Comic book movies are all the rage these days. The X-Men films, Spider-Man, even Daredevil all managed some level of success because they were, at their heart, entertaining pulp and treated the source material with some sense of reverence. Now Ang Lee’s monstrous film Hulk lumbers into theaters and one could best describe it as being too serious for its own good.
Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is the quiet guy, the one who bottles everything inside. His lab partner Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) has recently broken off their relationship due to his emotionally shut-off demeanor. Well Bruce gets hit with a lethal dose of gamma rays and it kicks up something inside him. You see, Bruces long-absent father (Nick Nolte, looking frightfully like his drunken mug shot photo) experimented some kind of regeneration serum on himself. When he fathered Bruce he passed on whatever genetic alteration. So now when Bruce gets mad he turns into a 15-foot raging Jolly Green Giant (the CGI in this movie is not good). He starts enjoying the freedom letting go can bring. Nothing gets him more mad than some yuppie (Josh Lucas, badly miscast) trying to buy out his lab and then kill him to sell his DNA to the military. Along the way, Betty’s father (Sam Elliott) tries to hunt Bruce and his greener-on-the-other-side alter ego for the good of us all.
Director Ang Lee has injected most of his films with a sense of depression and repression, from the biting and darkly astute The Ice Storm to the stoic Gary Cooper-like silence of the aerobatic samurai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He’s a master filmmaker without question. Lee bites off more than he can chew with Hulk much like the gifted Cameron Crowe did with the sci-fi Vanilla Sky. Lee is so damn ambitious that Hulk tries to be everything and it ends up fulfilling nothing. His film is the most ambitious and the most tedious super hero/comic book movie of all time. What does it say when the super green Hulk has more personality than the bland Bruce Banner?
The acting is a non-issue here. Connelly remains one of the most beautiful women in all of movies and has incredibly expressive eyes and brows. She has this strand of hair thats always in the right side of her face. It’s so awkward. Bana gets the least fun part as the mentally scarred kid afraid of his own anger. He doesn’t do much but then he isn’t given much. Elliott overacts with impressive gusto whereas Nolte overacts like every line was his last breath.
After about an hour or so of beleaguered talking and flat characters, I started to become restless. I wanted to see Hulk smash, Hulk smash good. Instead what you get is endless scenes of cheesy speeches, sci-fi babble speech, phony philosophy, and mind-numbingly awful pacing. Seriously, Hulk has worse pacing than glaciers. You’ll see the Mona Lisa yellow faster than this movie will be over. And in some weird paradox, I think it will never be over.
Lee attempts to make the film a living comic book. You’ve never seen this many wipes short of a Brady Bunch marathon on TV Land. Lee splits his screen into multiple panels and slides them around much like the layout of a comic book. However, this visual cue is overused and calls attention to itself in a how arty are we kind of pretentious way. If Hulk was attempting to be a comic book movie, then where the hell did all the action go? This movie could have been subtitled The Hulk Goes to Therapy because everything excluding an over-the-top final act revolves around people working out childhood issues. Man, there’s nothing I like to see more during the summer than a $150 million dollar movie about people working out childhood issues. Oh yeah!
Hulk is an overlong and ambitiously meandering film thats incredibly serious, incredibly labored, and incredibly boring. Someone needs to tell the creators of this film to lighten up. The big-screen adaptation of the big green id may have heavy doses of Freudian psychoanalysis (try and tie THAT with the merchandizing onslaught) but the film is barren when it comes to fun. Even comic book fans should be disappointed. I heard a story of a kid who saw Hulk and asked his mom when the movie was going to start, and she replied, “90 minutes ago.” Should you see Hulk in the theater at full price? No. Instead, give your money to me. It will have more resonance and action than anything this bloated, joyless, self-important vacuum of entertainment could offer.
Hulk mad? Audience mad! Audience leave theater. See other better movies instead. Hulk sad. No Hulk 2. Audience happy.
Nate’s Grade: D+
Posted on June 20, 2003, in 2003 Movies and tagged action, ang lee, comic book, drama, eric bana, jennifer connelly, josh lucas, marvel, nick nolte, sam elliot, sci-fi, sper hero. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.