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The Hulk
2003 - PG-13 - 138 Mins.
Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd, Avi Arad
Written By: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman
Starring: Eric Bana, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliot, Jennifer Connelly, Josh Lucas
Review by: David Trier
   
The Hulk or Shrek II: Ogre Under the Influence

Tim Burton’s Batman rejected the homoerotic exuberance of the television show and interpreted the superhero of the comics as a dark knight avenging murder. Similarly, the Hulk is a rejection of the popular television program for the abstract absurdist nature of Marvel’s comic. But in this case, we are quickly reminded that television’s Hulk was actually about something, campy as it may be. Bruce Banner was a man turned superhero on account of a defect that made him alone in the world. Ang Lee’s film is not about a man or a superhero, but simply an implausible genetic mutation gone awry.

When obsessed scientist David Banner tested his cell regeneration formula on himself, he never imagined the genetic predisposition it would give his son. Years later, Bruce Banner (Eric Bana), now a scientist himself testing the effects of gamma radiation (the quantum biomechanical genetic manipulation of the beer nut I think), has the misfortune of getting a taste of his own medicine. The results are… hilarious? Apparently, when Bruce gets overly agitated, he becomes the Jolly Green Giant (except not particularly jolly or canned-vegetable oriented). When Bruce’s long-forgotten father returns (Nick Nolte) to essentially finish his experiment, Bruce must divide his time between the demanding patriarch, the destructive fetish of the U.S. military and (weep weep) the girl he loves (Jennifer Connelly).

This film falls flat on its face on every level. As an action movie, the action is sluggish to start and then relentlessly long once unleashed. As a special effects film, it is embarrassingly lazy. Banner’s transformation from man to beast and back again is dealt with merely as a simple cartoonish morph no more impressive than Schwarzenegger turning into a political candidate. As a superhero film, the Hulk has no higher objective. He isn’t out to use his powers to make the world a better place or solve any sort of mystery. He’s simply a big green idiot who at his least heroic destroys a lot of property and at his most heroic protects his girlfriend from a mutant poodle. As a romance story, it fails because the contenders already have an established relationship; one that is shaky but so easy to repair nothing is lost or gained between the two of them.

Bana as Banner doesn’t particularly illicit sympathy or annoyance, which doesn’t leave him much to critique or approve of. Perhaps he’ll prove himself in his next role. Connelly is a good actress, but all she does in this film is cry every time Lee says action. Lights, camera… waterworks! Although she may just have a glandular disorder. Nolte wins the special effects award for recreating his drunk and disorderly mugshot so gracefully. Truly, if there are any effects in the film to cheer about, they may be those done on his cell-absorbing character. Sam Elliot proves once again that mutton chops and a cowboy hat are the only set pieces under which he can be taken seriously. Danny Elfman (Batman, Darkman, etc.) adds another staccato horn section superhero soundtrack to his resume but The Hulk fails to provide even a memorable theme.

Plot holes are expected in superhero films, like the fact that a mad scientist locked away for thirty years can get a job as a janitor at a highly sensitive science laboratory or the fact that Hulk’s muscles somehow allow him to defy physics and essentially fly. But what is most disappointing about this film is that it could be about something but it isn’t. It’s naïve to believe a film like this is designed to make more money at the box office than at the toy store (hell, even I will probably get around to renting the videogame), but that doesn’t mean that content is irrelevant.

The Hulk could be about how human beings deal with their rage. It could be about the ongoing battle between the brute physical strength of the military and the power of the human intellect. Hell, it could be about the dangers of steroids. But it isn’t. And to think – Ang Lee passed up T3 to do this. Maybe it’s for the best…
 
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

 
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