A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this big-budget comic-book adaptation features extensive, graphic super-heroic violence. There's a strong sci-fi/fantasy element, but unlike the gleaming technological feel of Iron Man, this movie has a much messier, more biological style. Expect plenty of injections and experiments, lots of spilled blood, and more general ickiness than in other superhero movies. The Hulk and his nemesis also look quite monstrous, which might scare the pants off young kids. And there's some language (including "a--hole" and "bitch") and a semi-clothed kissing scene.
What's the story?
THE INCREDIBLE HULK opens in mid-story, with scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) living in exile. Years ago, a medical experiment cursed him with a bizarre affliction -- when he's frightened or angry, he transforms into the Hulk, a nine-foot-tall green behemoth with limitless physical strength and a limited intellect. Banner's trying to cure his affliction; meanwhile, his old boss, Gen. Ross (William Hurt) wants to find Banner to analyze and recreate his abilities. But when Ross uses experimental medical technology on soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who also gets hold of Banner's irradiated blood, Blonsky becomes a creature so horrible that only the Hulk can stop him.
Is it any good?
The Incredible Hulk has plenty of super heroic action, as well as a great sense of humor about its origins and roots. Ang Lee famously said that his arty, brooding 2003 take on the classic Marvel Comics character was an attempt "to make a delicacy out of American fast food." Apparently, the higher-ups at Marvel -- who self-financed this newer version -- figured they could make more money with a simple meat-and-potatoes action film, which is what director Louis Leterrier gives us. There's even romance between Banner and his long-lost love, Betty (Liv Tyler), a scientist who happens to be the daughter of his nemesis, General Ross. Add in Roth's bad guy, a military man so obsessed with stopping the Hulk that he turns himself into something worse, and you have all the standard-issue elements of the modern comic book action film.
And that's all you have. While there are plenty of operatic fight sequences and extraordinary special effects -- and Norton is effective as a super heroic variation on The Fugitive -- The Incredible Hulk never really takes any chances or truly delivers anything other than loud fistfights and visions of mass destruction. It doesn't have either the style and panache that made Iron Man stand out, or the vision and visual style that Christopher Nolan brought to Batman Begins. The Incredible Hulk is a fairly good summertime action film designed more to make money than a statement, and it's certainly competent and confident in the execution of those modest aims. There's plenty of room left for a sequel if it's a hit, but it's hard to say whether there's room for a so-so superhero at a box office increasingly crowded with comic-book heroes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anger. Do your kids feel they have the equivalent of a green monster inside sometimes? Do they think that superheroes express human problems made really big?
Talk about Bruce Banner's struggle for control. What does he give up in order to be responsible? Can you think of any similar situations people might face in real life?
Another good discussion is about the popularity of comic book films. Why do your kids think there are so many of them? What's the appeal? How is this movie different from the previous 2003 version? And how is it different from movies like Iron Man and Batman Begins?
- In theaters: June 12, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: October 20, 2008
- Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
- Director: Louis Leterrier
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.