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Hulk (2003) – Movie Review

The Hulk Poster 2003

Written by: David Hayter, Michael France, James Schamus & John Turman, based on a story by Schamus, which was in turn based on the character created by Jack Kirby & Stan Lee
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Bruce Krenzler (Bana) has had a bit of a rough go at it. Apparently something happened with his birth parents, the Banners (Paul Kersey & Cara Buono)–something very, very bad. So bad that Bruce has locked the memory away–can you blame him, he was four. Still, even though he found a new family in Mrs. Krenzler (Celia Weston), all he has are fuzzy, strange nightmares of that day with his parents–both of which are now dead and gone. And he has a shellshocked, introverted nature which caused him to lose the love his life, Betty Ross (Connelly). I mean, they’re still working together, but it’s not what it once was. Then…unbelievably, things get worse. Not only is he faced with a review for his research (which isn’t going well), but a strange man (Nolte) has shown up–who claims to be his father. He also claims to have…done things to Bruce…things which have been waiting for a reason to come to the surface.

[ad#longpost]Here’s a riddle for you, from Bailey: “What’s big and green and doesn’t suck anymore?” Answer: Godzilla. The film is egregiously and terribly wrong, words fail me. I left the cinema utterly stupified. What went wrong, you ask? What made this flick, Marvel‘s Great Green Hope, turn into something just a shade away from Battlefield Earth?

Well, it wasn’t the cast. They are hereby exonerated. Eric Bana’s Banner is a decent enough portrayal, except for the fact that he isn’t given anything to do…well, except for get pissed off and get green. Connelly’s role could have been played by anyone, since basically all she’s there to do is look good and cry a lot. Sam Elliott does some great thundering as Betty’s dad and Josh Lucas is pretty much there to smarm, which he’s quite capable of doing. The standout would have to be Nolte, who’s doing the best he can with what is shitty, shitty material. He plays the insane, driven father perfectly, chewing scenery where appropriate–and chewing other things as well, but that’s a different story. No, the cast is fine. Seldom do you get to see such earnestly delivered lines of garbage.

And that’s just it–the script is garbage. They get some credit for trying to inflict some kind of somewhat reasonable scientific premise on Banner’s transformation, but that cred is quickly lost in the first half-hour of the film, which consists of glaring exposition and, of course, Connelly being emotional. After that, you have a series of stupid military blunders so severe that if I were in the services, I would be offended. Let’s face it: the moment they realized what they were dealing with, they would have popped a cap in Banner’s ass the moment he turned pink again. The script’s two-edged response of “Well, he could be used as a weapon” and “Well, we could make a buttload of money off him” only goes so far–if he was that valuable, he would have been handled a helluva lot differently than they did. I can’t give you a blow by blow analysis of the stupidity without doing spoilers–which I just don’t do–but you have to trust me. The entire third act of the film should not have happened; and even if you make the leap that people could actually be that inept, then at least the last thirty minutes should never have occurred. In fact, that would have been a blessing, because at two-hours-twenty, it was just too damn long. Making matters worse is Lee’s choice of plastering the screen with “panels” (a ripoff–not homage, mind you–of comics), which is well intentioned, but just gets out of control. Does every single scene have to have some kind of psuedo-clever transition to the next scene? Just when I was starting to get in the groove–BANG–some funky shift, camera, jerk-edit thing and I’m back out of the film again.

Something else that’s crazy: in the vein of Alien Resurrection, the thing everybody was worried about–the CG creature–was the least of the problems in this film. In fact, he’s pretty damn cool. It’s astounding that they picked just terrible stills and snippets of the creature to promote the film–because in context, it all works. Now you know where the half-cup comes from.

I’d like to point out that my severe anger over the incomprehensibly moronic nature of this film has nothing to do with my comic book reader’s knowledge of the character. I left all of that at the door. If I wanted Peter David’s or John Byrne’s take on the character, I’d go back and read those issues. But instead, I was looking forward to Ang Lee’s, and Jesus, it was terrible.

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