The Hulk (Review)

The Hulk
(2003, d: Ang Lee, s: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connolly, Nick Nolte)

Let me lay this all out in the first sentence - The Hulk is a fun, action-packed comic-book movie. That's not, however, to say it's in the league of Spider-Man or the X-Men franchise. In fact, the one thing that hampers The Hulk the most is the one thing that was missing from these other Marvel comic adaptations - Ang Lee apparently didn't want you to forget for more than thirty seconds that you were watching a comic book movie. See, that's one thing that I really liked about Spider-Man and the X-Men movies - they didn't feel like comic books. Unfortunately, in The Hulk, all of the split-screens and transitions ultimately took away the feeling of watching a movie. Instead, I was constantly wondering whether the CryptKeeper was going to suddenly appear and make some wiseass crack about the Hulk's pants.

Now, if you can get past the comic-y feel of the movie (which I imagine many casual moviegoers won't), then you next come face-to-face with the length of the movie. The beginning scenes drag on and on, and there are many of these that could have easily been cut to make a more streamlined action-oriented movie. It takes almost a half-hour for Banner (Eric Bana) to be irradiated, much less first turn into the Hulk. Way too long...too much exposition and explanation kills the first quarter of the movie.

Once the action starts, though, it rarely lets up. The remainder of the movie, after the Hulk appears, is one set of action sequences after another. Most, of course, involve the Hulk destroying things - a lab, a secret military facility, San Francisco. But the best thing about these action sequences is that they actually play toward the character development of the Hulk.

Huh? Character development of a giant, green-skinned brainless stomping machine? Yes...this is one thing that I have to give Ang Lee credit for - the Hulk is a far more interesting character than Banner in this movie. The CGI that created the Hulk makes an incredibly realistic creature, with incredibly detailed facial characteristics. I'd wager that the Hulk emotes more than either Bana or Nolte (though honestly the latter isn't very difficult). You can see his frustration and confusion as people are shooting at him, for reasons he can't understand. You can see the love and passion that he feels for Betty Ross (Jennifer Connolly) whenever he sees her. And you can see his concern for the innocent people around him when he's not raging like a bull in a china shop. This isn't entirely a rage-blind monstrosity. There's definitely a sliver of humanity that Lee plays up quite well in this CGI beast.

The other beast in this movie is Dr. David Banner (Nick Nolte), Bruce's biological father. I'm going to have to be perfectly honest, first, and let you know that I simply cannot stand Nick Nolte - never have been able to. And in this movie, he spends the first 3/4 of it doing a bad riff off of Kris Kristofferson's Whistler from Blade. Only near then end, when a not-terribly-surprise twist hits, does he even begin to be interesting. Is he capable in the part? Yes. Is he convincing? Well, I suppose that depends on how much you like Nolte.

If you like to see fast-paced action, lots of destruction, and a bit of character development tossed in for good measure, The Hulk just might be your movie. But, if you're looking for another Spider-Man or X-Men, then maybe the nearest Blockbuster is your better choice this summer.