Last summer's successful Spider-Man set off a wave of comic-book adaptations
this year, including Daredevil, X2: X-Men United, The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Hulk.
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly,
and Nick Nolte
Bringing Daredevil to the screen required little more than putting Ben
Affleck in tights. The Hulk was a much bigger challenge to bring to life
on celluloid. The 1970s TV series simply painted bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno
green and gave him a bad wig. Now, in the days of CGI effects, that approach
simply wouldn't work. So, the 2003 version of the Hulk is completely computer
-generated. Of course, there's the small matter of a script and a decent
storyline, but computers can do anything, right? In the case of Hulk,
the special effects are certainly special but the storyline may have benefited
by being a mini-series instead of a two hour and 20 minute long film.
Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a scientist working with ex-girlfriend and
fellow scientist Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) on experiments involving
altering the DNA in living creatures to expedite the healing process.
In a freak accident (in these movies, are there ever run-of-the-mill accidents?),
Banner is bombarded with gamma radiation. Ordinarily, this would have
killed him. However, Banner had been genetically altered by his father,
David Banner (Nick Nolte). The addition of gamma radiation into the mix
gives Bruce Banner the unfortunate side-effect of being transformed into
a large, green creature whenever he gets angry.
Hulk is not a traditional comic-book hero movie. It has more in common
with classic monster movies, like King Kong or Frankenstein. The scenes
that feature the Hulk smashing up military hardware, fighting mutant dogs,
or smashing San Francisco gave me the feeling I get when I'm watching
a good Godzilla movie. It was fun to watch and cathartic in a twisted
kind of way. I was cheering when the Hulk picked up a tank turret and
started to beat another tank with it. The special effects, including the
prematurely maligned, computer-generated Hulk, are spectacular. I was
much more impressed with Hulk's visuals than I was with The
retreaded bullet-time effects.
Even the acting, which is usually not a strong point in comic-book films,
is superior, due no doubt to Ang Lee's directing. Eric Bana, who was so
good in Chopper, plays it much more subdued here. Still, he brings a believability
to Bruce Banner, especially when he confesses to Betty that he likes the
feeling he gets when he changes into the big, green guy.
So what didn't I like about
Hulk? It's a movie that simply tries to do too much with the time it's
allotted. The back story requires almost an
hour to set up and when the action kicks in, it doesn't last long enough.
When the movie "feels" over, there's still almost half an hour
to go. I admire Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The
and what he has tried to do with the subject matter. The editing, with
its comic book-like use of panels and never-predictible morphs from one
scene to the next, is exemplary. While the movie may be overlong, it's
certainly never boring. It just doesn't feel right. The climax comes out
of nowhere and feels like it belongs in another film.
That said, Hulk is not a failure. In fact, I appreciate the intelligent
approach Ang Lee and his collaborators took when they tackled this project.
Perhaps, if there is a sequel, it will benefit -- as did X2: X-Men
United -- from the lack of a need to set everything up ad nauseam. Unfortunately,
the rather cool response to the film at the box office may prevent a sequel
from ever being made. That, in my opinion, would be a shame. I want to
see more of the Hulk smashing stuff.
Lee performed the Hulk himself using motion capture technology. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)