Rumble in the Bronx.
2) Hulk vs Abomination
- The Incredible Hulk, aka Bruce Banner. For probably the first time, Bruce has willingly triggered a transformation, hoping that he can, if not control the beast, then at least “guide” it to the right target. Played by Edward Norton, but mostly CGI.
- The Abomination, aka Emil Blonsky. (Note that this is the character’s comic book name, not something he’s addressed as here. There’s only a cute reference to the word when Dr. Sterns says it as a warning of what Blonsky could become.) The combination of Blonsky’s repeated treatments with an unstable super-soldier serum and a dose of Banner’s gamma-radiated blood have transformed him into an enormous monstrosity. He’s roughly Hulk-sized if not bigger, but more reptilian, with scaly skin and spiky bone protrusions. Unlike the Hulk he seemingly retains more of his intellect, as evidenced by his fluent speech, but between Blonsky’s previously deteriorated mental state and anything else the transformation might have done to him, the Abomination is wildly aggressive and hungers for destruction. Played by, again, Tim Roth and CGI.
The Setup: Once again the military has managed to track Banner, but this time they actually get him– probably because they quietly sniped him with a tranquilizer rather than charging at him with a small army in full view. They get him just after he’s hooked up with his digital pen pal “Mr. Blue,” aka Dr. Samuel Sterns (teased to become the comic villain “The Leader,” if Marvel Studios ever gets around to it), who gets some samples of Banner’s blood and manages to suppress a transformation. Before they can determine whether the process was permanent or not, Bruce gets taken out and the Army storms the lab.
Later, an unhinged Blonsky coerces Sterns into applying the Hulk formula to him, and the results are… ugly.
The transformed Blonsky rampages through nearby Harlem, easily fighting off the military’s attempts to subdue him. When captured on a video feed going to Ross, in a helicopter with Betty taking Bruce into custody, the Abomination bellows “GIVE ME A REAL FIGHT.”
Before you can say “challenge accepted,” Banner convinces Ross to release him into the urban war zone– send a monster to stop a monster. Relying on an adrenaline charge to trigger the transformation, Bruce has them drop him from very high. He apparently Hulks out at the last moment, emerging from a crater as his jolly green self.
The Fight: There’s a nice moment of quiet after Hulk’s crash landing, as the two eye each other. Hulk roars, and Abomination charges over gleefully. The two fling themselves at each other in a glorious slow-motion shot.
Abomination gets the better of the collision, tackling Hulk to the ground and immediately using his momentum to fling Hulk several dozen feet away.
The green guy is actually quite dazed after he gets up, but once he gets his head right, he displays a bit more of that tactical thinking when he rips open a nearby police car, then shoves one hand in each half of it, effectively turning the vehicle into boxing gloves. (This move is a longtime favorite of Hulk’s in the comic, even popular enough to make its way into a great video game several years before this movie.)
With the reach-advantage the car-gloves give Hulk, he’s able to get the first strike on his abominable foe, and beats him down quite thoroughly, until the car parts are all ground away and Blonsky is embedded in the pavement. However, the monster reveals his resilience with a callback to his line from the previous confrontation, taunting Hulk with “is that all you got?” Before Hulk can respond with a finishing blow, Abomination kicks him hard enough to launch him into the air and through a neighboring building.
Sadly, the best parts of the fight are now all over. Abomination’s search for Hulk soon changes into him avoiding heavy automatic fire from Ross’ helicopter (which, incidentally, keeps getting way too close to its target for comfort).
The two titans tangle again when hero just barely prevents villain from tackling the helicopter (which also has Betty in it, because of course it does) right out of the sky. With Abomination dangling from the landing gear and Hulk dangling from Abomination’s leg, the chopper has to make a crash landing on a rooftop, trapping all inside and knocking everyone who isn’t a main character unconscious.
The combatants clash again at the crash site, with Abomination pinning Hulk against a nearby wall through sheer brute force. Telling him “you don’t deserve this power,” he stabs Hulk’s pectoral with one of his shoulder spikes and invites him to watch Betty die.
Opting not to, Hulk once again draws strength from the sight of Betty in distress, and slowly breaks free, then smashes Abomination’s head into the wall. He takes a moment to quell the fire spreading around the helicopter with the force of a super-powered clap (cool!), which gives Blonsky enough time to rise behind him and grab a chain attached to… something. I’m not really clear on what this very long, very heavy chain with a heavy weight on one end is doing atop this random Harlem building, but okay.
Abomination blindsides Hulk and puts him down with a couple swings from his chain. The villain begins to swing it again in preparation to bring it down on the chopper, asking the general if he has any last words. Hulk replies in Ross’ stead, bellowing his iconic “HULK SMASH!” for the first time on the big screen.
Curiously, what he actually smashes is the rooftop in front of him. The point of impact creates a wide crack that snakes over to where Abomination’s standing, trapping his foot inside.
Thrown off-balance, the monster loses control of his weapon, which falls right back down on his ugly mug. Hulk wastes no time grabbing the chain and choking his opponent with it, fending off all his scrambling attempts to fight back. Truly bloodthirsty, he seems quite ready to hold on until Blonsky stops breathing, but Betty cries for him to stop.
With Abomination subdued, Hulk has a quiet moment with his love and says her name, before fleeing again to leave Ross to clean up the mess so he can go do more sad-music-accompanied hitchhiking.
This is a lot of fun, but its biggest sin is that 90% of the fighting happens in one brief, furious spurt right at the beginning; from there it’s an uninspired chase scene that we know will come to nothing (come on, a whole battalion AND a gunship couldn’t take down Hulk in the last battle, what’s a lone helicopter going to do to Abomination now?) and some back & forth between the two on the rooftop.
That brief bout of fighting, however, is everything a titanic superhero fight should be. There’s suitable dramatic buildup to the confrontation, and the CGI is not just empty special effects; it’s obviously not real but there’s some genuine weight to it, and the combatants move in ways both believable yet fantastically impressive; you can almost feel the power behind each punch. Also welcome is how you can generally keep track of the action– a more significant accomplishment than it sounds considering it’s a night-time battle between two fast-moving CGI monsters of similar size & shape. And the Abomination, with motion-capture work apparently done by Roth himself, makes for a fantastic villain.
The fight’s ultimate solution is yet another example of a time when we find ourselves in a bind because it’s laudably clever/unexpected yet somewhat disappointing; you don’t usually expect a Hulk fight to end with him tripping his enemy and then choking him out from behind. Still, hearing Hulk say his trademark line (said by Lou Ferrigno, in a gratuitous but sweet bit of fan-service) goes a long way, and there is some cold brutality to go along with Hulk’s smart thinking. Not to mention the delights of the oh-so-comic-booky elements like the car gloves, the sonic clap and the aimable mini-earthquake.
As with before, the movie’s heart being in the right place helps smooth over its imperfections. That aforementioned dramatic buildup is something to be applauded– the movie has the courage to put some real action gravitas behind what is frankly a very boilerplate and predictable confrontation. It was very refreshing at the time for a big-budget superhero movie to be so straightforward and have the Hulk square off against what’s basically another, more evil Hulk… and not, say, a goofy absorbing weirdo who turns into a giant electric cloud.
Coming Attractions: An even more dangerous man named Bruce.