Review and Media by Stu

Original Release Date: June 20th, 2003

Adopted as a child, Bruce knows nothing about his parents and their story. Plagued by unexpected nightmares and teased by classmates, Bruce continually struggles with tumulous fits of embarrassment, anxiety and rage. As a genetic scientist studying the regenerative effects of gamma radiation on damaged tissue, Bruce wages an escalating battle with an unknown monster inside him. Catalysed by a freak lab accident, Bruce's inner conflict culminates when he becomes the most powerful being on the face of the earth - the Hulk. General 'Thunderbolt' Ross (Elliot) - backed by an army of tanks, helicopters and soldiers - aims to destroy the powerful and ever-growing Hulk. Banner - a hunted abomination - strives to mend his relationship with General Ross's daughter, Betty (Connelly), and uncover the answers to his enigmatic past.

Screenplay By: John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus
Directed By: Ang Lee
Music By: Danny Elfman
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Josh Lucas, Lou Ferrigno (cameo), Stan Lee (cameo)

Review: With the success of X-Men, Marvel and their various studios decided that it was time to get their major players onto the big screen after decades worth of waiting. Sony finally managed to overcome the complicated legal ramifications to get Spider-Man to swing onto the big screen and in the summer of 2002, I saw my favourite superhero soar on the big screen and to be blunt, it was one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. There were better films sure, but the movie actually being worth the wait and true to the comic I loved as a boy and started a trend of me waiting to see what other superheroes they could put on the silver screen.

But… before I watched Spider-Man, I there in the theatre with my chums and my brother and they played the teaser for The Hulk. I had heard rumblings of a Hulk film at this point, but I’d heard nothing concrete. I remember thinking the teaser was really weird – no effects shot had been completed yet so we couldn’t see the Hulk (not like that astounding WTC teaser with Spider-Man a few months prior which still sends Goosebumps down my spine even now) and then when Banner announces that he likes it when the creature takes control, I remember being puzzled – there’s no interest if Banner likes being The Hulk, the drama is his tortured existence because of his double life and his endless search for a cure. I quickly put it out of my mind after seeing the wonderful complications a certain spider bite had on Tobey MacGuire’s life for the following two hours.

I returned to the same theatre a year later to finally sit down and see the green goliath on the big screen. I didn’t actually get to see it on the opening weekend, I went on the following Thursday and had heard less than stellar things regarding the film so I went and… I’m still trying to make my mind up nearly five years later.

Hulk isn’t a bad film; it’s just not a good one either. I’m relatively certain there’s a good film in here somewhere, but you have to wade through a lot of crap. There are numerous problems throughout – the script doesn’t seem to know what it wants the characters to do (see the teaser problem above), the back story is needlessly complicated with all this nano-tech BS – having Bruce get hit by a Gamma Bomb would’ve been more than enough, they’d have simply had to explain that the rays altered his DNA and force the metamorphosis to occur whenever adrenaline is rushed into his system, via anger, anxiety, stress, etc, the lighting is constantly poor throughout, and the film drags on endlessly. If you thought Superman Returns or X2 would make you die of old age, wait until you see Hulk.

A lot of the films problems exist because of each other – the film is too long, and there’s no real need for the David Banner subplot in the film’s back story, never mind bringing it back into the main story of the film in order to turn him into The Absorbing Man. Cutting it out completely and focusing on something else would’ve made for a better film and if you must use a villain, use that time to create an interesting one that could be a threat to the Hulk – don’t make him fight poodles. Poodles – sounds like a bad fan fiction idea doesn’t it?

There are a few plus points to the film however – Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly are excellent in their roles as Bruce Banner and Betty Ross and the supporting cast is also very well handled – Nick Nolte looks truly ghastly as David Banner and Sam Elliot is outstanding as General Ross. I admit I’m still very disappointed that none of them are being brought back for The Incredible Hulk sequel – the casting was the best part about the first film. I actually kind of liked the comic book panelling too, but I thought a lot of them dragged out needlessly, especially as the film ran too long as is.

The score is OK – nothing spectacular. It does it’s job I suppose but given how good music has been a staple of the Hulk since his adaptation from the comics with the brilliant lonely man theme from the Bill Bixby show haunting audiences and the outstanding transformation pieces from the 1980’s animated show being fondly remember to this day – it says something when one of Hollywood’s best composers pales in the comparison to the above. I personally still can’t believe the lonely man theme didn’t make it into the film somehow – they managed to get Bixby’s legendary catchphrase into the film in what actually be the best part of the film.

The CG creature looked fantastic. It was a little rubbery at time but even thought it’s 5 years old at this point, it’s still a lot better than some of the CGI we get today. Hulk fighting/chasing the army in the desert and later San Fransico looked astounding – unfortunately, nearly every other scene with the character is ruined by inexplicably poor lighting – in his second transformation in the lab, you can barely see what he is smashing. The screen grabs will prove it – the same can be said for his fight with the Hulk dogs and his silly fight with Absorbing Man at the film’s conclusion. However, the Hulk’s character is poorly defined – we have no idea what he wants. Survival, to be left alone, a toilet made out of solid gold? Hulk barely has a character in the picture and there’s not much made of the classic Jeckel and Hyde characterisation between him and Banner – you don’t get the sense they truly hate each like they need to for the story to work… it’s really a rather poor lead character, despite a noble attempt from Banner and the CG team behind the creature to prove otherwise.

Another thing that greatly disappointed me about the film was the transformation sequences – they lacked any sort of drama. You can the feeling that Banner is angry yes, but the transformations should signify the point of no return and the character should be petrified due to the unpredictable, uncontrollable events which are about to unfold. Bixby managed to do it with but the single strike of a piano chord, white contact lenses and his own extraordinary acting abilities – the white eyes always struck a cord with me, these new effects just consisted of someone turning Bana a sickly shade of green before turning him into a CG creature. No drama, just eye candy. Not the way to make your audience invest in your character.

I realise that most of this review is negative… before I sat down to watch it and grab the film for this site, I remember liking it a lot more than I do now. Now I see badly put together characters, horrendous pacing problems and a director who isn’t quite sure what to do with the film so he tries anything and most of it falls on it’s ass. I think Avi Arad has got it wrong when he says people wanted to see Hulk smash… I think people want to see Hulk smash in an entertaining film, which Hulk unfortunately wasn’t. It’s taken them a while, but they’ve managed to get a sequel/reboot/another Hulk film, this time, it’s time to do some justice with the character – make something truly incredible.


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