Rakesh's movie talk
Hulk (2003)

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Directed by Ang Lee
Written by John Turman, Michael France and John Schamus based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Marvel Comics)
Starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot and Nick Nolte


There are many ways of turning comic books or graphic novels into movies. Watch Richard Donner's Superman, Tim Burton's Batman, Brian Singer's X-Men and of course, Sam Raimi's recent smash hit Spider-Man. Each did a different take. Superman was fantasy blended with slight realism, and viewed with child-like awe. Batman was purely for adults, with tragic look at human at his darkest, and reviews the overpowering nature of animal instinct (especially in Batman Returns). X-Men is self-conscious and fun. While it ponders serious questions on human values, it never lets up in the superhero fun. And its immediate cousin is definitely Spider-Man, which is fun, half empty and half full, and is a great eye-candy. When not being a fantasy, comic or graphic novels can sizzle and provoke, like Road to Perdition, where performance and serious cinematography can pull you in into the screen. But what about Hulk?

I checked the MRQE and found that most critics loved it. And yet I didn't. Why? I felt that all the loveable qualities inherent in all the movies I mentioned earlier are completely absent in Hulk. Maybe it should. I don't know.

When I first heard the rumour that they are going to remake the live action version of Hulk, I laughed out aloud. It worked fine on small screen with Bill Bixby's excellent portrayal of the tortured Bruce Banner, but on big screen? And a CG Hulk? Come on.

Ang Lee must have realised this problem. He is no stranger to superhero movies, having had a hand in directing Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which has a lot of gravity defying acts in it. In Hulk, he resorted to mimicking comic books by having panels, multiple angles, split screens and page turning transitions. This is probably the only joy in the movie.

The script does not stray away from the formula perfected by R.L. Stevenson in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is a formula that has been explored and ripped off in many monster movies. Hulk is basically a monster movie in the tradition of Frankenstein and King Kong. How fresh can it go apart from a good cinematography? The script fails to help with this problem.

The performances does not help either. With exception of Sam Elliot, who manages to make his stereotypical bad guy role interesting, nobody in this film know what they are doing. Okay, they do know, but they don't appear to show that they know. I am not sure of Jennifer Connelly's acting prowess (check out my review on A Beautiful Mind), but here all she does is look beautiful, which she succeeds. As for Nick Nolte, he looks like he need to get back to rehab. Yeah, I know. He is supposed to be some mad scientist, but more than anything he looked like a street bum, raiding a scientific laboratory for dope. His performance reeks the sincerity of a vacuum cleaner salesman.

Now, how about Eric Bana? To me, he failed to impress. I would never compare him to Bill Bixby. I should not. I was waiting some genuine emotional moments, where the bottled up character would finally let loose and become the green monster. Nope. His anger looks fake, even with the aid of make-up and CG. Speaking of which...

The Hulk himself. Why? Why CG? Why can't they make it look real, when they did it very well with T-Rex and Raptors ten years ago? Watching the second half of the film is like watching the live-action/animation feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? without all the fun.

Finally a word on Danny Elfman's score. It tries hard, I could see, to blend with the movie. Elfman is a great composer and his collaborations with Tim Burton are evidential enough. But the film and Elfman's score does not seem to mesh. Or is it Elfman's fault, trying not to be stereotypical as he had scored many other superhero and sci-fi movies? Whatever it is, his score failed to interest me, a big fan of his.

I left the theatre with a bad taste in my mouth. Of course the caramel popcorn was okay. It was just the monster. Hulk may be green, but he ain't fresh.