The Hulk (2003)
Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
Like most of you, I spent 1978 -1982 enjoying one of the greatest super hero TV shows ever made...The Incredible Hulk. I loved it. Bill Bixby played Gamma radiated scientist Dr. David Bruce Banner perfectly and Lou Ferrigno was equally excellent as the raging Hulk. To impress my classmates, I ruined countless school shirts by grabbing the cuffs in my hands, crossing my arms in front of my chest, and ripping out the shoulder seams. All the while growling "You're making me angry... You won't like me when I'm angry! Gggrrrrrrrr!" This would simulate the effect that I was growing huge like the Hulk and that my flimsy shirt could not contain my new anger-induced hugeness. Then I would get home from school and lie to my mother by saying that my shirt was ripped by some kid on the playground or that it got caught on a nail or something.
The new big screen version of The Hulk by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee is a shirt ripping good time as well. As with pretty much all superhero movies, I believe it to be a triumph. It's definitely one of the most serious and introspective comic book movies to be made in quite a while. Unlike X-Men 2, which I enjoyed even more, The Hulk is more drama than action. More mood than flair. More anger and rage with less light hearted banter and quips (No offense Spidey).
Dr. David Banner uses his own body as a test subject. In doing so he inadvertently passes his altered genetics to his son Bruce. Time goes by and Bruce is raised by foster parents. As an adult, Dr. Bruce Banner, an emotionally troubled scientist himself is accidentally exposed to a huge dose of Gamma radiation which activates his enhanced genetics and transforms him into a raging monster. Seeing the enormous potential for military applications that the Hulk represents, the Army can't help but to try and contain, control and extract some Hulk juice in hopes of replicating the formula for themselves.
Many believe that Ang Lee took a great leap of faith when he decided to create an entirely CGI Hulk. Apparently Yoda in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, Dobby The House Elf from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the brilliant performance of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, to name a few, were insufficient evidence that a CGI character is now as valid as a flesh and blood actor. It took very little effort to accept the CGI Hulk as real and once you are accustomed to his presence you forget his digital genetics entirely. The primary bonus of the computer generated character is that this Hulk can grow to enormous and varied sizes rather than peaking out at the finite dimensions of the most burly of human actors (Ferrigno probably couldn't toss a tank like this Hulk can). The CGI Hulk was programmed well and is a perfectly believable member of the cast.
If I had to select my favorite special effect from the movie I would have to say the editing. Yes, that's right...the editing. Lee has taken the multiple cells of the comic book page and brought them to brilliant life on the screen. It's just about one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I read that all scenes were shot multiple times from numerous angles to achieve the effect. For those who have trouble visually multitasking this may not work well for you but with repeated viewings I'm sure you will eventually see what most gamers and kids today can process on first glance. It's a brilliant new technique that I hope will be adopted (ripped off) in more comic book based movies in the future.
The actors all do fine and casting relatively unknown Australian actor Eric Bana as Bruce Banner was inspired. It's nice when you get to watch a character in a movie instead of the super famous familiar actor playing a role. An example of this would be Nick Nolte who, as the senior Banner, is actually somewhat distracting due to his celebrity and the fact that his character looks exactly like his disheveled mug shot from a real life highly publicized drunk driving arrest about a year ago. Jennifer Connelly is fine as Dr. Betty Ross but her role is weak and they probably didn't need a sexy Academy Award winner for this role. To see her put to better use go rent Dark City. Seriously. Go rent it right now. I insist! Sam Elliott rounds out the primary cast as Betty's father and the General who along with the head of a research company wants to capture and contain the Hulk for study. Sam's a gruff military-like actor who we rarely see anymore so he was fine for the role.
Keep an eye open for the cameos of Lou Ferrigno and Hulk creator Stan Lee near the beginning of the film as security guards at Banner's lab.
All in all the Hulk is a fine movie and will someday become part of my DVD collection for repeated viewings. As I said, it's slower than most comic book movies and most of the big superhero scenes are in the second half of the film but unless you're a four year old, you should be able to appreciate the story and background as much as the smashing and destruction.
Note: Another thing that was fun about the movie was that many of the desert fight scenes took place at monuments and parks in Utah that I had just visited the week before I saw the movie. Here's some pictures I took of some actual locations in the film before I even knew they were in the movie. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
Alan On Location with The Hulk!