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Young scientist Bruce Banner works at UC Berkeley by day, and is plagued by repressed, nightmarish memories from his childhood at night. After an experiment with gamma rays goes awry, Bruce discovers an angry Hulk living inside him. His girlfriend, Betty Ross is the only one who tries to understand his condition while the military and his estranged father want nothing more than to tie up The Hulk and perform experiments on him. My question is, if the military really wanted to restrain The Hulk, why didn't they make his bonds out of the same material as those shorts he's never able to tear through?
You've heard the jokes: "It's Shrek II!" "It's a green Scooby-Doo!" Well, The Hulk wasn't as bad as expected, but it wasn't great either. It suffered from the same conundrum that many comic book adaptations face: how to do justice to the thoughtful character-driven nature of the original material but also work in crazy fight scenes that will appeal to the 16-and-under set.
The Hulk only becomes an action film in the last forty-five minutes or so. The first eighty minutes of the 2-hour and 17 minute film, are all set-up. At the first action sequence I checked my watch and was shocked to see how much time had elapsed. This is not to say the exposition moves quickly. An agonizing amount of time is spent stringing the audience along, hinting at the truth about Bruce Banner's past, but not revealing anything useful. It wasn't character development; it was a waste of time. When the final, and somewhat psychedelic action scene came around, I was almost too exhausted for it.
Part of the problem is that actor Eric Bana doesn't bring any depth to the Bruce Banner/ Hulk character. He doesn't do a bad job, (better to have a blah actor than one who's acting style is distracting) but if the rumor is true that the filmmakers wanted The Hulk to be some kind of nouveau Oedipus, they should have found an actor who can do more than recite his lines. Jennifer Connelly, brings some integrity to the roll of Betty Ross, but looks a little skeletal. Nick Nolte, looking exactly as he did in his drunk driving photo, gives the best performance as Banner's estranged father.
As for the "other" Hulk: The CG effects are inexcusable. The technology is clearly not available to do a CG character like this, it looks like a video game. The filmmakers should have stuck with the foreshortening techniques used in The Fellowship of the Rings, or at the very least employed the company who created Gollum in The Two Towers. There were a couple of cool scenes: one involving an F-22 flying into the stratosphere, and another where the Hulk flies across the desert. But ultimately, the CG Hulk is uninspiring.
Additional buzz about the The Hulk concerns Ang Lee's use of split-screens and moving frames to suggest the layout of a comic book. It's a good idea and worth exploring in future comic book adaptations; but, of the dozens of times this technique was used in The Hulk, it was effective fewer than five. It was almost as though this creative editing was thrown in as a side-show rather than as an element to enhance the story.
If you love The Hulk series, the film is worth checking out. The lengthy exposition will likely be much more enjoyable for fans as the filmmakers clearly put a lot of love and detail into realizing Hulk for the big screen. For everyone else, including Ang Lee fans, it's best to let this one lumber off into the night.
-Megan A. Denny