No one will be nervous going into The Incredible Hulk, which opens on June 13th with a somewhat negative buzz. As long as it delivers on a pure action level, people will generally be satisfied. I mentioned a few weeks ago about how the trailer seems to make the movie resemble the 2005 video game - Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and in retrospect that's a pretty smart move. When it comes to The Hulk, people basically want to see the green giant smashing stuff and occasionally smashing people. The second preview seem to be promising just that, and thus the buzz level is slowly rising. After a full month of movies that hardcores truly wanted to love (Iron Man, Indiana Jones 4, Sex And The City), I imagine that The Incredible Hulk will benefit from being the sort of summer movie that you just want to kick back on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and just enjoy.

Note - For what it's worth, the extended cut of Fantastic Four is actually a really fine film, and both it and the first 30 minutes of 'Rise Of The Silver Surfer' actually succeeded as honest, compelling human drama more so than the overrated Spider-Man 2 or Iron Man. Watch Fantastic Four 1 and 2 again and 'marvel' at how the Richards family behaves like rational adults who care about each other and actually talk about their problems.

Scott Mendelson

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