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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined to be re-evaluated as a classic., 6 Feb. 2009
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This review is from: Hulk [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jun 2009, 16:42:46 BST
"'Hulk' a future classic?"......... I think not.
Obviously you didn't see the version that everyone else saw? It is rather rubbish and may just about scrape a slight cult status because of its director's status.

Now, don't make me Ang-lee!!!!!

Posted on 10 Jul 2009, 00:15:19 BST
Last edited by the author on 10 Jul 2009, 00:16:04 BST
N. J. Oade says:
You crazy Jesus!
The other dude's right, you're reading FAAR too deep into it, man.
All the emotional trauma, what is "family and isolation stuff is ever-present in the comics, if you dig deep enough, it's there, but it's subtle and cleverly shown in parts to you in dribs and drabs so it seeps into your subconscious, this in the same way that Hulk shows himself to Betty Ross in tiny bits. Y'know you think, did his face soften a little there but it's blink and you'll miss it. The latter is a specific example from the other Hulk movie, the good one (ha), it gets the balance just right. Enough action for explosion junkies, enough depth for the fans and intellectuals. Whereas, Ang Lee's Hulk, although, yes it says all the right things about emotional impotence and gets a lovely message across, it just gets the balance wrong.
Regardless of defying the expectations of any "populist demographics", the reason people did not enjoy it is because it's a dialogue-heavy action movie (which is paradoxical in itself), and the morale of the tale is about as subtle and open to interpretation and/or discussion as a knee to the groin making it just look really very stupid, but trying to act clever.
I'm not gonna lie though, the actors, particularly Nick Nolte on surprisingly top form, and Ang Lee's eye for catching characters' emotions are great here, but if you ask me, this Hulk movie, not the other one, is all style and no substance. You can try to read into it but there's no point, it spells out it's message L-I-K-E T-H-I-S and is nought but a boring patronising mess that's not nearly as good as it thinks it is.
Also, LOL don't make me Ang-Lee.
Interesting discussion points you make though, and well backed-up.

Posted on 25 Nov 2012, 03:03:18 GMT
Nova says:
Great review, i too feel this is a perfect film for how the effect of becoming superhuman has on the individual and his supporting characters.

The action was great too there's hasn't been an on-screen hulk moment that tops him leaping across the mountanous areas

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2013, 19:23:31 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 May 2015, 00:54:53 BST
I don't think G. Thomas is reading 'FAAR too deep' into this film, as N. J. Oade puts it. This is a film about fathers, sons, and horribly splintered relationships, and has not much to do with superheroes. 2008's 'The Incredible Hulk' is more akin to the TV series that people (such as myself) are familiar with - but this film is more daring, in that it addresses subject matter that other superhero films wouldn't touch with a 10 ft pole (2000's 'X-Men' briefly touches on eugenics and very mild undertones of racism, but these issues seems to be filtered out within a short space of time).

N. J. Oade reports; 'this Hulk movie, not the other one, is all style and no substance'. This is an interesting statement, considering Ed Norton and Liv Tyler have about as much chemistry as potted plants. Ang Lee's 'Hulk' is mostly ONLY concerned with its characters' terrible, fractured relationships (maybe to its detriment, according to audiences). But this film is unapologetic about its sombre, downcast tone.

Where I do think the film struggles is with its special effects. It seems like the producers ran out of money halfway through, because some shots show a disparity in quality with previous shots, and the computer generated hulk himself sometimes looks either poorly animated, or poorly lit. One scene actually shows a gang of mutated 'hulk' dogs vanish in a 'poof' of smoke, presumably because there was no money left to render any remaining animation. These sorts of things don't, however, spoil the story that is being presented to us.

I don't think the broken, shriveled relationships with added undercurrents of child-abuse and domestic violence that Ang Lee serves us are 'patronising', as N. J. Oade believes, but I do understand that this 'tragedy of immense proportions', as G Thomas puts it, will not be to everyone's taste.

I was one of many 14 year old children who left the cinema disappointed upon this film's initial release, feeling cheated by a lack of superhero action, but as an adult, I now have a new-found respect for what Ang Lee has done (and as an aside; I'm surprised that Marvel ever let him make this film, for it really does go against the grain).

If you are interested in superheroes, then perhaps this film may not be for you, but if you are interested in human beings of the Edvard Munch variety, then this film may just surprise you.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Sep 2014, 08:10:25 BST
Jon Shipton says:
You were making a valid (If personal) defense of HULK... Until your last sentence!

After all the 'lofty' intentions of Mr Lee, are eventually forgotten... We are left with the actual concept of, guess what? 'A Super-Hero Movie'!

Ang Lee, 'certainly' forgot that!

Posted on 27 May 2015, 00:10:55 BST
RouX says:
You rave about it, then say... (just look at the dismal 2008 Hulk movie for evidence of that) ???

In reply to an earlier post on 27 May 2015, 01:11:03 BST
You're possibly right, but it all depends on your viewpoint. If you think that Lee set out to make a superhero 'genre' film, then he's failed. Miserably. I concede this.

But if you think that he's attempted to make a film about bad relationships, then he's succeeded. The presence of the physical manifestation of the hulk monster only represents Bruce Banner's id in this regard, which is worth much more to me than the alternate scenario, whereby a massive green superhero saves the girl and everyone goes home happy.

And time will tell which aspects of this film are forgotten - maybe the lofty intentions are what will be remembered after all. We don't know yet. This film will be ripe for reappraisal in five to ten years' time.
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Review Details



G. Thomas

Location: Canterbury UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 360,774