"The Incredible Hulk," a two-hour CBS movie and series pilot at 8 o'clock tonight on Channel 9, may be sufficiently hulky but it is not nearly incredible enough. Once again an attempt to inject "human values" into comic book material has produced an unsatisfying hybrid of fantasy and soap opera.
Apparently a lot of TV producers have been belatedly boning up on Marshall McLuhan, who told us long ago that the television image has the "inconography" of a comic strip. The faces of people, for instance, are stripped of many of their details by TV and turned into elemental caricatures. One would think then that TV versions of comic strips would be naturals.
The old "Batman" series of the '60s was probably the most faithful live-action transposition of the comic-strip style to television: it was also insipid and dumb, but that's hardly out of keeping with the comics.
Those good old boys in Hollywood should wake up to the fact that "Star Wars" has renewed the public's faith in fantasy. We can take our myths without a lost of elaborate rationalizations and the kind of psuedo-psychological mumbo-jumbo that precedes the transformation of shnook into hulk on tonight's drawn-out movie.
At least Kenneth Johnson - writer, producer and director of "Hulk" - demonstrates a slick visual sense and can stage spectacular fires and explosions. He knows how to gussy up a dull scene with photogenic bric-a-brac and make us think we're seeing something worth watching.
But he asks for super-human patience awaiting the metamorphosis that turns that physically and spiritually uninteresting actor Bill Bixby into muscleman Lou Ferrigno, who appeared as himself in "Pumping Iron" and here impersonates the hulk with skin of green and heart of gold.
"Within each of us, ofttimes, there dwells a mighty and raging fury," explains the written prologue to the plains the written prologue to the show, and one's hopes are set pretty high by its authentic comic-mythic tone. "Hulk" lacks compensating senses of wonder or of humor, however, and so the predominant spirit is a heavy, brooding one, even though Ferrigno is spectacular to behold and co-star Susan Sullivan makes a very appealing intelligent heroine.
Bixby's first presto-changeo is a stunner, when it finally arrives, as lightning rips up the sky and his suddenly expanding muscles rip up his astonishing shirt. The fireworks and explosions are fine, but what languishes between them is decidedly not the stuff of half-creamed dreams that comic books used to be.