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BARON!!!... Not Mad. Baron Pleasantly Surprised, in Fact

  • Jun 23, 2003
Rating:
+3
Pros: HULK MAD!!! Finally, a superhero we can all relate to!

Cons: Human issues slow down the movie at certain points

The Bottom Line: Baron not mad. But BARON SMASH!!! his computer and its lousy Netscape server anyway.

I’m not particularly fond of the guys who edited The Hulk. Instead of going about the process using the good, old, time-tested method of just switching from one shot to the other, the editors use boxes and split-screens, always cutting away from the main object in a scene. Except when the object is Jennifer Connelly. You must never, ever cut away from Jennifer Connelly. Every shot of Connelly’s face is lovingly captured so we see every emotion she runs through to the end of those deep, soulful, and beautiful eyes of hers. The result of the editing is a movie which looks like it was put together by a bunch of people in conflict with their sexuality.

Connelly herself is in The Hulk to play what is essentially the same part she played in A Beautiful Mind: The perpetually saucer-eyed second shill to a first-rate brain who is going crazy. Not that this is a bad thing. She did, after all, win the Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. Her character’s name this time is Betty Ross, and instead of meeting, marrying, and clinging to the main character, she is the main character’s ex-girlfriend. Her reason for shipping him off to dumpsville? Her almost-significant other, Bruce Banner, was emotionally distant. Now The Hulk, who everyone knows is Bruce’s alter ego, is an emotionally free spirit. He shows anger, love, anger, compassion, more anger, a bit of confusion, anger, and anger. Heh. In all seriousness, though, Banner is more emotional as The Hulk than as Bruce Banner. Which may explain why the chemistry between Jennifer Connelly and the giant, digitized brute is better than the chemistry between Connelly and Eric Bana, who plays Bruce.

I’m not familiar with all the intracacies introduced in 30 years of Hulk comics, so I’m not even going to try to pretend. What I know about The Hulk is comparable to what any common movie nut knows about The Hulk before going into the theater. Bruce Banner is the man who you don’t want to make mad. A particularly high dosage of gamma rays awhile back caused him to morph into a lean, green, and REALLY mean fighting machine whenever he got angry. And when he changes into this beast, it’s smashee smashee! as he takes out his massive vengeance streak on anything in his immediate path. The Hulk is like Godzilla in this way: A walking disaster who fights for truth, justice, and the American way.

At least that’s how I’ve always understood it to be. Ang Lee, who directed The Hulk, seemed to have other ideas. For the first time I’ve seen in a superhero movie, the lines between good and bad are almost erased, and so half the time you don’t know who you should be rooting for. Instead of The Hulk fighting against a world domination-minded supervillain, we see The Hulk trying to find a place in a society that really can’t figure out what to do with him. The one thing I can rest assure you is you’ll always be rooting for Bruce and Betty, who are both trying to figure out how to cure Bruce. Almost every other character in the movie spends time jumping back and forth, from good to bad, before the climax when they finally reveal themselves.

It goes like this: Back in the 60’s, there was a brilliant scientist named David Banner who was into biogenetics research for the military. When the boys upstairs decline his request for human test subjects, he walks around the declanation by using himself as a test subject. Unbeknownst to him during the tests, though, his wife became pregnant and passed the effects of the research onto his son, Bruce. Upon the military’s ultimate plug-pulling of the project a few years later, four-year-old Bruce witnesses a rather traumatic event which he now can’t even remember, but one which got him placed in a foster home until he went to college. One of the main subjects of the movie is Bruce slowly remembering and coming to terms with the event. While the event is certainly enough to hold your interest, it unfortunately slows down the movie sometimes, and uses up a lot of space which would have been better used for more Hulk-related stuff.

After this rather lengthy introduction, we see Bruce has moved on to a glittering career in biogenetics. His latest experiments involve finding ways to make wounds heal faster, and ways to make oversized frogs explode. One day, one of his colleagues gets trapped in a room with a gamma ray-spewing machine just as it’s about to go off. But Bruce, always nobly protecting his fellow science nerds, steps in front of the machine and takes the lethal dose of gamma radiation for him. At least it should have been lethal. If it was actually lethal, we wouldn’t have a Hulk. So Bruce walks away from the accident feeling better than ever. Adding to the turbulent wave of events to come is the return of Bruce’s father (Nick Nolte), who got put away after the whole episode back in the 60’s, and the return of David Banner’s archenemy, General Ross - Betty’s father. Both are intent on using Bruce’s newfound super powers for their own gainful purposes. Betty and Bruce want nothing to do with the loons chasing him; all they want is to find a cure for Bruce, so he can go back to living his original, emotionally bottled-up existence.

The first hour or so of The Hulk has Bruce basically coming to terms with what he’s become. There are a couple of Hulk-out moments, including a spectacular scene in which a Hulked Bruce Banner fights three Hulked pooches which have been sent to Betty Ross courtesy of Banner Sr. The majority of the time, though, is spent with Bruce Banner coming to grips with the traumatic event he can’t remember, and coming to grips with The Hulk. Come to grips, Bruce eventually does in a very unexpected way. Although Bruce can’t exactly control The Hulk, he finds the kind of emotional freedom he lacks as Bruce. He actually enjoys that freedom. It’s during this explanation of his freedom in which he refers to himself as a Hulk. Everyone else just calls him “angry man” or something. As Bruce Banner, actor Eric Bana manages a tone just emotional enough to show that he has concerns about all this stuff happening to him. It’s a very fine line to tread on, the one between being too emotional and not emotional enough, but Bana does it nicely.

It’s not until the second half during which we get to see The Hulk showcased in all his angry glory. Locked in a testing facility, Bruce of course is just a wee bit peeved at all the experiments being performed on him. So he changes into The Hulk and breaks out in a very explosive fashion. The military just can’t seem to figure out what keeps teeing off the big angry guy. It couldn’t possibly be all the ammunition they’re wasting on him, could it? With each bullet, each rocket, each grenade thrown in feeble attempts to stop him, The Hulk gets a little angrier, a little bigger, and a little more powerful. First he’s outrunning helicopters. Soon, he’s leaping mile-long distances and ripping the turrets off tanks. Finally, when the big chase brings the whole gang into San Francisco, he survives a good 95000 (yes, that’s ninety-five thousand, people) foot drop into the bay.

I noticed something real interesting during the desert chase scenes: For all the grenades, bullets, rockets, and the exploded frog in the beginning, Ang Lee refused to let any military personel blow up onscreen. No one in the movie dies. At one point, The Hulk tosses a tank full of soldiers into the sunset, but that’s it. When helicopters get hit, they somehow remain pretty much intact, even after they hit the ground. I guess I’m quibbling about details here, but the movie obviously asks for a considerable suspension of disbelief.

You’ll have to suspend your disbelief anyway in order to accept the very odd-looking and very digitized Hulk. I don’t know anything about the comics, but somehow The Hulk’s being eight feet tall and probably six feet wide seems a little off. But watching this oversized green thing fight four tanks is still much more believable than watching a regular-sized human being rip tank turrets off, so that cancels out any size complaints. I also know some people will also be turned off by just how digitized The Hulk looks, but somehow, that works out for the better too. Strange as it may sound, I don’t think I would have been able to accept a realistic-looking Hulk. The digitized Hulk looks more like something you’d see in a comic book, and with the already ridiculous plot, a realistic Hulk would just look completely out of place in a lot of scenes.

Let’s see how The Hulk measures up in the grand scheme of the superhero movie hierarchy: Spider-man. Batman. ... Alright, The Hulk. In a few years, The Hulk is gonna be ranked among those other two as prime examples of how comic adaptations should be made. The Superman movies were overrated, the Xmen movies were good but way too simplified considering their subject material, and Spawn flat-out SUCKED. The good ones I just mentioned, however, managed to stay true to their comic roots while showing the very human sides of the main characters, and that’s what makes them great. That’s exactly what makes The Hulk great, too.



Recommended:
Yes

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A more accessible and less heavy-handed movie than Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk Louis Leterrier'sThe Incredible Hulkis a purely popcorn love affair with Marvel's raging, green superhero, as well as the old television series starring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the beast within him. Edward Norton takes up where Eric Bana left off in Lee's version, playing Bruce (that's the character's original name) Banner, a haunted scientist always on the move. Trying to eliminate the effects of a military experiment that turns him into the Hulk whenever his emotions get the better of him, Banner is hiding out in Brazil at the film's beginning. Working in a bottling plant and communicating via email with an unidentified professor who thinks he can help, Banner goes postal when General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross and a small army turn up to grab him. Intent on developing whatever causes Banner's metamorphoses into a weapon, Ross brings along a quietly der! anged soldier named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who wants Ross to turn him into a supersoldier who can take on the Hulk. The adventure spreads to the U.S., where Banner hooks up with his old lover (and Ross' daughter), Betty (Liv Tyler), and where the Hulk takes on several armed assaults, including one in a pretty unusual location: a college campus. The film's action is impressive, though the computer-generated creature is disappointingly cartoonish, and a second monster ...
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Details

Director: Louis Leterrier
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Zak Penn
DVD Release Date: October 21, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 52min
Studio: Marvel, Universal Pictures, Valhalla Motion Pictures
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