Hulk:  What the hell happened here?

Ok...Lets get this straight right from the beginning:  I did not enjoy this film.  Hulk had several flaws, one of them being that the film was just not very good. But why do I say this?  Am I a comic book geek, my heart hardened stone from the years of loneliness and playing Magic the Gathering?  Nay, I  tell you, nay my friends.  The film made millions of dollars...how could it be that bad?  Does anyone remember the MARKETING for this movie?  There was everything from hulk ice-cream to Hulk cereal.  You couldn't buy toilet paper without at least acknowledging the option of green hulk double rolls.  This movie is not a terrible movie, it's just misleading.  If you've seen it, you may realize this.  In case you saw it and lapsed into Eric Bana-induced shock, let us continue:

Internet Movie Database has this as Hulk's plot summary: "A geneticist's experimental accident curses him with the tendency to become a powerful giant green brute under emotional stress." While the grammar makes me wonder who engineers experimental accidents, the main focus here is a summary of the plot (and who the hell am I to mock grammar...me no so smart too as well).  So to be quick about it....Geneticist becomes a monster when he gets angry.  Cool.  Sounds like an action/sci-fi movie, right?

WRONG.  There are several ways of summarizing this film, and even MENTIONING the transformation is sort-of necessary, but it in almost no way is primary to the plot.  You might say: "What the hell are you talking about?  If he didn't turn into the Hulk there would be no movie, you stupid idiot!" or "Me loves Hulk!"  To the former, I would say: Keep reading.  To the latter outspoken reader, I would say "Me loves Hulk too! Me so sorry!"  Having satisfied the more terrifying members of the opposition I would continue.....

Hulk has many things in common with the kind of  movie made by Lifetime television:  television for women.  Not to rip on the station (who else gives me the required dosage of Golden Girls and Designing Women?), but Hulk has all the makings of a heart-felt drama.  What's wrong with that?  Think back to the marketing.  Would you buy "Eric Bana confronting his childhood" themed cereal? 

The movie is about fathers that don't care properly for their children.  Important and influential men who have left their children behind.  Eric Bana plays Bruce Banner...early on he says that his parents both died when he was young.  His co-star, Jennifer Connelly (Betty Ross), sighs, revealing that she is "not on good terms with her father" and hasn't spoken to the man in years.  Over the next two hours, we find those same dead-beat dads coming back into their kids lives, trying to assert their will.  So we have boy loves girl.  Girl's father doesn't approve.  Girl's father works with rival boy.  Rival boy competes with boy #1.  Boy #1 must cope with his father coming back into his life.  Girl's Father and rival boy try to stop girl and boy #1's relationship.  Boy's father has rivalry with Girl's father.  Girls father NUKES boy and boy's father.  Girl is sad, boy starts new life elsewhere.

The two villains right there:  General who has a caterpillar on his face and Nick Nolte, evil unwashed janitor/mad scientist with dogs.  Terrifying, yes?  The whole movie is about their feud and how their kids deal.  These two old men are the two most important things in this entire movie?

Wow, so not only is it like a Lifetime movie, but there's a general feeling of Hatfields versus McCoys.  Seriously.  Not only does General (or something) Ross (girl's father) want the scientific secrets that Bruce Banner has, but he'll have him arrested if he goes anywhere near his daughter!  Meanwhile Bruce's father, played by Nick Nolte, has come back wanting vengeance against General Ross.  "We be a feudin' boy, ya best be joinin' me."  This feud is what the young lovers of this film want to stay out of.  Unfortunately the "experimental accident" that turns Bruce into the Hulk interests both fathers.  The transformation is just the film's excuse to incite family drama.  I'm not crazy here.  Ang Lee, the director, did indeed make Crouching Tiger, Hidden Drama.  He also made Sense and Sensibility, Eat Drink Man Woman, and Wedding Banquet.  All these films: dramas about family.  I'm just pointing out that it MAKES SENSE that Hulk turned out to be a drama. 

Other amazing moments: 

 "Hi there. My name's Lucas.  I'm the smug asshole in Hulk." 

The ex-boyfriend in Hulk is an amazing thing.  He's only there to piss Bruce off...incessantly.  In fact, the actor is so filthy that you really want to see him dead.  Like broken at the bottom of a stairwell dead.  Or eaten on the toilet by a T-rex...that kind of dead.  Only one thing stops us from this WONDERFUL goal:

The editing.  We all saw it.  In case you didn't, imagine comic-panel like split screens, bizarrely rendered edits, things you can't imagine.  Oh, fine. Look at this:

I can't believe they actually put this towards the end of the film. You're looking at Josh Lucas, the rival boy/ex-boyfriend, getting killed.  Sort of.  He notices an explosion about to go off behind him, leaping to freedom.  The editors freeze-frame our little Casanova, outline him with a white comic border, and then give us video footage of flames all around him.  He stands there for several seconds frozen in a lame ballet move until the still image is engulfed by flame.  Wow. No one really dies in this movie, save some mutant poodles and a frog.  (Yep, the villain Nick Nolte lurks around the science lab with his poodle.  What? Later on he unleashes his "Dogs of War" (a.k.a. Mutant poodle and her doggy friends) to go kill Bruce's girlfriend.  She is, after all, his enemy's daughter.  (Weird ass rivalry, didn't I tell you?)

The other edit is the film's habit of splitting the screen into two to four separate screens.  If you want to see this done properly watch Toxic Avenger IV.  I'm serious.  While not cinema in any respect, the film used the four screens trick in a way that was both fun and conveyed the action.  Speaking of action, we only get to see it when Bruce "Bana" goes all green on us.

Eric Bana's acne pocked face clears up perfectly when he turns into the Hulk.  Its kind of creepy, but during the whole film I wondered if the director exaggerated Eric Bana's facial scars to mirror the emotional scars of the character. Anyway, you get the "I'm watching Roger Rabbit" vibe every time the Hulk is on the screen.  The computer animation is....creatively obvious.  They have to have designed it to look as "not there" as it is.  Maybe the Hulk is a metaphor.  But for what?  My personal suggestion is that the Hulk was a physical representation of the audience's attitude toward the film.  AUDIENCE SMASH!  After an hour of drama and teasing us with the possibility that something besides talking may happen the audience freaks out and starts smashing things.  The audience even gets to call Eric Bana "a puny human."  The film is GREAT if you think about it like this.  Every other character besides the Hulk represents the director's attempt to deal with us.  In the end we lose, as the director drops a nuclear warhead on us.    But my god, it was fun watching the director realize that he couldn't appease us so easily.  We get angry for action, the director gives us action to appease us.  Yay!  Now if I could only get the Audience-Hulk into other films. 

Kudos to Ang Lee for making a broken family drama themed after a comic book.  I just wish he had told us.

 

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copyright 2004 Jared, except for stolen thingies