THE HULK (***)
Movie Review by:
Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski
David Hayter, James Schamus, Michael France
Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte
for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity.
"...seriousness of a sobering
It's too bad that Universal Pictures is going the
usual route in marketing Ang Lee's "The Hulk." Yes, it's a "superhero flick"
(even though its title character isn't really a superhero), one ready-made for
the cineplex at your local mall. But it's also a thoughtful, deeply
introspective and rather talky film about bad fathers and damaged children. I'd
venture to say that Lee's take on the Marvel Comics creation is less
action-packed than conversational. It has long stretches in which its characters
simply share their thoughts and feelings, looking for someone with whom to
connect. By all rights, "The Hulk" should be playing in tandem at art houses,
where it would attract a different audience, and at multiplexes for its target
audience. It's been conceived by Lee and company in a thoroughly unusual -- and,
I assume, deliberate -- way. Like the conflicted title character, created in
1962 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this version of the material is at odds with
itself. This may not sound like a good thing, but in this particular case, it
works -- or, rather, it works as well as it can.
As its lead character, Bruce Banner (played by Australian actor Eric Bana), goes
back and forth between his rather stolid, repressed real-life self and his
fantasy life as the raging, fully liberated Hulk, the movie seesaws, too. At
first, this is disconcerting and even a little schizoid, but it fully fits a
character with a serious personality disorder. And so we get one film in which
Banner and his one-time love, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), make an
unconscious connection because of shared troubled childhoods under the thumbs of
domineering fathers (played by Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott, respectively), and
another in which Banner is transformed into a snarling beast from all the
pent-up rage and anger that have been instilled in him.
The movie turns into a comic book only when the Hulk is on screen. Otherwise, it
is played with all the seriousness of a straight, sobering drama.
Except for the scenes in which Banner morphs into the Hulk -- scenes that don't
arrive until about an hour into the plot -- there is nothing pulpy about Lee's (Ang,
not Stan) take on this character. Unlike other adaptations of Marvel Comics,
there is practically no humor here, no relief from the depressing image of a
wounded child trying, however disastrously, to heal. Lee has called his version
of the material "a psychodrama," and that's exactly how it plays, with a few
horror-fantasy sequences tucked in.
This movie is every bit as spiritual and arty as Lee's last film, "Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000), just as dark as that film but a good deal less
And, once again, Lee is in no rush to tell his story. He makes us wait for the
Hulk's grand entrance, giving us half a movie of exposition explaining how
Banner became the person he is. In early scenes, we see his scientist-father,
David Banner (played by Paul Kersey, but dubbed with Nolte's voice), doing
horrific experiments on his son, fiddling with the boy's genes so that, years
later, when Bruce is a genetic scientist himself and is subjected to an
accidental blast of gamma radiation in his lab, something irrevocable happens.
Those emotions that he has held in all of his life, most of them bitter ones,
are suddenly unleashed and assume the form of a giant green behemoth who can't
be stopped or placated.
By this time, David Banner has materialized (now in the form of Nolte) and has
insinuated himself back into his son's life with the intent of bonding with him
again -- not with Bruce, but with the person who David knows is hidden inside
Bruce and whom David prefers. David thinks that the real Bruce is weak -- and
Nolte has a curious scene toward the end of the film, in which he rages at his
son, that's been staged by Lee as if it were something from a two-character
David Mamet play.
Meanwhile, Betty's father, Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross (Elliott, in a great
performance that walks a fine line between intense and over the top) -- the
nickname says it all -- is out to pursue and destroy the Hulk, regardless of how
his daughter feels about Bruce. Betty's father is as cold as Bruce's father is
mad. Both are egomaniacs, and neither cares much about what his child wants or
On the sidelines is the character of Glenn Talbot (a smirking Josh Lucas), a
greedy young entrepreneur who is Bruce's competition for Betty -- and who wants
to exploit the Hulk.The split-screen device is used here in a novel way to give
the film the feel of comic-book panels. Except for this touch and the digitally
created Hulk, however, the graphics of this movie are subtle rather than broad.
This film is like "A Beautiful Mind," with a cartoon character occasionally
superimposed over everything. Whether it works or not is up to you. It's
relative. It's an experiment that some may consider silly, but is really rather
THE HULK © 2003 Universal
All Rights Reserved
Review © 2009 Alternate Reality, Inc.
Views and House Shows, we layeth the Smaketh-Down on
Dozen's of kid
friendly titles arrive every week and we review the one that
AT THE MOVIES
Every week we give you our opinion on what's playing at the cinema.