Friday, June 20, 2008

Sex and the Incredible Hulk

(NOT what you think)

Despite my earlier protestations, D and I were both won over by the Scene Unseen review and actually paid good money to see Sex and the City last night.* A week ago, we took D's family out to see The Incredible Hulk. It may surprise you to learn that these two movies share many similarities! Well, maybe two. Would you believe three vowels and a consonant?**

But seriously, folks... both movies actually do begin the same way, with a fast-cutting "our story thus far" montage. With Sex, it's a collection of clips from the HBO series which (re)introduces the four main characters and explains their current life situations--married, with children, etc. For Hulk, it's a high-energy retcon that erases the first, Ang Lee movie and establishes that Bruce Banner has been on the run for several years, hulking out periodically while eluding capture by the U.S. Army.

Fashion is also an issue in both films. Carrie Bradshaw is very particular about her wedding dress, and Bruce Banner is very particular about his stretchy pants.

That's about where the similarities end. I have to admit that Sex was the better movie, even for a straight man with little interest in handbags. It was just a better show, featuring well-drawn characters in a solid story that weaves all their lives together. Maybe because of its TV roots, and perhaps because they didn't want to screw up the franchise, it's clear that a lot of energy went into writing this movie and protecting its heart. There are themes, there are callbacks and parallels, there is solid structure.

Hulk, on the other hand, shows obvious signs of its story having been gutted by a contentious post-production period. Edward Norton didn't get official screen credit for his work on the screenplay (though he is credited in the novelization), and scuttlebutt says most of his contributions--including an opening sequence in the Arctic, which you may have glimpsed in the trailer--were scrapped. I don't believe the final battle would have seemed any less like a video game (an effect heightened when you see it in digital projection), but it might have had a better setup. It's like Joss Whedon says: "The problem with the third act is the first two acts."


* I quote my wife: "We listened to that damn podcast, and now I totally have a hard-on for Sex and the City." Direct quote.

** That's my little Get Smart homage, which I understand from reviews is on par with how much the new movie has to do with the original TV series. Oh well.

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