PG Cooper’s Movie of the Month: Hulk

Posted: October 29, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Movie of the Month

Release date: June 20th, 2003

Running time: 138 minutes

Written by: James Schamus, Michael France, and John Turman

Based on: The character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Directed by: Ang Lee

Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connolly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte, and Josh Lucas

The last two “Movie of the Month” ‘s I’ve done have been movies I thought were great, with last month’s being one of my all time favourite films. So far this month, I wanted to tackle something different. I wanted to talk about a film that had problems. So I went with the 2003 comic book adaptation Hulk. Hulk is widely considered to be one of the worst comic book films of all time. People call it slow, boring, and stupid. Based on my introduction, you probably think I feel the same way, but that isn’t true. I actually enjoy this film, but I can see there are several glaring flaws.

David Banner was a geneticist with his work based around gamma radiation. He worked on a military base where officials did not allow him to take his experiments as far as he wanted. In secret, David experiments on himself, and that DNA is later passed on to his son Bruce. After David’s experiments are outed, he is fired, prompting David to cause a massive explosion blowing up the labs. David his arrested, and his son is put into foster care. Years later, he is an adult working in Gamma radiation and has repressed his memories of his biological parents. After an accident during an experiment, Bruce is hit by a blast of radiation that unlocks what his father did to him so many years ago. Meaning when Bruce get’s mad, he becomes the Hulk.

The chief complaint from most people for this film is that it’s boring. People wanted to see Hulk smash after all. While I understand where people are coming from, personally I really enjoy the slow scenes. I like seeing the story unfold because that’s what Hulk‘s biggest strength is. The story actually is really interesting in my opinion. There’s a little mystery being solved, and the relationships between these characters are a lot more interesting than your average comic book film. There’s a lot more going on in Hulk then in most comic book films. I will say though that in the beginning, before Bruce is hit by the gamma ray, the film is kind of awkward. While I liked most of the cast, I don’t think they did a very good job when they had to play their characters in more casual situations. After Bruce is hit by the gamma ray, things get a lot better. And while there isn’t a lot of action, I do think the action scenes they have here are pretty kick ass.

One of the most interesting elements of the film is how almost all the villains’ motivations come from logical places. Bruce’s father David (Nick Nolte) starts off as nothing more than an ambitious scientist. But progress on his work drives him too far until he is eventually driven insane. It’s also interesting that in a weird way, David does seem to love his son. General Ross (Sam Elliot) wants to stop the Hulk because he is a threat to national security and because the Hulk has an attraction to Betty (Jennifer Connolly). Ross is trying to protect his country and his family, it’s easy to see his side. The only villain without logical motivation is Glenn Talbot, who just comes off like an asshole. There’s something about Josh Lucas that just gives off that feel though. Josh Lucas may be the nicest guy in the world, but he just has that asshole look. On the other hand, Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot are both very good in their respective roles.

Another complaint people tend to have is the CGI on the Hulk. I’m sort of torn here. On one hand, it’s very rare that the CG blends in with the rest of the film. In fact it’s glaringly obvious that it’s CG in almost every scene the Hulk is in. There are even points where the Hulk looks down right silly. But on the plus side, despite being obvious CG, the film does a very good job making you feel for the Hulk. He’s not just a rampaging monster, he feels like a genuine character with real feelings. The animators did a good job making the Hulk expressive, through body language and especially through facial expression. I also should say while Hulk doesn’t look real, I like the design itself.

So I’ve talked about a lot of things in this review, but I’ve barely touched on the leads, Eric Bana and Jennifer Connolly. As I mentioned earlier, I thought the scenes where these two had to be in casual scenes were pretty awkward. The two were not believable in those scenes at all. There’s also a flashback scene of the two of them spending time together as a couple where the two had no chemistry whatsoever. But about a half hour into it, after Bruce is hit by the gamma ray, both really step up their game. Particularly Bana, who I thought was very good and by film’s end I really liked. Connolly on the other hand, while I thought she improved and was better than a lot of romantic leads in other comic book films, I didn’t think was anything note worthy.

So while I do like this film a lot, there is plenty I don’t like. Some of the editing and cinematography is kind of weird and a tad annoying. I’ve already mentioned the acting, but I’ll quickly reiterate, the acting in the first half hour is awkward and Josh Lucas plays a generic asshole. And while the flashbacks from Bruce’s childhood are interesting, the acting was atrocious. The movie also has a really bizarre climax, which I admittedly kinda like but it’s still weird and feels really sudden.

While I certainly wouldn’t call Hulk a masterpiece, I do think it’s a solid film that has an undeserved bad rep. Despite some major problems, it’s a much smarter film than most of it’s comic film counter parts, and holds up better than other comic book films from the time like Spider-Man and Daredevil. If you don’t like this film, I can see why, but I disagree. If you’ve never seen Hulk, I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see, but I do recommend it. It’s a lot better than you’ve heard, and no where close to being one of the worst comic films of all time.

  1. Well, I guess I would counter that while you’re right, it’s nowhere near the worst comic book movies of all times, that’s only due to the fact that so many absolutely cheap and terrible churn out comic book movies get made.

    I think my biggest problem with this movie, among many, is the fac that it misses the spirit of what a comic book or superhero movie should be and that’s exciting. Doesnt have to be any particular kind of hero, anti heros welcome… but it does need to be exciting.

    And there’s a couple of good action scenes, I love the scene where Hulk smashes the tanks in the desert, and the fight against the dogs works ok…

    But I didn’t sign up for a therapy session. If I want to watch “Ordinary People”, I’ll watch “Ordinary People”. And the end goes off the rails completely, with his father becoming absorbing man? WTF is that PG? It was ridiculous…

    This movie was one of the biggest disappointments ever (not that you’re selling it as great or anything), and I didn’t mind the CGI! It was everything else. Lee took a simple concept and complicated the crap out of it until it became strange and boring and bad.

    (LOL, this flick is a sore spot for me, can you tell? This and “Superman Returns”. Guaranteed to get me foaming at the mouth…)

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      I guess I just like the complications Lee brought to it. As for the ending, ridiculous though it may be, I still kinda like it. As for Superman Returns, while it’s not good, I don’t hate it. That film is just really slow and nothing really happens.

  2. Ipodman says:

    Very nice review!

    I haven’t seen Ang Lee’s Hulk for so long… but I don’t remember loving it.

    The biggest problem for me is the CGI of the Hulk, which looks absolutely fake.

    Maybe this is just one of those films that you have to watch multiple times to appreciate it.

  3. I think a lot of its bad reputation isn’t so much that it’s just bad on its own, but that it’s so disappointing compared to what it could have been. Ang Lee really went for the high concept here, the Jekyll/Hyde nature of the Hulk… but I just didn’t feel like he really sold it as well as he needed to. Even though I’m a long-time comics reader, I didn’t feel the tragedy of his situation came across all that well, and there wasn’t much to the film beyond that. Add in the bizarre ending, and I left feeling really underwhelmed.

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