The Hulk

Review Date:
Director: Ang Lee
Writer: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman
Producers: Gale Anne Hurd, Avi Arad
Eric Bana as Bruce
Jennifer Connelly as Betty
Nick Nolte as Father
A scientist whose biological parents left him for adoption as a child, grows up to be an emotionally distant adult who can’t seem to express himself all that well. Then one day, he accidentally gets zapped by some gamma rays during an experiment gone awry, and the next thing you know, he turns into a big, green monster whenever he gets angry. And trust me when I say that you wouldn’t want to see this guy when he gets angry! Needless to say, the military, his sweetheart and his dad all want a piece of his action, but he’s too busy kickin’ ass to notice? Hulking ensues!
Kudos to director Ang Lee for creating a psychological drama about a man, his childhood and his repressed feelings and somehow combining that with a comic book about a big green monster who likes to smash stuff, and have it work…for the most part. Despite a number of elements which bothered me or simply didn’t work in this film, the overall impression that I was left with after leaving my screening was that I had a good time, I got to know a couple of interesting characters, I bought into the “love” angle, I appreciated many of the film’s stylistic choices and I was friggin’ invigorated by its many scenes of the hulk…kickin’ ass! Yes, the film does take a lot of time to get going as the groundwork is laid on thick in terms of the characters’ background and their development, but once Bruce Banner “turns”…he turns and he brings along with him a palpable sense of strength, power and raaaaaaaaaage!! Kinda like the Arrow after a few drinks. The transformation scenes, as well as the hulk action sequences were a blast and had many in the audience literally hooting and hollering for more…including my green ass! What didn’t entirely work for me though was the plotline involving Bruce’s father, played here by Nick Nolte, especially the final 10 minutes, which felt tacked on and over the top. I also didn’t buy Nolte’s character simply moving about wherever he wanted, seemingly unnoticed by anyone at anytime or his overacting in several scenes, which took away from the film’s more realistic environment established by everyone else. One scene on a stage of sorts was particularly embarrassing as Nolte seemed to be channeling the Shakespearean God of ham.

Also, even though I completely bought into the two lead characters, played very well by both Bana (thank God they got a “no name” actor for this part…perfect!) and Jennifer Connelly (although she seemed to cry in ever other scene), the “bad guys” weren’t as layered and for the film to work as an engaging tit-for-tat, you can’t have one of the villains be as one-dimensional as Josh Lucas’ character, who simply oozed evil and not much else. It’s either a comic-book-over-the-top extravaganza or it isn’t, and even though Lee definitely makes it all work as a whole…some elements felt a tad out of place for me. I also had a major love/hate relationship with the extremely unique comic book-like panels which the director utilized throughout the film to move between/within scenes. I loved them initially, especially during the film’s engaging first 15 minutes, because it helped keep things moving and provide the audience with a lot of information in little time, but the style was ultimately over-used and distracted me in certain scenes, especially the action oriented ones, in which my eyes were just moving in too many directions (yeah, I’m that guy!) But overall, I dug them since they were quite unique, integral to the story and yes…comic-y. My final pet peeve is the film’s length which at 2:20hrs could have been cut down by at least 20 minutes without missing much of a beat. In fact, the film’s first hour felt a little redundant at times and took too long to get going. We know what’s going to happen already, dude…how many times do we need to see this nerd sitting in front of his computer before he goes green!! (I ask the same question of myself every goddamn night!!)

But before my idle bitching dissuades anyone from catching this blast, allow me to re-integrate how I did really like the movie a lot more overall, and despite my qualms above (which probably have more to do with expectations…as per usual), appreciated the ambition fine-tooth-combed throughout, the believable romantic liaison constructed between a big, green monster and a human babe (all kinds of KING KONG memories there) as well as the particularly memorable action sequences featuring the hulk punching the shit out of mutated dogs, launching tanks into orbit and super-hopping his way through the desert landscape. I swear I almost felt myself turning into the hulk at several points, but then realized that I was just going hard on account of Connelly ass. As for the CGI…well, yeah…it’s still pretty obvious that it’s a CGI monster, but unlike the trailers, I actually forgot about it after the first few scenes, especially with the close-up stuff on his face, which sold me on the poor ogre’s emotional turmoil (es tu JoBlo?) The final hulk de-transformation scene was also beyond awesome…kudos to all on that. Overall, I guess I can’t say that this film is recommendable to kids, since it is more psychological than action-oriented (although if you just show them the second half, they might enjoy), and that some of the stuff didn’t exactly gel for me like Nolte or the film’s pacing, but on the whole, the HULK definitely worked as a impressive achievement in combining the darker sides of humanity to the lighter sides of comic books.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

The Hulk



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