'Incredible Hulk' Smashes All Expectations To Become Highlight of Comic-ConS

If you were like me, and hated Ang Lee's take on The Incredible Hulk with the burning hatred of a thousand radioactive test-sites, you'd be thrilled to attend the New York Comic Con's Hulk event because it promised something completely different. If you were like me, your brain would have exploded at the results. Along with screening never-before-seen footage and a new trailer, director Louis Leterrier, Ur-villain Tim Roth, and a sometimes surprising panel were game to answer fans' most pressing questions. Want to know how The Hulk's love interest first sees him transform, why the Abomination's the villain, if we'll hear "Hulk smash!," or how director Louis Leterrier felt about working with absent star Ed Norton?

'Incredible Hulk' Smashes All Expectations To Become Highlight of Comic-ConS

When director Louis Leterrier is introduced, he starts off by saying he's just come in from working on the movie's score, and that composer Craig Armstrong's work is "Star Wars good." This is perhaps not the best way to begin: a low hiss and some boos from the audience. It's probably smarter to tread softly with the Star Wars with this room.

Leterrier makes amends: he's going to show us a lot. There's going to be rough stuff, mixed in with good-looking stuff.

So what's essentially different, this time around? What does this particular take on The Incredible Hulk have? Answer: a kickass villain.

Clip: Zoom-in on the bearded face of Tim Roth. [Cheers!] William Hurt's Gen. Thunderbolt Ross talks to him about a supersoldier program from the fifties, and then we see Ross surreptitiously taking some formula out of deep-freeze. Next, a veritable needle-torture porn: Many. Scary. Long. Needles. Roth's character, Emil Blonsky, has seemingly volunteered to try out the formula. He's told that two go into his neck — and that the one in his back will really hurt. Blonsky is strapped to a a gurney that flips over, and we get to see both his face AND an even bigger needle going in to his back. But you can't cringe, because a sudden zoom-in on Blonsky has him opening his eyes in a jolt of realization, and you just know something crazy's about to happen —

The screen goes black, the lights come on, and Tim Roth takes the stage to enthusiastic applause. He says that the movie is in pursuit of what the Hulk is, and that in the clip Blonsky has had "his first injection, many to go" and that the film is "dark, twisted and fun."

The panel, comprised of Leterrier, Roth, and producers Gale Anne Hurd and Kevin Feige, were surprisingly forthcoming with information. Why choose Blonksy's alter ego, The Abomination, as the movie's villain? "We needed a big-ass fight. The Abomination is as big as they come." Such a formidable opponent turns the Hulk into the underdog, with many square-offs and many fights. There will be both Hulk vs. the army, and Hulk vs. the Enemy. There were no radioactive dogs in sight.

Leterrier says that he's worked hard to incorporate tons of images and panels from the Hulk comic books into the film. And he's about to show us a fight, though it's unmixed and with slightly rough visual effects.

'Incredible Hulk' Smashes All Expectations To Become Highlight of Comic-ConS

The room goes dark again. Cheers! We see Ed Norton as Bruce Banner being chased by a ton of army guys in a gothic building setting. He ends up on this sort of enclosed glass bridge, with the army in full-on operation subdue mode. Liv Tyler's character, Betty Ross, is attempting to get to him and is clearly freaked out by the proceedings. When she tries to run towards the action, she's grabbed by some soldiers, and there's a great moment where Betty impatiently elbows and knocks down her restrainer. The army attacks with a ton of firepower and traps Banner on the bridge. They fire a canister of gas in after him and as it's going off, there's a ton of tension between him and the hungrily watching Gen. Ross and Blonsky, and between Banner and Betty Ross, who's panicky and obviously hadn't known what her guy is like when he's angry.

Needless to say, Banner transforms into The Hulk, and it is awesome, though some of the effects were unfinished. There's an insane chase with The Hulk busting loose with the army in full pursuit and firing endless rounds into him. The Hulk handily overturns a tank, to my internal cheer. When Roth's Blonsky decides to join the action, The Hulk uses two ripped sides of a car as a wicked bullet-shield. "Is that all you've got?" Blonsky taunts. The Hulk rears back, delivers a straight kick to Blonsky's chest, and he goes flying — into the dark.

'Incredible Hulk' Smashes All Expectations To Become Highlight of Comic-ConS

The lights are back on again. Goddammit. Of the ridiculously cool action sequence we'd just seen, producer Hurd declares, "We promised Hulk smash, you'll get Hulk smash!"

Question and answer time! The fans line up. Of course, the first question off the bat is for Leterrier and is about what it was like to work with Ed Norton. Here, for the first time, there's a stumble: Leterrier is very amiable and has been smooth and forthright until now, but my notes read "awkward awkward says he's amazing awkward says he's very skilled tries to change subject awkward." Leterrier manages, at least, to laud Norton's talent and contributions while maintaining a good distance. He wraps up with "it was great, um, yeah, it was great."

Roth is asked if he had any motivation when playing Blonksy. He doesn't quite answer, but says of his character: "He's having fun. He's a combat man, not a desk man." But he's aging and needs to be physically enhanced.

The panel is asked about rumors that we could be seeing Nick Fury or Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk. The question is neatly skirted by saying that some rumors are true, some are not, and we'll find out soon enough.

Another question about the off-screen drama that has plagued the film. What about those editing disputes we heard about? The producer fields that one, saying vaguely that Norton showed up to the editing sessions, and is 100% behind the film.

'Incredible Hulk' Smashes All Expectations To Become Highlight of Comic-ConS

Does Hulk talk? What would you like him to say, they reply, then immediately joke, "Oh, Hulk smash? We should put that in."

Leterrier lets slip that the end of the movie features a fight in New York City — with attendant helicopters! He also mentions that he's read "many comments" on the internet about the film and says that he tries to take the fans' concerns into consideration.

The next questioner states that though we know the movie tries to be faithful to the comics, is it faithful at all to the live-action TV Hulk? Leterrier starts talking about how his first exposure to the superhero was via the TV show, once it was imported to France — that he grew up watching Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Then — whaa? Was the question a plant? Because Lou Ferrigno is called on from the wings! The crowd goes wild. Ferrigno is still a naturally hulking, massive figure, especially sitting next to Tim Roth. He's supposed to have "a real funny part" in the movie, taking the normal cameo to another level. When he demonstrates his take on the Hulk voice (Ferrigno has a slight speech impediment and the voice for any Hulk dialogue on TV was dubbed), Leterrier offers that he has to do the movie's voice now, and is he free next week? Does this mean we'll have that most essential bit of Hulkish dialogue?

Trailer world exclusive! We are all completely freaking out at this point after the build-up. We hear that Banner is a fugitive for stealing state secrets, and see him as a lonesome loner in lots of gorgeous foreign scenic shots. He looks sort of like a bearded hippie on the lam. The army is after him. There is a crazily sweet-looking rooftop chase. The Abomination looks freaky as all hell. There is a kiss with Betty Ross in the rain. The tagline flashes: "Our only hope is...Something incredible." There's a flash of a sexy sex scene! Bruce Banner in boxer briefs in bed with probably Betty Ross! There are fights and explosions and gun battles and the Hulk brings down a helicopter!

The trailer kicks a ridiculous amount of ass, but we've been told to stick around for a minute afterwards for some important clarification. We all do, of course, and then..

William Hurt as Gen. Ross is in a bar and he is talking to HOLY CRAP IT'S IRON MAN! Pandemonium. The crowd around me shrieks. I do, too. Actor Robert Downey Jr.'s deadpan stare works well for Tony Stark. He says to Ross, droll, "I hear you have an unusual problem?" General Ross: "You should talk." I think I actually made the sound "squee."

Behind-the-scenes infighting notwithstanding, it seems like The Incredible Hulk film will, at the very least, provide for some spectacular action sequences, and with such a talented cast attached, there's bound to be tongue-in-cheek humor and references for the faithful.

Going in with lowered expectations, I left dying to see the movie. If everyone involved is happy with the results, and if they believe in the film as much as they claim to, then Hulk's PR people need to get a new buzz going. It looks like The Incredible Hulk deserves the same amount of attention as Iron Man, not just a visit from him.