Amazingly, Ang Lee's Hulk
makes a fair fist of pleasing everybody. The latest in a run of Marvel Comic-to-film transfers, it acknowledges the history of a character who dates back to 1962 while recreating him in contemporary terms. Though this, Hulk's origin still draws on the 1960s iconography of bomb tests and desert bases, this new take mixes gene-tampering with gamma radiation and never forgets that poor Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) has been psychologically primed by a mad father (Nick Nolte) and a disappointed girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) to transform from repressed wimp to big green powerhouse even before the mad science kicks in.
The long first act is enlivened by comic book-style split-screen effects and multiple foreshadowings--Lee keeps finding excuses to light Bana's face green--but is also absorbing personal drama from the man who gave you The Ice Storm before flexing his action muscles on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. When Banner begins his Jekyll-and-Hyde seizures, the ILM CGI boys step in and use Bana as a template for the most fully-realised digital characterisation yet seen in the movies. Comics fans will thrill as a credibly bulky, superswift, super-green behemoth tangles with mutated killer dogs (including a very vicious poodle) in a night time forest, bursts out of confinement in an underground secret base, takes on America's military might while bouncing around a Road Runner and Coyote-like South Western desert and then invades San Francisco for some major "Hulk... smash" action. Artful and entertaining, engaging and explosive, this is among the most satisfying superhero movies.
On the DVD: Hulk two-disc set doesn't quite hulk-out as well comparative Marvel movie releases for the X-Men films, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Disc 2 assembles a pile of those infotainment documentaries prepared to drum up pre-publicity but which feel a bit redundant once the movie is out, especially since there's so much repetition between the featurettes. It's all very well, and some of the technical stuff is fascinating, but this particular film could do with a more in-depth thematic approach: there's a lot about how the CGI Hulk was realised but little on the development of the story, the performances or the general tone, though Ang Lee's slightly sparse commentary makes interesting stabs in that direction. The biggest revelation in the background material is that Lee, known for his delicacy of touch, himself wore the motion capture suit and smashed up plywood tanks as a guide for the CGI animators. --Kim Newman
, adapted by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
) from the Marvel comic book series, stars Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, the tormented scientist whose temper periodically transforms him into a raging green monster. Fellow scientist and Hulk-love-interest Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), shares a strange connection with Banner--both have abstract childhood nightmares that hint at a shared dark past. The missing pieces of the puzzle are revealed when Banner's unstable, mad-scientist father David (Nick Nolte) appears out of the blue, followed by Betty's father Ross (Sam Elliot), a military cowboy. Banner is ultimately trying to understand what it is that makes his strange and unpredictable metamorphosis occur, while his outbursts distract him, leading him out into the streets of San Francisco, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and on a tour of the American west's national parks where he unleashes his anger in violent tantrums. A threat to the country that is treated like a natural disaster, the military is quick to respond, chasing the Hulk with helicopters, machine guns, and even heavy artillery, as he bounds away in mighty leaps, trying to escape. The CGI work used in creating the Hulk is funny and convincing, and the gorgeous landscape photography makes his presence all the more amazing. A vibrant color scheme adds to the film's visual thrills, split-screen editing breaks up the slower scenes, and the music by composer Danny Elfman perfectly punctuates the contrast between the soft love story and wild action sequences. While parts of the film recall the introspection of Frankenstein
, the outrageous crowd-pleasing monster-military chases hearken back to King Kong
and the Godzilla