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Destined to be re-evaluated as a classic.
on 6 February 2009
Here's a funny thing. A film about a man who turns green and smashes stuff when he gets angry turns out not to really be about that after all.
When I first saw this film at the cinema I was left in a neither-here-nor-there frame of mind. I saw it was good but didn't fully appreciate what I'd just seen. It wasn't really a film about the Hulk but a film about relationships which happened to have the Hulk in it.
Now after the umpteenth reshowing on ITV2 I am finally seeing some of what I think Ang Lee was trying to show us in the first place.
It's a beautiful film about complex emotional issues transposed into a comic book world. Isolation, abandonment, love, familial duty, jealousy, emotional trauma and of course finally anger mixed with frustration at emotional impotence. In many ways it even serves as a metaphor for repressed sexuality. Have no doubt this is a tragedy of immense proportions.
Hulk is a distinctly brave and visionary film which has largely been dismissed as just another comic book film by some yet it doesn't pander to a casual audience either. This is possibly why it was perceived as a failure by so many.
Particularly noteworthy is Jennifer Connelly's performance. Unhurried close-ups of her face, subtly reflecting her changing emotional involvement become almost overwhelming the longer the camera intrusively lingers. I'm tempted to say that this is possibly her best performance in a movie so far even though she's been great in so many others. It's easy to portray such (comic book) supporting characters as caricatures or stereotypes (just look at the dismal 2008 Hulk movie for evidence of that) but Lee and Connelly bring such depth to Betty Ross that she somewhat steals the whole film.
Eric Bana is well cast as the emotionally distant and vaguely unsympathetic Bruce Banner not forgetting the excellent supporting cast including Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott.
Action scenes are handled deftly but similar in tone to the work of legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni, the action is the merely the device by which the larger picture is revealed, and not the other way around.
The difficulty obviously arises when you try to sell a film like this to an audience. Short sighted reliance on populist demographics is always going to fail with a work of this complexity.
So there you have it. A film that is neither fish nor fowl but adroitly occupies the no-man's land in between.
I feel certain that this film will eventually garner the level of praise and appreciation it truly deserves but probably only by future generations. Ang Lee constantly reaffirms just why he has earnt his place among the all-time directorial greats by constantly challenging audience preconceptions and never failing to create thoughtful and intelligent films whatever genre he works in.
"Hulk" a future classic?.......... I have absolutely no doubt.