HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:


He's been known by many adjectives. The Incredible Hulk. The Rampaging Hulk. The Savage Hulk. For a brief time, you might even allow the Soprano Hulk.

None of these descriptives imply control. Of all the Marvel superheroes, The Hulk is likely the one best thought of as a creature of pure id. Putting him in the hands of a director who is all superego makes for an odd match at best. The two sides war throughout Ang Lee's Hulk, making for a decent film, yet one that is too slow to get started for action fans and too ridiculous and violent for lovers of serious film.

There's much to be said for what Lee tries to do. Recognizing that even non-fans have some idea of what the Hulk is about, Lee plays up the utter emotional repression of Bruce Banner (Eric Bana), in an attempt to make clear that there's a pent-up rage that is all too human, a rage Banner is incapable of letting out.

It should humanize the character, and bring him more fully to life. But Lee leaves Bana no choice but low-key, and though everyone talks about how guarded Banner is, he just comes off as good-natured and kind of boring. If anything, he comes across more passive-aggressive, which can be dangerous. ("Don't make me disappointed; you wouldn't like me when I'm disappointed…")

For a guy who can't share his feelings, he sure spends a lot of time hashing it all out with Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly).

In fact, every constipated emotional nuance repeats over and over, illustrated in as many ways as Lee can think to do. The first five minutes of the film succinctly explain most of Banner's dark secrets, and then get replayed as half-buried memories and a recurring nightmare for Betty. Trying to make the mystery as deep as possible, we even get flashbacks within flashbacks. For at least fifty minutes, the film is as afraid of an emotional outburst as Banner is.

Even the accident with gamma radiation (now mixed with the scientific bugbear du jour, nanobots) plays anticlimactically. When Banner uses himself to shield a lab assistant, the scene freezes and cuts to him waking up in a hospital bed. None of that messy action for us, please, we're thinking people, not feeling ones.

Then the imagery begins paying off. From Banner's shattered memory comes a locked door with something violent behind it. He dimly recalls his father, military scientist David Banner (Paul Kersey), who did genetic research on himself and accidentally passed the changes on to his baby boy. Before he could find a cure, General "Thunderbolt" Ross (Todd Tesen and Sam Elliott splitting the role) shut down the project. As a result, Banner Senior did something awful, but we don't know what - except that Ross had him locked up for thirty years because of it.

Behind that door we get glimpses of what we want: The Hulk. But Banner has no clue. Adopted by the Krenzlers (and that may be the biggest shock to die-hard fans - he goes by Bruce Krenzler for the first third of the film), he still unwittingly followed in the footsteps of his natural father.

When the mysterious night janitor (Nick Nolte) visits him in his hospital bed, claiming to be his father, Bruce can feel the years of neglect building. (Except he wasn't really neglected - his adoptive mother is shown early on, super-supportive and loving.) Going over his notes and lab simulations one night, it gets to be too much…and everything goes green.

If you can last this long, you'll be rewarded. Had the narrative up to this point been halved, it would be more than a noble failure. Once we get The Hulk on screen, the film comes to life, almost tipping the balance into sheer fun, a notion that might horrify the restrained Lee.

And yet he keeps reminding us that it is, after all, a comic book. The screen breaks up into panels as Lee appropriates graphic storytelling techniques for film. It's not just split screen - panels move and arrange themselves telling us where to look. Figures outline while backgrounds fade away. Scenes shrink away into a corner of blackness. And boy, is it a love it or hate it attempt. I'm in the "love it" category, except where it falsely builds excitement for another talky scene about how people might feel if something were to happen.

Of course, we're still dealing with a fifteen foot high behemoth (sometimes less, depending on just how peeved he is). Emotional pain accounts for some of it, but at least Lee gives us sheer catharsis with Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas), a far bigger jerk here than he was in the comics. Talbot suffers no illusions about protecting the public good; he really just wants to profit from Banner's DNA. He figures out that maybe Banner's subconscious could trigger the transformation, providing a loony over-the-top underground confrontation.

For the rest of the film, in fact, the subconscious seems to rule. While he may be a languid pacer, Lee is also a master of imagery, and many scenes have a dreamy quality to them that may leave you questioning whether or not they are "real." A beautiful trip through the clouds almost distracts you from realizing this is the beginning of the climactic fight between Hulk and …well, fill in the blank as to which villain it is, it's an amalgamation of several, but at least Nolte brings life and yes, a sense of pure and yet seductively reasonable evil, to the role.

That climactic fight, too, is rather short and poorly lit, so it's hard to see what's going on. Again, it's as if to the end, Lee is afraid to let go and give us what we want. More likely it's being fought on some zen level, leaving it rather unsatisfying. But Lee has already delivered, in a tremendous and extremely bright desert battle against the military. (There - that's one element from the comic book that really, he had to include.)

Most of the character arcs that Lee and his screenwriters (John Turman, Michael France, and James Schamus) set into motion play through. Ostensibly Banner will learn to handle his emotions more healthfully, but then again, if he does, there's no Hulk.

The Hulk himself becomes the most fascinating character, with surprising hints at an arc. Though nobody in the film notices or comments upon it, the more experience he gets with existence, the more careful he seems to become of "puny humans." Is it an integration with Banner, or the assertion of a childlike mind that wants to do good? This question remains frustratingly unanswered. But hey, it's a franchise, and the one area Lee compromises is in letting that be painfully obvious. There's a lot of room for more Hulks.

Weighed down by its own portentiousness, the film struggles to be a thoughtful popcorn flick. While it's an admirable effort, it's like somebody sprinkled the popcorn with broccoli. To get to the good part, you're going to have to grimace and swallow a lot first.

And on a "gee, that's kind of cool" note, Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee make their cameos together, early on in the film, as security guards. It's the most dialogue Lee has had since Mallrats. Yeah, I know this doesn't fit with the rest of the review, but it was worth mentioning for fanboys. And Ang Lee forgot that that's what it's about here.

What's it worth? $6

Derek McCaw

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites