Sunday, October 26, 2008

Marvel screws up again (Incredible Hulk deleted scenes)

I wrote back in June that, although I didn't care in the slightest for the Hulk 2.0 reboot, I was holding off complete judgment until I got a look at those fabled 45 minutes of deleted material. The infamous dramatic, character building moments that directer Louis Leterrier and star Edward Norton fought over with Marvel and lost, resulting an a nearly character-less and dumbed down smash fest. Well, the DVD/BluRay hit the streets last Tuesday and, alas, my instincts were correct. Many of the issues that I had with the picture would have been lessened if not erased with the inclusion of this new material. Granted, few probably would've wanted to sit through a 170 minute Incredible Hulk movie, but surely there could have been an extra 20 minutes or so to justify including some of the terrific stuff detailed below. The bulk of the footage concerns three things, subplots that resulted in three complete characters being more or less excised from the film.

My favorite material involves the (professional) relationship between General Ross and Major Kathleen 'Kat' Sparr (Christina Cabot). Apparently this character is in the comics, and the presence of this intelligent, opinionated, and fleshed-out female character would have done much to lessen my annoyance at the paper thin character of Betty Ross. There is an obvious mutual respect, if not always trust, between General Ross and Major Sparr, and their scenes allow William Hurt to come off as far less cartoonish and more misguided. The best deleted scene in the set is a conversation between the two of them, where Hurt waxes poetically that Bruce Banner's transformation is one of those rare moments where the universe releases a secret about itself (like the splitting of the atom). In every scene between the two of them, you have professional adults reacting like intelligent adults to a completely insane situation.

Far briefer, but still noteworthy, are the few scenes between General Ross and General Joe Greller (Peter Mensah). These mainly involve the aftermaths of the major action scenes, and it's a fun look at the real world reactions (from the military standpoint) to these comic book plot developments. Again, both of these characters are intelligent and opinionated, and their confrontations brought a credibility to the story that was sorely lacking.

The biggest chunk of footage involves a much more fleshed out subplot involving Dr. Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell), Betty Ross's current boyfriend. While Liv Tyler and Ed Norton still lack chemistry, the scenes involving Burrell are genuinely compelling. I stated back in June that my favorite scene in the film was the quick confrontation between General Ross and Samson, as its the only scene with the dramatic gravitas that much of the deleted footage contains. There is a wonderful moment when the three of them are eating dinner and Ed Norton breaks down in tears after laughing at a humorous anecdote ("It's been awhile since I felt light about anything"). The reason this character and these scenes were cut is pretty obvious - he occasionally acts the pants off of his more famous costars and he is presented as such a sympathetic and morally upstanding person that you end up feeling sorry for him. The best scene is the one below:

Other footage is the fabled alternate opening with a glimpse of the frozen Captain America, as well as scenes that flesh out Major Emil Blonsky (Eric Roth) and make him a more complicated villain. Some of the extra footage in the first act didn't need to be there (just more of Banner running around Brazil). A shocking scene after the bottle factory fight, which clearly displays three body bags, is marred by William Hurt's overacting. And, as mentioned above, the scenes with Betty and Bruce aren't any better than the ones in the final film, even if a few allow Betty to talk like a scientist. And, of course, that aforementioned opening scene is impossible, since it makes no sense until you understand that The Hulk won't letter Banner kill himself (which is why he believes he will survive his climactic airplane drop). That was in the novelization, but I honestly can't remember if that line was in the footage.

Alas, the stuff highlighted above would have made the film far more compelling and, yes, far more entertaining. Yes, the difference is almost as severe as the two cuts of Daredevil. I rented the BluRay purely for the purposes of viewing these scenes. If Universal ever puts out another version with the majority of this footage put back in, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Scott Mendelson

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