Hulk

You wouldn’t like him angry – he’s green, mean, can kick arse and is incredibly powerful – but enough about Yoda – what about the highly anticipated new Hulk film?

Its seems that after the success of Marvel comic adaptation onto the silver screen, the genre is no longer seen as childish, but now draws the attentions of Hollywood’s greatest talents. In the case of the Hulk, step forward Ang Lee, critically acclaimed director of Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Starting in 1966, Dr David Banner, a brilliant young scientist, is desperately working on a project involving the modifications of the human immune system. With the US Army breathing down his neck and the fact that permission for human trials was denied Banner takes matters into his own hands and experiments on himself. Unfortunately his experiments fail and as soon as the Army discover his experiments, he’s carted off to prison.

Fast forward to present time, Banner’s infant son is now fully grown and a scientist himself. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) spends his days working on a project with his small team of scientist, which include ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly). One day, when an experiment goes wrong, Bruce is pelted with a very high dose of Gamma radiation – a dose that should have killed him.

With a mysterious janitor snooping around (in the guise of Nick Nolte) and the smarmy chemical industrialist Talbot (Josh Lucas) intent on acquiring his experiments, things are getting stressful for Bruce.

Ultimately, the anger gets to Bruce and the rage within him metamorphoses itself as the Hulk, an unstoppable, rampaging green monster. With the Hulk tearing around and smashing everything in his path, the Army is called in to stop him, led by Betty’s father (Sam Elliott). His orders - stop the Hulk – dead or alive.

The Hulk is a very ambitious film to say the least. As one of the most popular characters from the Marvel stable, he’s been around for many years and also the star of an extremely successful TV series, starring the superb Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno team. Already many people have said how much this film differs from the TV series, but seeing that it’s based on the original comics, the difference comes as no surprise.

Director Ang Lee has concentrated a great deal of the film to developing the characters and their complex relationships. Unfortunately this does tend to slow the film down considerably resulting in a conspicuous absence of the not-so jolly green giant for the first 45 minutes or so. The relationships are paramount to the film and they do pay off in the end – eventually.

The performances range from mediocre to listless to completely manic. Eric Bana is good as the tortured Bruce Banner and manages to show the psychological scars within him. Jennifer Connelly plays Betty as a woman who’s split between the two men in her life – her father and Bruce. Her performance is very reminiscent of the Betty from the comics. Sam Elliott utilises his trademark gruffness to good effect. As for Nick Nolte – pour some milk on him as he’s obviously Fruit Loops. He takes crazy to whole new level as the dangerously unhinged David Banner and the moments of insanity are the highlights form the human performances. Even Lou Ferrigno manages to pop in for a very quick cameo.

The real star of the film is the Hulk himself. First glimpsed during the trailers, the Hulk looked badly rendered and cartoonish. Luckily the finished film is a show piece for ILM, the company behind the special effects. The film has to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. There are times where the Hulk looks completely realistic and then there are times where he looks like a computer game. Obviously expecting a realistic creature all the time is unreasonable, we are talking about a green muscle bound 15 foot monster, so it’s a case of just sitting back and enjoying it.

The cinematography and visual editing of the film is superb, with some excellent images of the Hulk running and jumping across beautiful landscapes and a comic-book style of interspersing scenes with numerous panels.

Overall the Hulk is an unusual film – a big-budgeted Hollywood affair that’s also quite psychologically focused – which is unusual for a film of this genre. There are a few issues that weaken the overall effect, such as there is no real villain as per Spiderman or The Daredevil. In this case there is Talbot (to a certain extent) and Bruce’s own psychological demons. The end of the film does take a strange turn but this is probably not the place to discuss it.

For its minor faults, the Hulk is a very entertaining film albeit a little slow at times. Fans of the comics will finally see the Hulk as he was meant to be – fast, furious and totally outraged. It’s a thoughtful and successful bringing of a classic comic to the big screen. HULK SMASH!!

Score 8/10

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