Another day, another comic book movie – Nothing that special considering the cinema’s been full of them for the last couple of years. So what’s “The Hulk” got that say, X Men, Spiderman or (dare I say it) Daredevil hasn’t?
That, I’m afraid, will be ultimately assessed by the many fans of the comic, who’ve been waiting restlessly to see if director Ang Lee can unfalteringly replicate one of nerdom’s favorite comics – and consequently, beloved TV Series – for the silver screen. But Hollywood’s done a miraculous job with X Men, Spider-Man, and before them, “Batman” and Superman – what could possibly go wrong?
Kooky rebel scientist David Banner, experimenting in genetic modification, gets a kick in the teeth when his wife gives birth to a baby that may have affected his research. A second blow comes in the form of the man’s boss, a military commander, who tosses the scientist out of his own lab, upon the discovery that it’s “all gone a little too far”.
Banner rushes home to rid the burden that his child will carry, but instead unintentionally ends the life of his wife.
Flash forward a few years down the track. Scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) follows inadvertently in his father’s footsteps as a researcher in genetic technology. He remembers zip about those first four years of his life – believing his parents were killed – and thank god, he’d be a rather screwed up chap if he did.
He and scientist girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) have started attracting the interest of a few folks to their research. Betty’s estranged father, Gen. Ross (Sam Elliott), and rival researcher Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas). And that new night Janitor (Nick Nolte) also looks suspiciously like Bruce’s pop, David Banner.
When Bruce finds himself open to the elements of an incurable dose of gamma radiation, he doesn’t kick it, in fact, he does the exact opposite, he not only withstands the gammas, but transforms into a giant emerald inexorable hunk of man…or is it creature?
With his girl’s pop planning a military strike to annihilate the monster, Banner’s only going to get angrier and angrier, and in doing so, grows larger and larger, and more deadly by the minute. In turn, digging a big hole for himself. Who’s going to be the one to calm him down?
The evident main dissimilarity between this multi-million dollar “Hulk” epic and the Lou Ferrigno starring TV Series of the same name is the riches. Whilst the enjoyment of the series was watching Bill Bixby turn into (merely by ripping off his shirt and cutting to a large actor painted in green) The Hulk, that’s all been thrown out the window here in favor of some admirable but over-the-top CGI effects. Gone is the human element of the character (underneath we could still see that we was a human) and in his place, a ‘Shrek’ like creature that can fly through the air, scale buildings and shatter missiles. Sam Raimi, director of last year’s Spider-Man managed to do both – make an expensive gob-smacking superhero movie, whilst still remaining true to the no-frills look and fun shtick of the original serial. Unfortunately, The Hulk’s a harder character to conceptualize – and it shows with the filmmakers here restoring to the ‘more is better’ variety than keeping it simple. At first the Hulk is introduced in near darkness, so the viewer can slowly get adjusted to his look. Then, he’s unleashed in all his glory, unfortunately looking more two-dimensional than he had to be. It’s a gob smacking creation – but more videogame than feature fodder.
But Lee also gets ambitious in the plot department. There’s so much connive here it almost dampens the fun and spirit of the comic book movie that’s supposed to be on offer. Ok, so it’s good to have a little bit of back grounding, but not to the point where an hour and a half of the movie is taken up with psychobabble, with only a good half hour left to get to the action itself. Even then, he dampens proceedings by adding a truly degrading finale and minor plot-points that comic book aficionados will be up in arms over. Where’s the scissors when you need them?
But to the film’s merit, they’ve cast perfectly. Sam Elliot is a spot-on General Ross, though a little more sympathetic than his comic counterpart (?), Josh Lucas a perfectly smarmy Glen Talbot, Nick Nolte gives it his best as senior Banner, Jennifer Connelly an adorable Betty Ross, and finally Eric Bana, looking quite the part as Bruce Banner. Bana still looks a little uneasy over there in Hollywood, and his performance borderlines on slightly wooden, but in this case, he can get away with it. And it’s a plum part indeed.
“The Hulk” isn’t a total mess, it has its moments – the effects will at least keep you watching and the performances are strong – but folks read comics for enjoyment, not to admire how well the pictures are drawn, and the same axiom can be directed here with audiences likely to admire the work that’s gone into this film – rather than joyously enjoying the film itself.
It’ll make lots of ‘Green’, but the “Hulk” won’t be a ‘smash’ in everyone’s eyes.