Hulk (2003) — The MCU kindly requests you ignore this one

“You’re making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Justin’s rating: Y’know, I think we should get rid of all poodles on earth, just in case they end up mutating like the ones here. Just in case.

Justin’s review: Considering how many superheroes there are out there who consider it the height of fashion to wear unfortunately revealing spandex uniforms, it’s ironic that the Hulk — who goes through sixteen outfits a week with his form changing — has yet to invest in that line of clothing.

While some people are near-fanatical about this lime-flavored wrestler, in all interest of fair disclosure, the Incredible Hulk never really did it for me. Okay, so he’s big and green, speaks in two-word sentences, and likes to smash things up. Except for the “big and green” part, you’ve just described every preschool I’ve visited.

Yes, there’s this incredible metaphor for inner rage and repressed emotions, but part of me always wonders why Hulkie has to let it out in the form of destructive anger. Maybe, every time he gets so angry that he transforms, the Hulk would do some aggressive gardening, or lead a Tae Bo class in the park?

As a movie, Hulk was financially successful, if nothing else than for name-brand recognition. But as I sat there in the theater, my attitude toward the film flopped back and forth so many times like a hooked fish. In the end, it’s a case of “there’s good news, and there’s bad news.”

The good news is that director Ang Lee (The Ice Storm) takes his comic book subject very seriously — maybe too seriously — and gives the Hulk an impressive backstory replete with family issues and ethical questions about genetic manipulation. The bad news is that all of this backstory amounts to excessive garnish to what we really want to see: Hulk SMASH! It’s a long movie, and while I do appreciate Lee giving Bruce Banner Eric Bana) depth through a mysterious past, it just goes on for a wee bit too long.

The good news is that this movie does a lot of small things right, particularly dialogue (which is tight and doesn’t seem to dip into clichés very much) and an occasional comic book-style split screen (where the action is happening simultaneously in three or four boxes). The bad news is for every one person that is delighted with the new liberty taken with this movie format, there’s going to be one person whining about it as well.

The good news is that Hulk, indeed, finally does smash. For as much as the long and plodding origin story played out, I must admit that it was completely worth it to see Bruce “hulk out,” growing massively big and releasing many years worth of pent-up emotions by redecorating with his fists. The Hulk as a special effect does not disappoint. He’s massive, detailed, and very believable as a Frankenstein creation. There is no bad news about this!

The Hulk pulverizes up a lab, fights mutated dogs (including a giant poodle, I kid you not, which reinforces my belief that these dogs are just this side of pure evil), escapes from a military lab, battles tanks and helicopters, and even rides a jet plane into the upper atmosphere. It’s a shame, then, that so little of this has any purpose behind it, other than the fight-or-flight reaction.

In most comic book films, the superhero has a main nemesis, is fighting actively against wrongdoing, and is making a logical progression from point A to B to C. Hulk, on the other hand, is merely a picked-on kid fleeing the bullies who don’t understand or pity him.

The good news is that there’s enough here to recommend at least one viewing. This is a dark and violent film, the antithesis of Spider-Man and X-Men, and makes a valid argument that comic book movies can tell just as complex and vivid of a story as in other flicks. Yet I can’t help but leak the bad news: Hulk is not nearly as entertaining or engrossing as it should have been, and I’m sure not just a few people were disappointed that the mostly-mute Hulk was only given two words in the entire movie (and those in a dream sequence). You take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of Hulk.

Kyle’s rating: Um, damn, I wish I had more to say

Kyle’s review: Hulk is one really crazy movie. On paper (heh), Hulk sounds like one totally awesome comic book movie. I mean there are shots where the use of several different “panels” allow us multiple views of what’s going on and stuff. It’s a true comic book movie! There is actual acting. There are big names everywhere. This is a real world treatment of what could happen if somebody got exposed to gamma radiation. This is serious, serious stuff. Maybe that’s half the problem…

Yes, unfortunately, a lot of the negative criticism you may have heard about Hulk is true. It’s a really, really long movie. For long stretches of time, not much happens in terms of action, and what does happen requires a whole lot of attention. There’s like, uh, science stuff going on. There’s like, um, psychological family stuff going on. You need to pay attention to everything, even the slow stuff, and you have to fill in some blanks based on how certain characters act and what that sort of person would do. A pre-viewing reading of Jung to brush up on archetypes is highly advisible. If you aren’t prepared to really get into the Hulk experience being very hands-on, you may not be ready or willing to truly enjoy Hulk.

If you are ready to accept Hulk as a few notches above Spider-Man on the slow and truly dramatic measure-o-meter (so it’s extremely s-l-o-w and extremely DRAMATIC), then it definitely is worth seeing. Eric Bana is quite good as Bruce Banner, the somewhat mild-mannered scientist who takes several hits of gamma radiation and gets “in touch” with his anger. Jennifer Connelly is HOT. She’s a great actress and blah blah blah, but she’s very thin and very hot, and it’s awesome. Nick Nolte is terrifying. As hot and thin as Jennifer Connelly is, Nick Nolte is 200 times more terrifying. It would have been interesting if they filmed Nolte in his real life, and we found out he eats gamma radiation or something. I don’t know where I was going with that.

I am on the fence about Hulk. I was looking forward to it, and the highly touted computer work that brought The Incredible Hulk to the big screen is incredible. Sure, you know it’s a special effect fighting tanks and swatting missiles, but it’s great. I kind of wish Hulk was just total action all the way through, but then I can also appreciate the serious stuff and I like that quite a lot of time goes to scientific and family issues that serve to show us what truly makes a monster. I guess I like it, though. Sure.

Or do I? Yeah, I do. I don’t think I’ll buy it. Maybe if I find it used I will. But overall it’s like one of those movies that are quite good but aren’t entirely rewatchable. Either they’re too long or just too demanding of attention, but you should see them once and then just move along and watch Old School again. I think I’ve watched it like 20 times in the last three weeks. “Not funny. Not funny. And now the baby’s upset.” Incredible!

Shalen’s rating: Three billion recolored dividing yeast cells.

Shalen’s review: I’m an angry person.

I know this comes as no surprise to those of you who regularly read my reviews, my blog, or my fanfiction. It’s not that I hate people. (Well, not most of them.) It’s just that I have this underlying background level of indignation directed toward more or less everything. Most people I know only in person don’t realize it, and I keep it under control when I talk to people or go about my real-life job. But I know it’s there. There are sound psychological reasons for it, which I understand. I can deal with it. And I do.

But sometimes I wish I didn’t have to. Sometimes I wish I could completely lose it, scream at my boss, kick the side of my house in, smash someone’s face with just my fists. Sometimes I wish I could forget that my actions have consequences.

So it’s not really surprising that I deeply identify with this movie.

Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of the comic book. I’ll read an issue every so often, but mostly it always seems a little repetitive with the constant search for things for Bruce Banner to feel guilty about and giant things for the Hulk to fight. If anything, I thought the whole concept would be a better subject for a movie than a long-running series of comics. This film more or less confirms that for me. I didn’t find it to be overly long. I found it to be, if anything, short. But then, I personally would gladly watch three hours of nothing but the CGI Hulk running around smashing stuff and then dissolving into a dazed and confused science geek in pants that have inexplicably not fallen off.

Which is not to say I minded Director Ang Lee’s slower-paced psychological approach. Not at all. Like I said, most people have some reason why they’re very angry, and it takes a certain level of lifetime practice to get as pent-up as one would expect Bruce Banner to be. This would just be another drama of the sort for which this director is famous without the big payoff, however. I didn’t really buy this movie because Eric Bana looks cute with dark circles under his eyes.* I bought it to see a huge green guy destroy things.

There are a lot of other things this movie does right, or I wouldn’t keep watching it over and over. I’d just watch the Hulk parts.** Once I got done wiping off the fangirl drool from the review above this one, I realized Jennifer Connelly really does make a good Betty — and a much smarter and more thoughtful one than I expected.*** I’m a big fan of Sam “I still got one arm to hold you with” Elliott, and he does his usual professional job in a role few actors can play without going over the top. I love the “things are gonna blow up any second” soundtrack themes. I love the closing scene with the tiny tree frog on the hat and the slogan in Spanish. (“Me estas enojando.”)

The director’s commentary on this one is worth it to hear Ang Lee’s discussion of the craft of filmmaking as it went into this movie. I never realized how much attention this man pays to things like subtle differences in lighting and the tonal quality of voices. For that matter, I wish they’d gotten him for some other comic book movies I could name. I’m guessing Brett Ratner was cheaper.

I was a little puzzled to see the negative criticism this film generated and the blah fan reaction. I suspect part of this is because it’s such a different animal from the comic book, even with the split-panel effects. If you’re a big Elektra or Spider-Man fan, this film is probably not for you.

But if you’re an angry person, it’s a must-see.

*But he does. Notice how as his character gets more serious, they tend to film him from the top down, so that his chin looks pointier? Yeah. They do that with Steven Seagal now, too.
**I do that, too.
***And it’s always nice to see one of Hollywood’s manifold Jennifers show up as something other than a blond.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s