The Hulk (2003)
Director: Ang Lee
An accidental burst of gamma rays turns scientist and all-around brooder Bruce Banner (Bana) into a muscle bound, giant green monster every time he gets ticked off. When the army, Sam Elliot’s moustache and a wired Nick Nolte get into the mix...the shite hits the proverbial shan.
Bruce: You found me!
Betty: You weren't that hard to find.
Bruce: Yes, I was.
I never read The Hulk comic books, but did watch the Lou Ferrigno (great man) show as a kid and dug it the most then (not sure how I’d feel about it now though). I had zero expectations going into this movie and hopped out of it a tad confused as to how I felt about it; so baffled, in fact, that I had to go see it a second time to write this review. This is what I came up with: "The Hulk" is basically director Ang Lee having his green cake and eating it too. He toyed with the Hulk formula to give it more depth and it worked. Here, the Hulk transformations acted as a metaphor for one man's repressed emotions coming out of the woodworks. Good move! It gave the flick such layers!
On the whole, the flick was mostly a somber, dramatic piece with artsy flavors all around. The enthralling summer blockbuster ingredients were also in the soup, but they came in second. Personally, I was more enamored by the serious and grounded aspects of the narrative than I was by the “out there” comic book spices. I was genuinely touched by the father/son/daughter themes and Bruce Banner’s (Bana) heavy past. In respect to the latter, I was especially reeled in by how they stylishly communicated it via flashbacks. Those moments had a strong impact on me...poor kid! Bruce’s love story with Betty (Connelly) also snagged me from every side. Not only did it make me go mush when Bruce was in Eric Bana mode, but also when CGI Hulk was doing the interaction with the dame. The Hulk’s face was so articulated, I could read so much into it and its “tete a tetes” with Betty had a poignant “King Kong” feel to them that made my dead heart go thump at least twice. For everybody that was worried about the CGI looking like shite, I say: RELAX! IT WORKS!
Visually, Lee didn’t hold back either, bombarding us with all kinds of eye candy with purpose behind it to boot. I adored his use of abstract visuals (loved the Hulk in the doorway) and dream sequences to communicate the characters’ or the situations’ emotional essence. It was refreshing to see that type of artsy jive in what is quintessentially a "monster movie". I also appreciated the comic book panel approach for the scene transitions/swipes; it made some of the more mundane events seem ultra-exciting, communicated lots of info swiftly and gave the film that “pulp” feel that it needed, somewhat balancing out the heaviness of the substance in the process.
The film’s bleak aura did make the Hulk’s first extensive action scene feel a tad disjointed from the film when it kicked in, but it was still a MAJOR hoot and a half to witness. Get this...the Hulk is bouncing around in the desert in his purple shorts, minding his own beezwacks and the next thing you know, tanks, helicopters and eventually planes come in to mess with his innocent stroll. How freakin' rude! Leave Shrek’s cousin alone, man! He’s just hopping around! What followed was a beyond AMAZING lengthy action sequence that had our boy Hulk running between mountains (can the dude sprint or what?), riding planes, bitch-slapping tanks and jumping around like a rabbit on steroids. That scene totally kicked my ass to fanboy mansion and succeeded on every level. We saw the money in that scene! WHAT A BLAST!
Where "The Hulk" let me down though was in some of its script and execution. The first hour of buildup could’ve easily been trimmed down. It felt a tad long and threaded the same ground as opposed to going deeper into its themes. But my least favorite angle was the father (Nolte) subplot (or was it the plot?) and everything that came with the crazy bastard. We’re served up a coked-up Nick Nolte playing a coked-up Nick Nolte but on coke. His presence eventually led to tacky mutant canines, a trivial and out of place scene between father and son (felt like I was watching a play) and a light show ending that was so "out there" that I found myself completely detached from it all. Was this "The Hulk" or "Mortal Kombat"? I expected some techno tunes and Scorpion to jump in at any moment. The flick should’ve ended in San Francisco because that extra mile cap-off was embarrassing and was too “wild” to hit where it should’ve counted…the heart. Something more intimate would’ve worked better in capping off what the film was saying throughout...in my opinion.
But on a whole, I not only had loads of fun watching "The Hulk", but it also moved me via its visuals and its potent themes. And let’s face it, witnessing The Hulk get pissed off and causing mayhem is always a tasty treat! He reminded me of me every time I see yet another one of my reviews plagiarized in the member section of the Internet Movie Database (write your own shite fuckwads!) “You're making me angry. I don't think you're going to like me when I'm angry.” SMASH!!!!!!!!!!!
We get some nasty cuts, an exploding frog, a blood bubble, monster-like CGI dogs, nasty dog bites and bullet hits. Not a gore fest, but the violence is there.
Eric Bana (Bruce) did what he had to do; look bottled up. I loved it when glimpses of repressed negative emotions would surface as the film progressed. He worked! Jennifer Connelly (Betty) is still hot and can still cry on cue. Her big expressive eyes had me every time. Sam Elliott (Ross) let his moustache do the acting and when he attempted harder to act, the moustache blew him out of the water anyway. BANG-ON acting by that moustache! Josh Lucas (Talbot) was the shite as the evil a-hole...he had fun with the role. Nick Nolte (Father) was the real monster here as he ripped part of the scenery with his gaze and chewed into it fervently like a rabid acting beast on a mission of destruction. It’s the drugs…now I know where most of the budget went…COCAINE FOR NOLTE!
T & A
The ladies get some Bana buttocks and some CGI buff dude known as The Hulk flexing his stuff. I wonder where he works out? Us hetero dudes in lack of lives get Jennifer Connelly’s lips looking like a great place to rest our "fill in the blank perv”.
Lee served up a collection of striking, atmospheric and at times, poetic images using a slew of camera tricks, slow motion, creative shots and digital image alterations while simultaneously keeping to a comic book feel via his panel-whoring. He also surprisingly handled the action scenes pretty well. GREAT JOB!
Danny Elfman ("Batman", "Spider-Man") provided yet another astounding score for a comic book adaptation. The score here did wonders for the film, emphasizing the emotional content of the scenes at hand. Gotta own it!
"The Hulk" was akin to a Long Island Iced tea (yes, the alcoholic beverage that is always responsible in taking me to the next level in terms of irrational behavior). It acted as a dramatic piece, an artsy serving and a crowd pleaser, while at the same time, keeping to a comic book motif. Even though it lost me to some extent with its Nolte overdose and its disco ending, the flick had me hooked most of the way and I recommend you rip off your clothes, toss some cars aside, beat some officers of the law and go see it. HULK OUT BABY!
Billy Crudup was Ang Lee's first choice to play Bruce Banner but he turned the part down.
Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee have cameos early on in this film.
The film cost US$120,000,000.
Pissed off at the world? Play the Hulk Game demo here and unwind!