Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Review of The Incredible Hulk

Here's a review I wrote for http://www.thefatherlife.com/ on the new movie "The Incredible Hulk."

Review: The Incredible Hulk

By: Miguel Guadalupe

June 16, 2008

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Just landing from the highs of their recent release Iron Man, Marvel did not disappoint with The Incredible Hulk. Ed Norton plays the cursed Bruce Banner, whose initial oversight in basic scientific safety precautions condemned him to a life on the run and made him afraid of his own blood pressure. Similar to his role in Fight Club, Ed's character is in essence two – one mild mannered, one extremely dangerous. The difference of course, is that the Hulk is a physical incarnation of Banner's animalistic id, as opposed to simply a schizophrenic break.

Anger Management might have been the other title of this movie, as the theme repeats itself consistently, from Banner's clumsy Portuguese warning in Brazil ("You won't like me if I'm hungry..."), to Banner and Betty Ross's ride in a New York taxi. The reflection of the very different people we become when we are angry will make anyone question themselves the next time they are tempted to yell at the slow car in the passing lane.

As with Marvel's previous hit Iron Man, the supporting cast of characters are a small galaxy of stars, with Liv Tyler as Elizabeth (Betty) Ross, who is the only thing or person that can calm the beast in Banner, William Hurt as General Ross, the overprotective father who's ability to unleash the resources of the US Army makes for one very dangerous family feud, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, an aging elite soldier who wants a bit more than to simply turn back the clock on his physical self.

Interesting plants for classic Marvel fans that show signs of paying off in the future:

- General Ross refers to "The Super Soldier Serum" developed during the World Wars, and how that was a precursor to his work. This is an obvious reference to Captain America's origins, which we may get the pleasure of knowing more about soon.

- Banner's initially helpful university professor Sam Sterns, AKA Mr. Blue, will become The Hulk's nemesis "Leader," as you saw his cerebellum grotesquely enlarge as he absorbed Banner's blood into an open head wound.

- And of course, the team referred to by the special guest at the end of the movie is none other than the Avengers.

The Marvel formula is showing signs of working: keep true to the comic character, get a VERY good actor as the central figure, and keep the supporting cast strong and engaging. The Incredible Hulk commanded the ground just as Iron Man controlled the skies, and their eventual meeting in a future episode promises to be an action-packed, star-studded blockbuster that will change the way we see comic based action movies in much the same way the Matrix series changed the way we saw science fiction.

Marvel has thankfully revived The Hulk brand from the dead, where Ang Lee and his most awful version had placed it not five years ago. Louis Leterrier does a good job in keeping true to the genre and keeping the characters real and likable. The special effects maintained the humanity of the title character, a far cry from the dark and un-seeable CGI heavy Ang Lee version. Notable mentions include the fantastic way they captured the Brazilian favelas, and the very detailed way the Hulk fight scenes where put together. Both the Hulk vs. Blonsky and the Hulk vs. The Abomination scenes were pretty technical and well choreographed.

What's missing might be some of the "believability" that captured audiences for Iron Man. In that movie, one could almost imagine oneself in a high tech suit flying the skies, less so a gamma ray poisoned green behemoth with anger issues. That is not a flaw in the movie itself, but just a reminder of the diversity of stories and characters that is the Marvel universe. Another issue may be that this Hulk movie is almost portrayed as the sequel to Iron Man, almost a sub-plot that is leading up to something bigger. We all know Marvel has big plans for it's universe, but they may have sacrificed some of The Hulk's individuality because of it. Despite this, The Incredible Hulk makes the audience hungry for more of Stan Lee's creations on the big screen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

In Puerto Rico on Primary Day

This is our first full day in Puerto Rico, on a much needed vacation with my wife and daughter and my favorite cousin/sister "de crianza" (meaning she grew up as my sister, under the same roof). 

I'll have much more to say about the actual trip later, but I thought it would be remiss for me not to address that today was the Democratic Primary in Puerto Rico, and as the polls closed, we all know the outcome. 400K voting and an overwhelming majority for Clinton.

We are staying in the tourist bubble of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Carolina, but I was craving some local opinion of what this election meant. I got that chance when I visited some second cousins in Bayamon this afternoon, and caught up on old times - old times meaning I hadn't seen some of them in eight years, and others since I was actually 8 years old.

What I gathered was while everyone appreciates the attention of this primary (see my older note about how this race is good for democracy BECAUSE it's going so long) but was in essence a non event. 

Part of that reason is logistical - due to Puerto Rico's "common wealth" status, no one who claims primary residence on the Island can vote in the actual Presidential Election.  So, even though Hillary won by the widest margin yet and can now claim a "lock" on the country's Latino vote (after her wins in NY,NJ, CA, TX, by similar 2 to 1 margins), she can't quite translate this particular victory to the general election unless she can find apartments on the mainland for about 300K of her faithful.

The other part of this is that many Puerto Ricans (or at least the small group I spoke to today) just don't see this as "their" fight.  They just want a Democrat to win the main race and stop the country's tailspin.  Puerto Rico continues to struggle as the rest of the country struggles, with over $4 a gallon gasoline (or $1 per liter as measured locally) and a crumbling credit consumer culture.  People have received their stimulus checks and have begun to tighten the proverbial belt.  Puerto Rico also is effected by the Iraq war and most want an end. My own cousin is stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Despite the lack of representation, Puerto Ricans on the island continue to serve their country proudly and readily.

There are opinions and preferences of having the potential for an interracial (in PR, there is a better understanding of mixed race and what that means, as many Puerto Ricans of mixed race do not consider themselves simply Black or white) or a Female President.  But I didn't get a sense of any anti-candidate sentiment based on sex or race. Refreshing.

Even so, the focus of the political discourse for almost all Puerto Ricans on the Island still centers around Statehood vs. Commonwealth. No one considers themselves a "Democrat" or "Republican", they are "PNP" or "Popular." And from what I could gather, no one candidate was able to communicate their position on the most important issue on the island.  Perhaps that is why the local parties did not raise too much of a fuss to bring out the vote, resulting in about 13% of potential. 

In the end from what I can gather is that Clinton was given the primary win as a symbolic "thank you" for her work as NY Senator on various things that had relevance to Puerto Ricans in her tri-state area and on the island, for her visits to the island as First Lady during the devastating Hurricane George in 1998, and for her household name. Obama to many, is a great guy (in the small poll I took, all liked Obama, but still voted Hillary), but he is a new face to the island, and here, as is in many other places in Latin America, loyalty to party and to political families is ingrained in the psyche. It is why Hillary continues to win the Latino votes by a large margin despite many people's admitted leanings toward the Obama "story." 

Of course, one can look at math and know Hillary's done as a top ticket candidate, and probably should concede, but I do believe it would do Obama and the Democrats well to not ignore her power to overwhelmingly attract the Latino vote. Younger college educated Latinos of my generation and more recent may disagree, but these examples (NY, CA, NJ, TX, FL, and now PR) are too consistent to dismiss casually. Obama will need Latinos to win vs. McCain. What can be done to get more to come over?