As a kid, I remember not enjoying the tv series The Incredible Hulk because of the intense, weighty sadness of it all; a man who could never go home (complete with plinky soundtrack) was just too depressing for words. This 99 minute movie version is depressing for other reasons altogether. Inspite of the best efforts of Edward Norton, who is pretty good, I just didn’t care about it, him or the movie, one way or another.

The first problem is that the plot is paper thin: Hulk goes home, Mad Military person tries to stop him by creating another more pugnacious monster. That’s it. (And I’m not being flippant, that really is it.) Secondly, whilst the storyline is adequately padded out by really big explosions and rumbunctious, Transformers style clashes-of-giants, the main characters are all so fleetingly sketched that you just don’t really give a damn about any of them. Even the CGI Hulk is a bit yawny.  

The best part of the film is the first thirty odd minutes, in the incredible hillside favela of Tavares Bastos in Rio. This winding “ant farm” of narrow back alleys and steep steps (reminding me of the Jerusalem of The Life of Brian, actually) is a jaw-dropping backdrop for Bruce Banner’s first escape from the military. Of course, even in a slum, you can’t keep all the neighbours happy all the time. According to the UK Guardian:

Some locals grumble about the noise provoked by blank shots or the difficulty they have in parking. But most say the boost to security and the economy far outweighs any disturbance. Cecilia de Jesus Ruas, 70, who was born in Tavares Bastos, has rented her top floor as storage space to the crew.

Director Louis Leterrier said: “It’s a little difficult to shoot in the favelas. But with the right favela people knowing we were doing everything to not abuse or destroy the space, but respecting it and making it shine to the world, we were fine.”

Filming in the rabbit warren must have been amazing. But if you read between the lines of the Rio Film Commission site however, filming in the favelas is the least of a filmmaker’s problems when considering Brazil as a production destination. Before you even think of filming there, you have to provide (amongst other bureaucratic nonsense) the following paper-intensive information to the government.

The contract, which must be signed by both the foreign and Brazilian producers, has to contain the following items in accordance with regulation 3384 of the Ministry of Labor: the obligations and functions of the Brazilian company, the dates of validity of the contract, the locations, days and working hours, payment terms, as well as a declaration describing all coordination to be done by the Brazilian company for the foreign crew. In accordance with Ministry of Labor requirements, the foreign producer must deposit 10% of total wages to be paid to each member of the crew working in Brazil into the account of the Film and Audiovisual Industry Workers Union (STIC). In addition to this, foreign producers must hire 2 Brazilian technicians for each 3 foreign technicians working on their crew in Brazil.

I didn’t get to the bit about local talent representation; the AFP quotes the Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper story that only two Brazilian actors had parts in the film, and the largely Canadian cast couldn’t do the accent.

A couple of things therefore spring to mind. One, the Brazilian government is trying to cram the square peg of the film sector into the round hole of government processes and bureaucracy. Two, it doesn’t really work.