Based on the Marvel comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Hulk is the story of a scientist who turns into a huge, green monster whenever he gets angry as he fights off various enemies while wanting to calm the beast from within. Directed by Ang Lee and screenplay by James Schamus, Michael France, and John Turman, that is based on a story by James Schamus. The film is an origin story of how Bruce Banner became the Incredible Hulk as well as his troubled relationship with his father David. Starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Josh Lucas, Celia Weston, Cara Buono, and Nick Nolte. Hulk is a dazzling and stylish comic-book action-drama from Ang Lee.
Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a young scientist working at Berkeley as he and ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) are experimenting with regeneration. Though the experiments are still a work in progress, it gets the attention of Major Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) who wants the two to work on the experiments for military reasons. Bruce refuses as an accident during a test has him save a scientist only to be exposed to gamma radiation. Though Bruce seems fine, he starts to have nightmares of strange images that he thinks are from a distant memory as a strange man (Nick Nolte) enters his room claiming to be his real father David. The encounter has Bruce unsure of who he is as the effects of the radiation has him dealing with his own emotions leading to him growing into a big monster.
After Betty learns what happens to Bruce, the incident gets the attention of her father in General Ross (Sam Elliot) who realizes what is happening. Wanting Betty to stay away from Bruce, things go bad when David sends his newly-mutated dogs to go after Betty until Bruce as this new monster saves her. Despite having little recollections about what happens to him as this monster, Bruce reveals to Betty about what it’s like as he’s later captured via tranquilizer by Betty’s father. Taken to a secret base, Bruce learns about his past as General Ross reveals that Bruce’s father conducted an experiment over mutating DNA that could heal wounds and injuries that later went out of control. Yet, David would experiment on himself as it was passed on to Bruce after his birth where things seemed fine. Yet, General Ross learns about the dangerous experiment where things go bad as it led all sorts of trouble.
After Bruce and Betty learn about what had happened those years ago, General Ross wants to do things right until an injured Talbot decides to take control in his desire to experiment on Bruce. With General Ross unable to take control and Betty forced to leave the secret lab, she later meets with David Banner who reveals what he had done as he asks to see Bruce one more time. Instead, Talbot’s attempt to experiment on Bruce goes wrong as the Hulk emerges once again to wreak havoc forcing General Ross and his soldiers to fight. Still, Bruce would later have another surprise in store for him from the man who created him.
The film is essentially an origin story of how Bruce Banner became the Incredible Hulk. Yet, it’s told in a very different style than most comic-book related pictures are presented as the film opens with a prologue of how David Banner created this experiment on mutant DNA regeneration and then pass it on to his son back in the early 1960s. Things eventually go wrong with the military authorities as it would lead to a young Bruce Banner losing his parents at an early age until he becomes a man who is unsure of his past only to discover who he really is and why he could be a threat.
Screenwriters James Schamus, Michael France, and John Turman explore Bruce Banner as a man who starts off as this calm and intelligent scientist that feels haunted by these dreams that he believes are from a distant memory. He’s also someone who doesn’t want to be involved in any kind of confrontation. He’s also a man that has a lot to give as he’s very close with his ex-girlfriend Betty who knows him better than anyone. Even as he becomes the Hulk, she is the one person that can get him to calm down and make him human again. Supporting characters like Betty Ross and her father do have depth as the latter expresses regret over how he handled things in his professional career as well as the estranged relationship he has with Betty.
The one character that adds to Bruce’s own internal conflict is his mysterious father David who is seen as this brilliant scientist who becomes paranoid and fearful over what Bruce might’ve become. Yet, he is later re-introduced as a haggard janitor wanting to finish the experiment he felt he hadn’t come close to finishing. The father-son dynamic of the film, which is a prominent theme to Ang Lee’s earlier work, adds to a dramatic layer rarely told in comic-book based action-blockbusters. It’s a unique element to the film that is well-executed until the third act where things become a bit ridiculous as it would also include a lot of exposition over the events that happened in the film’s prologue.
Ang Lee’s direction is definitely told in a stylish manner as if he wanted to create a cinematic comic book. Featuring arrays of multiple split-screens and dazzling editing styles, Lee aimed what he was looking for to play up some of the film’s action and intense dramatic moments. Yet, there’s parts of these montages that tend to overwhelm the story a bit though it’s part of the spirit Lee wanted to create a live-action comic book. While there’s lots of amazing compositions and styles in the way he will shoot scenes from multiple angles to play up the dramatic tension. Notably as he wants to emphasize on objects or things that will help build up the suspense.
For some of the film’s intense action moments that involve the Hulk, Lee goes for a lot of big scenes with wide depth of field shots set in parts of Utah and Arizona for Hulk’s chase scene. While some of the visual effects do look a bit wobbly, there is still an impressive element to the way they look as Hulk would fight off all sorts of things in the film. Including some of the fights with the exception of the film’s ridiculous climax between Bruce and David Banner. Despite some of the film’s flaws, Ang Lee does manage to create an engaging film that does more than what it is expected in its genre.
Cinematographer Frederick Elmes does excellent work with the film‘s very vibrant and colorful cinematography to play up the different locations of the film while setting dark colors for some of the film‘s nighttime interior and exterior scenes. Editor Tim Squyers does amazing work with the film‘s unique editing to play up varying cutting styles that manages to keep the film‘s brisk pace very while creating some wonderful montages for some of the film‘s dramatic and action moments. Production designer Rick Heinrichs, with art directors John Dexter and Greg Papalia and set decorator Cheryl Carasik, does nice work with the set pieces such as the secret lab that Ross runs to the old 60s home that the young Bruce lived in as a kid.
Costume designer Marit Allen does very good work with the costumes from the nerdy look that Bruce Banner has to the more haggard clothing of David Banner. Visual effects supervisors Dennis Muren and Bruce Holcomb do terrific work with the look of the Hulk, despite some flaws, to capture the hugeness of the monster. Sound designers Eugene Gearty and Gary Rydstrom, along with sound editor Richard Hymns, do superb work with the sound to capture the intensity of the Hulk‘s growls as well as the explosions and other sound effects to play up Banner‘s transformation into the Hulk. The film’s score by Danny Elfman is pretty good for its bombastic orchestral score that features elements Indian vocals in the mix to make it feel different while the soundtrack includes a song by Velvet Revolver in the film’s closing credits.
The casting by Avy Kaufman and Franklyn Warren is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes small appearances from Paul Kersey as the young David Banner, Todd Tesen as the young Ross, Mike Erwin as the teenage Bruce, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn as the adolescent Betty, Michael and David Kronenberg as the young Bruce, Kevin Rankin as Bruce and Betty’s scientist friend Harper, Celia Weston as Bruce’s stepmother, Cara Buono as Bruce’s real mother in the film’s prologue, and as a couple of security guards early in the film, Stan Lee and the original Hulk in Lou Ferrigno, who also does the voice for the Hulk. Josh Lucas is terrible as the villainous Talbot as Lucas does nothing to a very typical villain as he ends up looking very smug and tries to be intimidating only for him to end up being a complete moron.
Sam Elliot is excellent as General Ross as a man that wants to keep Bruce under control in hopes to not the same mistakes that he did years ago though he has issues trying to do what is right as he is estranged from his daughter. Nick Nolte is pretty good as the mysterious David Banner who tries to help Bruce in finding a cure only to have regrets as it’s a very intense one from Nolte though he goes over-the-top late in the film. Jennifer Connelly is quite fine in her role as Betty Ross as she does present as the emotional calm for Bruce though her character at times is a bit underwritten. Finally, there’s Eric Bana as Bruce Banner where Bana definitely gets to show the conflict in Banner as well as a man who is consumed by fear only to give in to the anger as the Incredible Hulk where Bana manages to create a very compelling performance.
Though it’s flawed in terms of its presentation, Hulk is still an entertaining film from Ang Lee thanks in part to Eric Bana’s reserved performance. While it’s not one of the great films of the comic book origin films nor among one of Lee’s best work. It is still a film worth seeing for the way Lee chooses to present the film that does make it stand out from the rest. In the end, Hulk is a fun action-drama from Ang Lee.
Ang Lee Films: Pushing Hands - The Wedding Banquet - Eat Drink Man Woman - Sense & Sensibility (1995 film) - The Ice Storm - Ride with the Devil - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The Hire: Chosen - Brokeback Mountain - Lust, Caution - Taking Woodstock - Life of Pi - Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - The Auteurs #19: Ang Lee
Related: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)
Related: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)
© thevoid99 2012
Despite my fondness for superhero movies, I've only seen this one only once. So I don't remember much about it, but still prefer the one with Edward Norton. But The Hulk is definitely one of the hardest comic-book characters to bring to life.
It's a film that I think is worth re-watching. It's flawed but I still give Ang Lee credit for actually trying to do something different with the genre.
The one with Edward Norton was alright. Largely because there was a bit more humor.
Great review, though I really disliked the film it was so inredibly boring I actually fell asleep a little. Still, I think Bana and Connelly were better choices for the characters than Norton and Tyler.
@Sati-Bana and Connelly were better choices though Edward Norton did have a few funny one-liners that I enjoyed.
I agree with your thoughts about the editing. It's what made me appreciate the movie more.
@theVern-It's a film that I think deserves a second chance despite its flaws. The editing at times was a bit much but at least it gave the film something different.
This was one of Ang Lee's lesser movies, in my opinion (and I've seen Ride with the Devil.) Of course, I didn't think the sort-of sequel was much better. Maybe it's just the character; maybe filmmakers can't work with it like others. I'm looking forward to seeing what Joss Whedon can do with him.
@Chip-I agree that it's one of Lee's lesser films but I don't think it's his worst. That goes to Taking Woodstock where that film's drawbacks was a dull lead and not showing anything on the actual Woodstock concert.
I'm anxious to see what Joss Whedon can do with the Hulk character as well.
For what it's worth: I haven't seen Taking Woodstock. (I mentioned Ride with the Devil because I figured it was the least seen.)
@Chip-There's some moments in Taking Woodstock that is pretty good but it was quite dull.
Ride with the Devil I thought was underrated though I'm anxious to see the director's cut.
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