Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 18 min.
Release Date: June 20th, 2003 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ang Lee Actors: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Cara Buono, Kevin Rankin
ng Lee’s “Hulk” is the perfect example of how not to make a comic book movie. The dialogue is feeble, the acting is humdrum, the characters are unconvincing, and the story is obnoxiously generic. With offensively jarring editing, an abstract collection of music, and a blatant disregard for any type of realism (most notably with physics), “Hulk” proves that great special effects couldn’t help a pitifully executed movie any less.
Believing that human regeneration is both within reach and the formula for immortality, scientist David Banner begins testing on himself by manipulating his immune system. The government wants to shut him down, but he secretly carries on his experimentation, which eventually leads to his child carrying similarly outrageous regenerative mutations. When David is finally locked away, his young son is sent off to be raised as a normal child.
Years later, Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is on the track to becoming a revolutionary scientist like the father he only remembers in fragmented dreams. He also has an attentive girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), who is curiously attracted to the reclusive, secretive type, which is what Bruce devolves into as his work consumes him. When his barely recognizable, aged father (Nick Nolte) makes a shocking reappearance to notify his son of his unrealized true powers, the government steps in to harness the young man’s abilities for themselves – led by Betty’s father, General Ross (Sam Elliot). During an experiment at Banner’s lab, the once dormant mutations inside him are activated, and his anger leads to a startling transformation into an oversized green juggernaut: The Hulk.
Amazing special effects enable the avocado monstrosity to tackle tanks, fling helicopters around with his bare hands, and fight off slobbering mutant dogs. Muscle movements, facial expressions, and more make the Hulk a marvel of computer animation – but what the state-of-the-art CG can’t repair is the deplorable storyline, full of contrivances and nerdy argot and bland supporting parts. And then, of course, there’s the issue with realism. The problem with Banner tearing off his clothes when he grows into the lumbering giant has always rested on his pants, which remain tattered but intact (and, inexplicably, 100 sizes larger). Ignoring this not-so-trivial detail still leaves viewers with the blatant disregard for gravity, physics, and surface tension, as the Hulk weightlessly bounces from mountain to mountain, or gently splashes into the ocean after a 328,000-foot drop.
In an attempt to literally fuse a comic book’s panel-to-panel storytelling technique with a motion picture’s use of … motion, “Hulk” explores the ultimate depths of annoying editing. Blurred images, sliding frames, slow-motion, psychedelic colors, split screens, fragmentation, zooms, fades, and collages are all used much too frequently, and do nothing more than confuse and irritate. In perhaps the most obnoxious moment, a villain’s demise is shifted from live action to a comic book sketch, preventing the audience from actually witnessing the much-deserved offing.
Whether the main villain is a shameful rip-off of the T-1000, or the music is a disharmonious spatter of genres, or the dialogue is laughably pathetic (with its monotonous scientific jargon), the bottom line is that comic books only occasionally provide a unique and popular premise for a motion picture. Here, the literal melding of the two mediums is unnatural and practically unwatchable. And the 138-minute runtime is just unforgiveable.
– Mike Massie