Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte
Directed By: Ang Lee
[Originally written on February 5, 2005]
I think this movie has gotten an unfair rap. I actually don’t know why so many people think it’s no good. I find it surprisingly good, better than I expected it to be. I’ve barely read any Hulk comic books, so I wasn’t all that excited about the character. Since I’m not that versed in Hulk-lore, I can’t really say how accurate the movie is to the spirit of the book, so if it is an insult to Hulk comic fans, then I can respect that as a reason for not liking it. I do know that they tweaked the origin, but that was a necessity– the original origin was okay for back in the day, but still really stupid. Others complained that they messed with the Absorbing Man’s origin, or Zzax’s origin, but they didn’t. The big bad is neither villain. Rather, his abilities are an homage to those classic Hulk villains, and he’s a unique villain made for the movie.
The other oft-cited complaint for the movie is that the CGI is bad. Maybe I’m just really unobservant, but I thought it was really good. Especially in the desert scenes. I think the main reason why people don’t like it is that they didn’t appreciate what Ang Lee was trying to do. Hulk is a more cerebral super hero movie, one that takes its time early in the movie to earn the excitement later on. I think a lot of people wanted a mindless “Hulk smash” popcorn movie, and were turned off by the fact that the Hulk doesn’t show up in full until 42 minutes in. It was promoted as a big time summer flick, and had a lot of merchandising tie-ins that didn’t fit at all with the tone of the movie, so people can be excused for incorrect assumptions. If you weren’t actually interested in the movie, and just wanted some fun, then I don’t doubt that the movie would be pretty boring for you.
I was going to see the movie anyway, since the previous Marvel offerings all provided me with entertainment (and all did until The Punisher, which led me to skip Elektra altogether), but the tone of the film with its psychological focus actually drew me in. It managed to make the Hulk interesting to me. Plus, I thought the split screen camera effects are really interesting and added some fun to what would otherwise boring establishing shots. Also, Jennifer Connelly is way hot in it.
Not that the film is without its flaws. Some of the dialogue, especially early on when getting through the origin, is pretty ham-handed. Although, since it was the origin, and they mixed in the split screens, the cheesy dialogue felt like it was out of a golden age comic, so it was somewhat forgivable. The biggest problem I have with the movie is the climactic battle. It’s too dark (literally, the lighting not the mood) to properly follow what the hell is going on. In fact, I’m still not entirely sure that I understand what happened.
But, I still think it is one of the better comics to film adaptations, which succeeded in making a character interesting to me that previously never was. This is a case of a filmmaker failing to give his audience what they wanted, but not a case of a filmmaker failing to deliver a strong movie. In fact, I think Lee’s mistake was giving them a better, more interesting film than what they deserved.