I must be crazy, but I kinda liked Hulk! Although, this is coming from the kid who faithfully watched the old CBS show and loved every damn minute of it. When Universal decided they were going to make a big-screen adaptation with a computer created green machine, so be it. I fell for the trailers and everything else. So when it came out to theaters, it seemed like the consensus result was: "Blah!" in large part to said CG leading man/monster. But at the end of the day, it doesn't seem like he takes up much of the movie, and the action scenes aren't hurt by his presence; some of them look very good. Ang Lee (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon lore) took the $100+ million production and made it a watchable film. Some scenes have comic-book paneling to them, either in a new scene altogether or a different angle of the same scene. Despite what some have said about this, I didn't think it was so bad, and since it was done on mostly the action, they escape your eye quite a bit.
To sum things up in a nutshell, Bruce Banner (Eric Bana, Black Hawk Down) is studying radioactive effects on DNA when a lab experiment that should have killed him triggers his change into the green giant. Unbeknownst to him, his father David (Nick Nolte, Blue Chips) had experimented on his immune system when he was a toddler, and he was responsible for the change. Bruce tries to stay calm with the help of Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog), whose father, General Ross (Sam Elliott, We Were Soldiers) is familiar with the older Banner's work when the two worked on the same Army base. Betty's father will do what he can to try and prevent a potential situation for the public. In terms of story, I thought it was okay. Instead of showing us how cool the Hulk powers are (probably an easy way out), we see Bruce trying to figure out what happens to him and confronting his father about it. I can understand tackling this aspect of the story, since just showing us the Hulk can't make a 90- minute movie.
But there are three points of this movie that even I have some sore spots with. The first, coincidentally, is the length of this movie. At 138 minutes, this is just plain too long. I hope we don't see a trend of Hollywood thinking too close-mindedly, and making action films that are 30 minutes too long with very little story to back that runtime, Dark Knight aside. With Hulk making over $130 million, I doubt I'll get my wish. I see what Lee was trying to do with that time, but I think some cuts could have been made. Second is the CG-created dogs that fight the Hulk in the movie; who honestly thought that an amped-up rabid poodle would inspire fear in the hearts and minds of the American moviegoing public? Did anyone question this as it was being worked on? It's a friggin' poodle! Third is the dogs' owner Nolte. Nolte seems to play it a bit over the top for my liking in this one, particularly at the end of the movie. And considering they show him experimenting on an infant Bruce in the first 10 minutes of the movie, we all kinda assume he's playing a bad guy; no need for some of the overacting.
However, by and large, I think this is a better movie than many give it credit, and it's worth a second look, if for nothing else because of the familial drama between Bruce and his exiled father, and that drama carries over to the relationship between Betty and her father. With all that was "wrong" with the film, it did manage to spawn a sequel, albeit a reboot of sorts, and I think it it's earned a bit of a cult-like following since being on video for a couple of years now.
While it says 2.35:1 on the back of the case, Hulk is really in 1.85:1 widescreen, a misprint that Universal didn't change from the back of the HD DVD case. Nonetheless, the VC-1 encode is pretty spiffy. I could spot many scenes of detail within the Hulk himself, like facial pores and perspiration, and the same detail could be found on the living, breathing actors as well. Blacks are excellent throughout the feature, providing a nice contrast throughout, and the image retains a multidimensional look through the exteriors nicely, most notably in the scenes where Ross and the Army are trying to take out the Hulk. There are occasional moments where some shots present a bit of softness, but otherwise this is an excellent presentation.
Universal goes the DTS-HD Master Audio route, with a 5.1 lossless soundtrack, trumping the previous HD DVD's Dolby Digital-Plus soundtrack. To address the con first, the dialogue suffers from inconsistent levels, so you've got to do a lot of adjusting on your receiver. But the action stuff? The action stuff packs a punch and a half. Subwoofer activity is an assumption at this point, but I was impressed by how some of the smaller sound effects seemed to sound a little cleaner now, more than they had in previous video versions. One sequence when Hulk breaks out of the Army compound (an abandoned movie theater), the bending metal is a little more subtle and natural sounding. I know it's a hell of a thing to remember, but if you're looking for the larger stuff, the tank-throwing sequence sounds awesome, well balanced and has the low end it was lacking before. All in all Hulk sounds quite good.
Lately, Universal seems to be putting out a pretty good disc as far as picture and sound but lacking somewhat on the extras. And in this case, I think some of the extras from the two-disc version were dropped for the HD releases. Lee provides a commentary track, but because of the film's length, it does hurt a bit with him not having someone to discuss things with, as a lot of dead air is apparent. He provides some insight into the film, on working with actors and his experiences on working in a big budget release. However the "Hulk Cam" footage is included as the majority of the U-Control feature on the disc. Five minutes of deleted scenes follow, with six scenes, none of which really add to the already long story. "The Evolution of the Hulk" (16:17) looks at the comic, as well as the Hulk's incarnations, from cartoon to the Lou Ferrigno show. The requisite interviews by creator Stan Lee on the creation of the character, why he's green, etc., appear also, as well as a brief look at how the film came together. "The Incredible Ang Lee" (14:28) takes a look at the director and his philosophy, how involved he was in the project, and everyone's thoughts of him. This piece is notable for the shirt Nolte is wearing here. What the hell is going on? A 10-minute look at the Dog Fight scene comes next, as we find out the final fight scene was about a quarter of what Lee wanted? The fight itself was interminable quite frankly at its length in the film. But you see the storyboards, animatics, and dogs in motion-capture suits (speaking of weird sights). "The Unique Style of Editing Hulk" (5:34) takes a look at the comic book appearance in the film. The Making of Hulk is broken down into four six-minute sections (or you can play all, totaling 23:43). The cast and crew section is more of what we've already seen, the stunts and special effects section delves into how the stunts are supposed to mix with the CG effects, the ILM section shows you some PC-created Hulks and looks at the tank-tossing sequence, and the music section features Danny Elfman's work on the score.
While many have vilified Lee's Hulk, I still enjoy it both for the classic father-son rivalry and interplay between Bana and Nolte, and it has enough comic book action-y goodness in it, that I think people should re-examine it now, especially next to the Ed Norton franchise reboot. The technical qualities of the film remain excellent, and for owners of the HD DVD, worthy of the upgrade to Blu. If you haven't seen Hulk before, give it a spin.