Summer Film Series – Vol 1, No. 6: HULK
June 29, 2003 at Cinemark in Sherman, Texas
I came to this film fully prepared. My friend Nate had schooled me on the character’s comic origins, and I had familiarity of my own from the 70s series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I knew to watch for nods to the fans, I knew to keep an eye out for Stan Lee, and I was excited about the possibilities with Ang Lee at the wheel. Plus, I’d gotten pretty amped about this film from one small moment in the BMW Film Chosen, directed by Ang Lee, in which the young protagonist gives a Hulk bandage to The Driver after his successful mission of keeping him safe at all costs. It was such a surprise and the first overt gesture made by Lee since the announcement of his helming the big-screen version of the comic. After two years of waiting, I could not have been more ready for a film.
Hulk has everything going for it. Award-winning director, great casting (especially Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, an actor I have been seeking out since he stole my attention in Black Hawk Down), and special effects galore. Hulk should have blown everything away. But somehow it just misses the mark. Critics are hating it, fans are disappointed — no one really has anything good to say. I didn’t have that same reaction, but I was a bit perplexed at several points in the film. I didn’t hate it. I actually found the style of it engaging. Lee’s use of split screen was inventive, making me feel as if I was actually watching a comic book come to life. Which truly elevated this film to the level of art. This movie is not meant to be popcorn fare; it’s meant to be something beautiful. And visually, even in the CGI Hulk himself, Lee succeeded in his efforts.
What doesn’t work in Hulk is the story. It begins well, despite Jennifer Connelly’s overanxious “acting”, and for the first half, as we witness the gamma radiation accident and resulting changes in Banner, the plot seems on pace. But somewhere in the midst of this the train derails and everything becomes horribly overdone. By the last half hour, it felt excruciatingly drawn out, and I was truly stunned into silence at the implosion of everything that had come before. Not even the moment in which we see true humanity in the raging Hulk can make up for all that goes wrong around it. And that is the sadness that will stay with me. I wanted to love this film, but instead I can only love what Eric Bana did in the midst of chaos.
image from Rotten Tomatoes