Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hulk

The Verdict: Not so incredible. Brainless entertainment for boys.

The rating: 6/10

Ah yes, these days everyone's going green you know. Bruce Banner's case is a bit more literal however, although I'm reliably informed that the original character of 'The Incredible Hulk' was intended to be grey in colour, only for an opportune error at the comic book’s printers…

Growing up, I never read those comics, and my memories of the 'Incredible Hulk' television series are hazy to say the least, but I do remember that, like many of the so-called 'action' tv series of the day, I almost always sat through 25 minutes of boring stuff for the paltry reward of a couple of minutes of action. In this case, the action wasn't Jan Michael Vincent flying Airwolf around the place shooting stuff, or that fella riding Street Hawk around the place shooting stuff, it was Lou Ferrigno going 'graar' and running around the place breaking stuff. What kid couldn't relate to that most simple and appealing of pastimes? However, before the bit where Lou went 'graar', we had 25 minutes of sappy old Dr. Bruce Banner, the human version of 'the Littlest Hobo', travelling from town to town, doing his best to keep a low profile... which is difficult to do when you occasionally turn into a six foot five, four hundred pound green giant in torn shorts.

The movie version of the Hulk is quite similar to the tv series in this way. Watching 'Hulk', we sit through around half an hour of boring preliminaries (character development, dialogue, the usual time-wasting stuff) until Bruce Banner gets struck by lightning or whatever, and then hooray, the Hulk appears. I guess this movie hinges on your impression of the - now CGI - Hulk character, and I thought the film-makers were looking to depict a cartoon Hulk, one that would evoke the comic book and appeal to younger kids, rather than being realistic and possibly a little frightening, like Lou Ferrigno was in the tv show. In parts this effect is successful, but when the hulk character interacts with Jennifer Connelly, for example, there’s no two ways about it, he looks fake. Also, the addition of a reptilian element to the Hulk's DNA has allowed the big green goon to run really fast, but he can also jump great distances and to great heights… Now, this may be faithful to the comic book, but again, the audience will only suspend a certain amount of disbelief before they just laugh, and both the jumping and the high-speed running effects are definitely more laughable than awesome.

So, the Hulk himself was a little disappointing, but what of the rest? Well, the hero, Bruce Banner, is played by Eric Bana, and his lab research assistant is happily played by a certain Jennifer Connelly, so both the leads can certainly be said to have the required pedigree to 'carry' a movie. Also, it's directed by the man responsible for 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and 'Brokeback Mountain', none other than Ang Lee himself, so you'd be forgiven for renting it after reading the back of the Dvd case...

The thing is, Eric Bana's character is all about emotional repression, so by definition, he's not going to be acting much when on screen as the boring old doctor. Jennifer Connelly does quite well, but she'd be watchable in 'Eastenders', and she manages to 'react' subtly enough to the green screen – sorry I mean Hulk – with the required dose of compassion and fear when she's called upon. Ang Lee has unsurprisingly crafted a film that is beautiful to look at, and I enjoyed the novel editing style, with all manner of innovative cuts and split-screen effects used to create the panel-style view of the comic book, although this may grate with some viewers a little.

The action sequences, when the Hulk goes mental and starts getting all smashy-smashy, are very well done indeed, which you would expect from a movie that cost no less than $137 million dollars to make. Of particular note are the mutant dogs, the tank-breaking scenes and spitting the warhead (is that a euphemism!? – Ed).

However, given the three writing credits, I have the impression that the script went through a few 'treatments' before it was finished, and the extremely confusing last third of the movie reinforces this suspicion. The climactic 'battle' scene in particular, is just bizarre. Also, the lack of a real nemesis for the Hulk is a glaring omission. Where is his 'Joker', his 'Darth Vader', his... 'Nuclear Man'?

This movie managed to break even at the box office, and 2008 will now see a second attempt at putting Stan Lee's franchise on the big screen. The part of Bruce Banner seems perfect for Edward Norton, considering how little effort he seems willing to make these days – The Illusionist notwithstanding. Directed by the man who helmed the bright and breezy 'Transporter' franchise, and with Stan Winston taking on some of the special effects work, it seems like the mistakes made in this version of the Hulk will hopefully not be repeated in the next.

So, is this 'Hulk' recommended? Well, it's brainless entertainment for boys, but ultimately, and despite the presence of Jennifer Connelly, it's unrewarding. Unless you're a diehard Hulk or Jennifer fan, I’d recommend that if you haven't yet seen it, you should instead hang on for Hulk version 2.0, out next year.


1 comment:

Mike Blitz said...

Nice job with this review.

Interesting observation on the lack of a real nemesis in the movie.

Also, I didn't realize they were making a sequel. Hopefully they can spice things up a bit in the second one.

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