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Hulk (2003)

PG-13 138 minutes

Directed by Ang Lee
Written by David Hayter, James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman, Michael Tolkin

 · Eric Bana
 · Jennifer Connely
 · Sam Elliott
 · Nick Nolte

Review by Thom Stricklin

Hulk smash puny box office records!

...or not. Obviously marketing and cross-promoting doens't guarantee record-breaking performances, because The Hulk would be pushing Spider-Man into the number two spot this weekend. (I'm almost certain I saw a Hulk denture cream last week.)

What could've kept the crowds away? (Well, aside from the new Harry Potter book.) Mediocre trailers, negative reviews, bad word of mouth? Perhaps many people just got the notion that the movie isn't that great. And they were right on the money... Or as Yogi Bear might say, they're smarter than the average... uh, popcorn... eaters...

Ok, Hanna Barbera paraphrasing aside, I should explain a few things. I've never liked the Hulk. Not in the comics, not in the Lou Ferrigno television series, not the short-lived cartoon, not in crossover appearances or anything. I just never have. The character doesn't appeal to me. In a way, it was nice to go into the movie with that background. Unlike the X-Men or Daredevil that I grew up on, or even Spider-Man, whom I at least had an appreciation of, I had absolutely no expectations for this film. At best, it was to be a great new approach and a chance for me to finally get behind The Hulk. At worst, it would be a waste of six bucks.

Well, I guess I'm out six bucks.




Everything I can discuss about The Hulk can be summed up in one word: uneven. The acting, the story, the effects, the action... all of it, uneven.

I need to see The Ice Storm to fully render a verdict, but I get the impression I'm just never going to be on the Ang Lee bandwagon. I turned off Crouching Tiger within fifteen minutes due to complete disinterest, and while I found Hulk far more bearable, my reasons for not caring for Lee's work became clear. He's an experimental filmmaker. I can really respect that, I can, but experiments don't always succeed, and those failed ones shouldn't make the final cut.

In the case of The Hulk, I refer to his use of multiple panes, multiple points of view, displayed simultaneously on screen. Sometimes, about a third of the times he used the trick, it was absolutely eye-dazzling. But it was used over and over and over, many times in scenes where it was unnecessary. At those points, all it accomplished was pushing the audience out of the film, and reminding them like a slap in the face: "Hey, bozos, you're watching a comic book!" It would've been so great in moderation, but like the mad scientist in the film, Ang just took his creation too far.

Sadly, The Hulk isn't for Eric Bana what Wolverine was for Hugh Jackman. Perhaps it's a flaw of the character itself--Bruce Banner, withdrawn scientist and really nerdy guy, even to other scientists. I would've hoped, though, that Bana would somehow have found a way to breathe life into the lifeless part. Alas, still no pulse. Oddly, I think the CGI facial expressions of the Hulk beast did a better job at conveying the tragic aspect of the character and story.

Don't fret entirely, however... The supporting acting is much, much better. Could anyone ever say enough about Jennifer Connelly? She's such a talented actress, I think she could bring me to tears in a movie about popsicle sticks if she tried. There were many scenes in this film where, despite an underwhelming performance from Bana, Connelly was convincing enough for both characters... Her believability actually spilled over to the others. Sam Elliot is thunderous (forgive the pun) as General Ross, albeit a typical "military father" figure, and Nick Nolte is downright ooky as Bruce's father, David Banner.

Hulk Daddy David is very key when it comes to the plot. All in all, the story is what I like most about this film... Behind the whole "raging muscle super-action" front, there's a psychodrama playing out underneath. I loved it, until the last thirty minutes. Without spoiling, I'll say David Banner's motives and traits seem to shift to a whole new direction, with little apparent reason other than to set the film up for a few more rounds of Hulk fisticuffs.




My good friend, Rob, at Comics2Film has written that The Hulk set out to be "a mix of high-octane summer action and moody drama." Indeed, this film had both action and drama, and I enjoyed both. However, the two elements just didn't seem to flow together into a single movie. It was almost like watching two different films, spliced at random points.

Remember the secret word of the day? "Uneven." Yes, the action was uneven too. My favorite scene of action in the film: Hulk is crouching among sand dunes, running from a military assualt. Not a sound can be heard but an eerie breeze lifting up ribbons of sand, when out of nowhere, artillery lands at the Hulk's feet. That was some amazing, suspenseful action! Other action was more humorous, like the fight against Hulk-dogs, which seemed reminiscent of a Farrelly brothers movie. And then some action just didn't even make sense, like the end... Argh! I will not spoil the movie, but consider how disappointing it is for the climax to be so confusing and, well, anticlimatic.

At last, we reach CGI. It jumps about from decent to decent-while-shrouded-in-total-darkness, with a few small splashes of bad and good. The Hulk looks best when he's getting all watery-eyed in front of Betsy. Shouldn't he be more impressive, though, when he's kicking ass? Or hauling ass, for that matter... Hulk might be a biological anomoly, but I would never expect him to resemble Fred Flintstone while running. Yeah, that's what it looks like to me.



Honestly, The Hulk was just about what I expected it to be. I tried seperating my opinion of the film from that of the main character, but it didn't seem to improve by doing so.

I really hate to score a Marvel film this low, because they've done so well lately. They've set a new standard... Maybe that's just raised my expectations. I hope that people like The Hulk more than I did, and it's pretty likely that fans of the comics or the television show will love this film. Still, truth be told, if you want my opinion... I didn't find anything marvelous about The Hulk.

1062 Words Published: 22 June 2003

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