Pictures presents a film directed by Ang Lee. Written
by John Turman, Michael France and James Schamus. Running
time: 137 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violence and brief
Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliot, Josh
summer of 2003 has been good to superhero movies so far.
X2 was one of the most entertaining superhero movies ever,
and with Hulk we have one of the most involving (although
both fall behind Spider-Man, perhaps the best superhero
movie, period). Instead of focusing solely on the action elements,
director Ang Lee takes time to develop the characters. Because
of this, we feel something that we rarely do during common
summer blockbusters - compassion for the protagonists. Instead
of working Hulk as a simple monster movie, Lee has
turned it into a sort of Greek tragedy - a big, green "Oedipus",
if you will (only without the incest). The comic book character
of the Hulk may not be terribly interesting, but the movie
character certainly is.
uncertain how fans of the comic will react to Hulk,
due to the talky nature of the movie and changes Lee has made.
The basic idea of the story has stayed the same, but everything
else is different, and the differences range from slight to
Bana plays Bruce Banner, a scientist working at the Berkely
Technical Institute, along with ex-girlfriend Betty (Jennifer
Connelly). Their current project, examining ways to protect
the human body against radiation, is being carefully watched
by Talbot (Josh Lucas), a despicable corporate executive,
who plans to take over the project. One day, during a lab
accident, Bruce is exposed to massive amounts of gamma radiation.
When he awakens in a hospital, he finds that, not only is
he okay, he's not even injured.
Bruce is visited by a grizzled old man who claims to be Bruce's
father, David Banner. The man (Nick Nolte, looking very much
like his now infamous mug-shot) speaks in riddles as to what
has happened to Bruce. His meaning becomes clear quite soon,
however, when Bruce is transformed into the gigantic Hulk.
Soon, Betty's father, General Ross (Sam Elliott) takes an
interest in the beast, although his motives are unclear, and
Talbot simply wants Bruce dead. David wants Bruce for his
own sinister purposes.
when he is destroying cities, we are rooting for the Hulk,
and not only because we know we should, as is the case in
many action movies, but because the character of Bruce has
been so well developed. The compassion for the character is
not only limited to the moments of dialogue or exposition,
but spreads across the action seequences as well. This is
good, as, after the relatively slow start, the action hardly
ever ceases. The climax is somewhat ambiguous, although not
difficult to figure out with a little thought; it is obvious
what happens, but why is slightly unclear.
the slightly dark tone of the movie, Lee never forgets that
the basis for his movie is a comic book. He uses many split
screens and other visual effects to bring across the feeling
that what is happening on the screen is really occuring in
a comic book. His visual tweaks occasionally seem excessive,
but never become truly distracting or irritating as Oliver
Stone's often do.
acting is not perfect, but it is uncharacteristically strong
for a superhero movie. Eric Bana (also in Black Hawk Down)
is strong as Bruce, and protrays him as emotionally distant
and brooding individual. Jennifer Connelly gives the best
performance of the movie, in essentially the same role she
played in A Beautiful Mind. Nick Nolte is also strong
as Bruce's evil, deranged dad. He occasionally goes over-the-top,
but it's obvious that he does it on purpose, and he is always
impressive to watch. Sam Elliot rides the line between acting
and over-acting, and he manages to always stay on the acting
side. The one weak link in the ensemble is Josh Lucas as villain
Talbot. Instead of attempting to develop the character, he
makes him a one-sided cartoon, and we can't wait until he
course, the most important aspect of the movie is the CGI
effects. If the Hulk looked terrible, the movie would certainly
fail. Early reports on the quality of the effeccts have varied,
and judging by the trailer, I was ready to be disappointed.
Luckily, the effects are exceptional, with some astounding
close-ups. Of course it does not work perfectly, but the Hulk
is a comic book character, and you can't expect him to not
look slightly larger-than-life (no pun intended).
wish not to imagine what could have happened to Hulk
had it been directed by a mindless director like Michael Bay.
If he had, it certainly would have become action-packed and
dumb. What Hollywood is apparently realizing is that superhero
movies are better handled by directors who know how to tell
stories and direct compelling movies (Spider-Man, X-Men,
and X2 have all been directed by men whose origins
lay in independent film-making). Luckily, Ang Lee is such
a director. When it is all said and done, I have no doubts
that the title of best summer blockbuster will be a close
race between X2 and Hulk.
2003 Matt Noller