The Hulk Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/20/2003
When I saw the trailer for The Hulk for the first time during the Superbowl, I got a little worried. I thought the image of the Hulk was a little cartoonish-looking. As I have stated before in reviews of Spider-Man and Daredevil, I’m not a comic book geek, so my mental image of the Hulk was the 1978-1982 CBS TV series “The Incredible Hulk” starring Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. As the months went by, I got more used to the image, and after I saw the movie, I realized that director Ang Lee had a vision. Though he took some liberties with the Hulk story, this is possibly the most comic book-looking film I have ever seen, which is a compliment.
Dr. David Banner (Paul Kersey) was a scientist in the ‘60s who had been working on a regeneration formula. He developed a serum that, if injected, would make injuries quickly heal. His commander, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (Todd Tesen), forbid David to test the serum on a human subject. David then decides to test it on himself, which seems only to intensify his rage. He soon has a child with his wife, Edith (Cara Buono), who they name Bruce. David notices that Bruce is displaying the same tendency to start turning green when he gets mad. One day, around the time Bruce is 4-years-old (Michael and David Kronenberg as Bruce at age 4), David is kicked out of the research program, and his rage somehow results in the death of Edith, which Bruce witnesses. We next see a teenage Bruce (Mike Erwin) being raised by Mrs. Krensler (Celia Weston), and then as an adult (Eric Bana.) Bruce is now a scientist in the same field as his father. He works at a military research facility with his ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly.) She still loves him, but feels he is emotionally distant. During one of their experiments, their research partner, Harper (Kevin Rankin), is trapped inside the cell-altering machine they were developing called the gammasphere. When they determine that they can’t shut it off, Bruce rushes in, pushes Harper aside, and takes the gamma radiation blast from the machine. What should have killed him had actually made him feel better than he ever had before. It also transformed him into a giant green monster anytime he got mad. Three people seem especially to trigger his rage. First, there is General Ross (Sam Elliot), Betty’s father, who wants to shut down the research, as he did with Bruce’s father, and now sees Hulked-out Bruce as a threat to the public. Second, there is Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas), a rival researcher who has designs on Betty and wants to study Bruce to find ways to turn him into a military weapon. Finally, there is a new janitor working at the research facility who soon reveals himself to be David Banner (Nick Nolte.) His dementia and scientific curiosity makes him evil, and he wants Bruce to be the Hulk for his own diabolical reasons. Betty wants to find a way to cure Bruce, yet Bruce finds an unusual freedom in being the Hulk.
I want to start with a warning to comic book geeks. Like Spider-Man, this movie plays with the Hulk legend. As you read from the plot summary above, his way of becoming the Hulk is different. In addition, the character of David Banner combines with another classic Hulk character (I won’t reveal which one, because I don’t want to spoil it for you.) You are just going to have to accept a filmmaker’s decision to alter the legend to tell a good story. After all…not every adaptation of a Shakespeare play is the same, right?
That being said, Lee decided to make this movie very comic book-like, which was cool. Zooms, wipes, split-screens, boxing up the actions of the characters…it felt like reading a comic book. I was surprised none of the dialogue was in word bubbles.
The CGI Hulk is actually very good. When you see close-ups of the Hulk after being Bana, you can see that they worked hard to match the image to the actor. There are things I didn’t realize the Hulk could do, like hop great distances. I never saw Ferrigno leap over canyons or use a tank barrel as a bat!
This won’t lessen my rating of the movie, but I did have one gripe. There are two fight scenes in the movie that would have looked cool if I could have seen them better. They were so darkly lit that all the action was hard to see.
Now, comic you book geeks…if you can get over your perceived images of what you were expecting, you might agree with me that The Hulk is an awesome movie. I think you will be giggling like a little schoolgirl when the Hulk starts getting even bigger (the comic book geek friends of mine that I brought to the screening certainly were.) One other thing you may notice about the movie that may excite you is that it feels like only the beginning of what may be a cool franchise of flicks. If nothing else, there is a funny cameo by Ferrigno and Hulk creator Stan Lee near the beginning of it. Go see the movie or you will make me angry…and you wouldn’t like to see me when I get angry (oh, c’mon…you knew I was going to say that!)
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