Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hulk (6.20.2003)

Director: Ang Lee
Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot
Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte,
Watch for: Lou Ferrigno, Stan Lee
Editor(s): Tim Squyres
<-- The version I own.

The bold move
of creating a film based off of a comic book franchise which focuses on the drama more than the action is the reason this movie gets so much crap. Reading about the internet, I see these complaints "We don't even get to SEE him for the first 40 minutes", or "What were those stupid transitions for?", "More fighting less talking", or whatever.

There are a few things I think about every time I watch this movie:
1) Hulk looks amazing.
2) This is an artistic film, not afraid to try something new.
3) God, I love Jennifer Connelly.

Considering her previous body of work, you can probably tell early on that this isn't going to be your standard summer action-thumper. We get an interesting intro with the credits, which establishes the visual 'comic book' style as well as takes a semi-unique approach to Hulk's origin, stating it wasn't just the gamma radiation which causes his origin. It helps make up for Stan Lee's "gamma sounded like a cool word" approach to the science in the past. I mean, God bless him for it, but people are pickier nowadays.

I wonder if the reason this movie pulled in less than it cost to make is because of Ang Lee's style, and the word of mouth surrounding it, or if the character just isn't as interesting to the public as some of the others.
Admittedly, I never really watched/read the Hulk before this movie, and I still don't really, but this movie is interesting. I love the story, the transitions, everything.

In fact, while this is unconfirmed, I do wonder if it's a mixture of Dick Tracy's colorization and Hulk's kooky transitioning shots that we received the equally less-than-popular Speed Racer this year. It's a theory, I dunno. I get into these things, I guess.

Is it me, or could you take Josh Lucas and the guy who played Dr. Doom, swap the actors, and still have the roles feel fairly similar? Josh Lucas does have a couple good angry shouting fests later on, but they really seem like they could be partnered as uber-slimeballs.

Ignore the story and the style for a bit, which you basically have to sit and watch (with an open mind) to understand why I enjoy them, and let's cut to the action.
Walking out of the theatre, my friend said to me "It got kind of boring watching bullets bouncing off him all the time".
I do agree that as a superhero, "being really strong" does leave it difficult to bring something fresh to the table. Just look at Superman Returns, and all the really big action moments being centered around lifting something heavier and heavier each time. And he has several other powers which Hulk does not.
As many have said before me, it's the Jekyl/Hyde aspect of Hulk, which any hero with a secret identity has to face in some way, which makes him so interesting. The one thing that Ang Lee did which I'd never heard of before, for only a moment, he showed Hulk looking calm.

Right before those spiffy helicopters (Comanche?) pop up behind the plateau, Hulk is sitting and looking at a plant, thinking about something... and he seems calm. Perhaps if the helicopter hadn't arrived, he would've dissolved back into Bruce. Like with Betty later on, right before the dogs arrive... maybe he would've shrunk down then, too.
Or maybe it takes a while to calm down enough that this change occurs. It's hard to say. I guess it's not just an on/off switch.

That reminds me. My friend wasn't exactly right. While Hulk does get his fair share of bullets fired in his direction, we do get a couple of super villains as well. The trio of dogs, for one, which was just plain creepy at times. Then there was his father, who I still don't know who he was supposed to be in the comics. Seems like a familiar concept, being able to shift into any form of matter he touches, but I can't put my finger on who it is.

The way the military attacks actually presented another theory to me. Like, General Ross seems to want to test him as much as he wants to destroy him. I doubt this is what they were going for, but the big Hulk action scene in the desert feels like a really good example of escalation in order to show us just how powerful he is.
It starts indoors, with small weapons fire including machine guns (and one hilariously misused shell-launcher), which pretty much do as my friend said.. the bullets bounce off, occasionally making him bigger and stronger.
As soon as Ross says "show him the way out", and Hulk gives him this look through the monitor demanding this, that's when it seems like a test.

So he breaks outside, and soon comes up against tanks, which he handles pretty amusingly.
Then comes the aircraft, using the top-of-the-line Comanches and their slick manuverability, which he more or less outruns and dodges all of their weapons fire.
Then we even get an F-22 taking shots at him, which he has one of his few actual heroic moments, in saving the pilot from crashing into the bridge.

That's one thing that separates Hulk from the other Marvel films. Hulk spends more time dealing with himself and the people after him, rather than setting out to save people. It's a different situation, sure, but I wonder if seeing more of Hulk = hero in the later films wouldn't be such a bad thing.
I know in Ultimate Hulk, something went nasty and he wound up killing like 800 people, but things like this are the reason I hate the Ultimate series. I don't know if that ever happened in the older storylines, but meh.

Hulk may be angry, but he's hardly a monster. He took deliberate actions in his battles to avoid killing people, like dragging the helicopter to the ground, or spitting the tip of the missile at the tail of another. He did throw a tank into a mountain, but we do see that at least one member of the crew seems (amazingly) unscathed.

I love every character in this movie, by the way. David Banner just blows me away with his performance, he's so awesomely intense. He's like Magneto (in the comics). He always has a really long speech that sucks you in every time. Josh Lucas is intense also, but in a different, greedier kind of way.
And is it me, or do all the guys have a really raspy voice when they get angry? Awesome.
Then there's Jennifer Connelly, who is pretty much the girl you get when you need someone to play upset really well. Her "GET OUT!!" when the gamma's about to go off... wow.
And they're going to replace her with Liv Tyler. What a bloody freakin' waste.

There are some shots in this film which just blow me away. When Hulk ends his first rampage for a moment and his father puts his hand on his face... wow. He just looks so freakin' good. I have yet to see a shot that compares to this in the new film, but all I've seen is trailers so far, so we'll see.

One thing that bothered me about this movie was the fact that Hulk only spoke once. I'd swear I've heard that Hulk voice before, but I have no idea where.
He follows the traditional 'big strong guy' stereotype in the comics, and speaks dumbed-down, fragmented sentences... but I dunno. I'd like to hear Hulk talk. Hold a conversation. Taunt his enemies.

Maybe next time.
Overall, I'd say I watch this movie for the story, not the action. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole movie. The action is excellent, but I think that when they set out to make this, the story loomed large in their minds.

And you know what?
I applaud them for it. Too often I've seen movies like this getting caught up on the action side of things, and it feels like it's just another recycled story set up for a different character.
I mean, honestly. How many corporate hostile takeovers have we seen in the recent superhero flicks. Even Hulk mentions one, though they don't really focus on it.

I'ts like, c'mon, folks. Think harder. You'll be better off for it.

1 comment:

*_*Antoine*_* said...

I actually haven't given this movie a chance. I saw it once on HBO half way through but it just didn't make sense to me and I've never watched it since.