The Hulk (2003)
Rated: PG-13 :: Released: 20 June 2003
Director: Ang Lee :: Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte
By Doran Murphy
The Hulk is one of Marvel's most famous characters, primarily due to the television show from the 70s, starring both Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Though shortlived, it bred a familiarity with the characters and made the line "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" one of the most famous quotes in TV history. From this, people already knew that, when his temper got the better of him, mild-mannered scientist David Bruce Banner would transform into the giant green monster known only as the Hulk. In this enraged state, Banner's genius-level IQ shrunk in proportion to the growth of the Hulk's massive green muscles. However, despite his raging anger and caveman-like stupidity, the Hulk almost always ended up doing the right thing and, despite what other characters wanted to believe, proved to be the hero in the end.
So when Hulk hit the theatres, most people knew what to expect. Irradiated scientist turns into big green monster and destroys a lot of stuff. That's more or less what happened. On a military base in the 60s, Dr. David Banner (Bruce's father, but not the same David Banner played by Bill Bixby in the original show) performed genetic tests on himself. He had a son (Bruce) and passed the wonky DNA onto him. Years later, some radiation from a lab accident awakens the dormant genes inside the now adult Bruce, and — Presto! — we have the Hulk. At the same time, the older Dr. Banner is released from military prison, harvests some of his son's DNA, and he becomes another Hulk. (Well, a cross between The Abomination and the Absorbing Man, really.)
Of course, the United States doesn't like a big green dude wandering around destroying shit, so they decide to capture him and perform all sorts of fun tests. They do, he breaks out, and then he's on the run from the United States Army (that's a good army) and his superpowered father. That's basically all there is to the movie, and that's all most people really expected. I mean, it's a summer film and it's about a giant guy whose vocabulary consists of "HULK SMASH!" I don't believe one would walk into this film thinking it was going to be about Bruce Banner's internal psychological struggle as he tries to fight his raging internal demon. I mean, there is some of that, but the battle is more extroverted than introverted.
Hulk is the quintessential summer blockbuster. It's one of those films you go into expecting mass chaos and explosions galore, and it delivers there. It's got a decent, if overlong, story and in the grand scheme of things, it's passable. There are changes from the source material, (specifically his origins, which is a cross between the origins of the comic book and television show) which is disappointing, but they've stayed true to the core of the character. Due to the destruction the Hulk brings, Bruce is genuinely frightened by it.
To this end, Eric Bana does a really good job in his role as Bruce Banner. His acting is very solid, and his struggle to contain himself is almost palpable in some scenes. Jennifer Connelly doesn't do a bad job here, but she's not at her best, either. I thought Nick Nolte excelled in his role as Dr. Banner the first. He's really got the "crazy supervillain" thing down pat. Then you have the Hulk himself. He's completely CGI, and unless you were looking for it, it'd be hard to tell — the special effects are nothing short of spectacular. From that alone you can tell it was a huge budget film.
Parts of the movie are retarded, though. Notably, the Hulk Dogs. Hulk Dogs may be the single stupidest thing I have ever seen. [Editor's Note: The Hulk Dogs actually debuted in The Incredible Hulk: Dogs of War, written by Paul Jenkins.] Also, the detailing behind the powers of Bruce's father is really kind of weak, and that makes the inevitable "Father vs. Son" battle weak as well. The ending, you guessed it, is also weak; it really didn't make a lot of sense. The first hour or so of the film is quite enjoyable (as is any part with the Hulk destroying military equipment), but the quality of the film deteriorates later on (oddly enough, once Banner has become the Hulk). And then there's the fact the film is overlong — there are a couple of false endings — which I don't think people would mind if the movie made more sense.
The DVD bonus features are really neat, though. There are the usual shenanigans from Marvel: the "page to movie" documentary, deleted scenes, special effects snippets, you know, the usual shit. (Stan Lee was explaining how he came up with the concept for the Hulk, saying he wanted a character that was green. Too bad the Hulk was grey in his first appearance, you senile old man.) The DVD is also packed with a demo of movie tie-in Xbox game; an interactive exploration of the Hulk's powers; and a thing where four "renowned" comic artists have drawn storyboards for the same scene in the movie, just to see different takes on it.
Overall, Hulk delivers on expectations. Of course, it fails to detail the relationship between the Hulk and Bruce Banner in great detail, and its diversion from the source is somewhat disappointing in this regard. Bruce Banner is much like Peter Parker, in that they both have these extraordinary powers that they loathe because they have brought nothing but pain and suffering, but are forced to use them time and time again. Anyway, I don't think anyone expected anything other than big explosions from Hulk, and the action sequences are great. (Most notably when the Hulk leads the army on a jolly little chase through the desert and right into the heart of San Francisco. In good ol' Hulk fashion, lots of tanks and helicopters get smashed along the way.)
In closing, if you expect some great human drama from this film, you are an idiot. This is a "turn your brain off and watch things get all blowed up real good" film, and, in that, it does fairly well. I just wish they hadn't diverted from the source material so much.
Comic Geek Score: 2
Movie Fan Score: 7
Averaged Score: 4.5