The Hulk (Special Edition)

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Eric Bana as Bruce Banner
Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross
Sam Elliott as General Ross
Josh Lucas as Talbot
Nick Nolte as David Banner
Paul Kersey as Young David Banner
Cara Buono as Edith Banner
Rod Tesen as Young General Ross
Kevin Rankin as Harper
Celia Weston as Mrs. Krensler
Mike Erwin as Teenage Bruce Banner
Lou Ferrigno as Security Guard 1
Stan Lee as Security Guard 2

Special Features:

2 Disc Special Edition includes:

Deleted Scenes

Audio Commentary with director Ang Lee

Captured Fury – Illustrators from around the world create a scene from the movie in comic book form

Superhero Revealed – The Anatomy of the Hulk

Evolution of the Hulk – From the first metamorphosis of Bruce Banner into the Hulk on the pages of comic books to his on-screen metamorphosis

Hulk Cam – Flashing icons (optional) during the movie let the viewer know when behind-the-scenes footage is available

The Incredible Ang Lee – A tribute to the Ang Lee’s hands-on directing style

The Making of the Hulk

The Dogfight (making-of-featurette)

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Tracks
English, Spanish, and French Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hrs. 18 Minutes

Synopsis:
The Hulk is based on the Marvel Comic of the same name.

Bruce Banner is a scientist with a mysterious background. The son of a deranged military scientist, he is now a medical researcher himself experimenting in nanotechnology. When a lab accident irradiates him with gamma rays, it unlocks a hidden secret within him. Bruce mutates into a green monster of incredible strength, size, and speed. Whenever his adrenaline kicks into overdrive, he changes into the Hulk and wreaks havoc all around him.

Bruce eventually discovers that his father was partially responsible for the transformation. With the help of his research partner and girlfriend, Betty Ross, he must figure out what his father did to him and how he can control the beast within. But will Betty’s father, General Ross, and the military give him the chance to get the Hulk under control? And what other secrets does Bruce’s father hide?

Hulk is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity.

The Movie:
I’m a long time fan of the Hulk comics. I watched the TV show religiously and have collected the comics for years. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the movie to hit theaters. What ended up on the screen I found to be a bit of a mixed bag. With Ang Lee at the helm, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical action movie. I knew he was going to pay close attention to the characters, emotion, and philosophy behind the jolly green giant. That is, of course, what he did. However, I wasn’t expecting it to be as much as a psycho-drama as it ended up being. It was very Eastern in tone and feel and Lee’s presence is very much felt throughout the film. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your personal tastes. While I didn’t mind the large amounts of screen time devoted to the characters, I have a feeling the little boys in the theater clutching Hulk dolls and wearing Hulk shirts were a little disappointed. I could hear them fidgeting as the Hulk contemplated moss on a log.

That being said, when the Hulk kicks butt, he kicks butt. A battle with some tanks and some helicopters offer up some pretty amazing imagery. When I first heard that Hulk was going to battle Hulk dogs, I was skeptical. After all, who could possibly imagine a Hulk Poodle?! However, that action scene where he fights the dogs ends up being one of the more memorable and violent in the movie. It actually worked and I was quite impressed that they pulled it off.

Despite the cool action, the film gets especially weird at the ending. When Bruce finally faces off with his father, their final battle gets really strange. To this day I’m still trying to figure out what the heck happened and why there was a giant mushroom at the end. Anyway, I enjoyed the film right up until the very end, then the conclusion did nothing for me. I liked the epilogue which seems to be a setup for sequels, but overall it needed more.

Like the plot, the effects were a bit of a mixed bag as well. Created by ILM, they range from looking stunning to looking like a ticked off Shrek. There are times when you’re totally convinced that you’re looking at a living, breathing creature. The attention to detail is amazing. From dirt on his face to hairs on his head, his every feature is very cool. However, there are other times when he looks horribly CG. His motions don’t always look natural and his bright green color makes him look like Shrek. Despite all this, the effects hold up pretty well on the small screen. You’re going to have a hard time making a 15 foot tall green man look real in any situation, but they ended up doing the best job possible under the circumstances.

You really couldn’t ask for a better cast. Jennifer Connelly looks just like the comic character of Betty Ross. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and a great choice for the role. Nick Nolte is also perfect for the role of the mad scientist father of the Hulk. He looks and sounds completely insane in real life, so he is a natural choice for the role in the movie. As a comic fan, I was also amazed to see him turned into the Absorbing Man. While it doesn’t really follow the comics, it’s a nice variation that helps make things more exciting. The effects for him are also quite impressive. You also couldn’t ask for a better person to play General Ross than Sam Elliot. He has the right amount of toughness, military authority, and hidden emotion to make the character believable. He could have easily been a cardboard cutout bad guy, but Elliot brings a lot more to the character. Finally, Eric Bana is pretty good as Bruce Banner. Bana is Australian, yet he pulls off a pretty good American accent. However, he lacks the character and emotion you’d hope for. I guess Bill Bixby is a tough act to follow. But the Hulk is the real star of the film, so Bana’s performance is really a secondary concern. Also keep an eye out for cameo roles by Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno.

One of the other notable features of Hulk is the unique editing. Throughout the film, Ang Lee splits up the screen into comic panels and features scenes from multiple angles. He also employs elaborate scene transitions and wipes. Depending on your personal tastes, you’ll either find it distracting and annoying or artistic and cool. Being a comic fan, I appreciated what Lee was trying to do, so it didn’t bother me. Danny Elfman’s score rounds things out. (He seems to be becoming the go-to guy for comic movie scores!) While the film lacks a definitive Hulk theme, the music does set the tone of the movie well and it sounds unlike a lot of Elfman’s other work.

The DVD presentation is pretty impressive. The picture looks good and the sound is great. There are a few scenes where the picture is purposely made dark and things are hard to see, but otherwise it all looks good. (Oddly, Ang Lee says in the extras that he believes “light eyed people” are more sensitive to light than dark eyed people, so he purposely made the images darker.)

Overall, Hulk is not the best Marvel Comic movie ever made, but it’s not the worst comic movie ever made either. I hope if they ever make a sequel that they spend more time on making stuff ‘splode than internal drama.

The Extras:
As you might expect from a genre film DVD, the Hulk DVD has a lot of extra features. In this two disc set you get quite a bit of bonus features to entertain you. Here are some highlights:

Deleted Scenes – There are seven deleted scenes from the film. One features Bruce Banner and Betty Ross discussing their scientific research involving nanotechnology. Another features a high school girl toying with young Bruce Banner, thus causing an early “Hulk-Out”. Another is a weak cameo with the mayor of San Francisco. Finally, there’s a horrible cameo with Lou Ferrigno as a security guard. You can barely understand one of his lines, so it’s easy to see why it was cut. Overall, they’re not great, but they’re still a nice addition for the DVD.

Audio Commentary with director Ang Lee – This is actually a rather dry commentary. I was initially worried that Ang Lee’s accent would be hard to understand, but that wasn’t the case at all. However, Lee doesn’t have a lot of interesting stuff to say. I kept waiting for him to explain the bizarre ending, but he never did. I was hoping for him to discuss the meaning behind the close ups of mold and fungus, but that didn’t happen either. In fact, Lee often gets very quiet, especially during the action scenes. All in all, it’s not a very interesting commentary.

Hulkification – In this feature, Adam Kubert, Tommy Ohsuka, Salvador Larroca, and Katsuya Terada draw the Hulk in a variety of styles. They adapt a scene from the movie into comic form in the styles of manga, European, Marvel, and more. This is a neat feature for comic fans.

Superhero Revealed – The Anatomy of the Hulk – In this feature you can look at ILM models of the Hulk in a simulated computer system. You can also click on various Hulk body parts and get details about his strength, size, history, and more. It’s an interesting, though sometimes tedious way of presenting Hulk trivia.

Evolution of the Hulk – This featurette chronicles the origins of the Hulk comic book through the TV series to the new movie incarnation. It discusses the origins of the characters, the troubles with getting the shows made, and more. There are interviews with Stan Lee, Avi Arad, and the other people behind the scenes of Hulk. If you’re not familiar with the Hulk comic, this is worth checking out. Comic fans will also appreciate it.

Hulk Cam – As you watch the movie, you can select this option which will put icons on the screen during the film. As the icon appears, you click it and the film kicks over to some special bonus footage featuring behind the scenes looks at the points in the film you just viewed. These include footage of the actors filming the dialogue, practicing the stunts, and more. There are also interviews with them. All in all, it’s a good way to watch the movie. I do wish they had an option for watching them separately, though. The only drawback is that you see a lot of this footage in the other bonus features on the DVD. A lot of it is recycled.

The Incredible Ang Lee – Whether or not Ang Lee’s style is your cup of tea, you have to admire how involved he is with every step of the production of his films. In this you see him discussing his characters, presenting his ideas for the films, and even getting in the motion capture suit to act out the body movements for the CG Hulk. Some of the coolest moments in the film are actually acted out by Lee himself via ILM. It’s quite an interesting profile of a unique director.

The Making of the Hulk – This is a series of four videos covering different aspects of the making of the film. You can get detail on the cast and crew, the effects, the physical stunts and the music. If you liked Hulk, there’s something here of interest to you. Danny Elfman fans will also be pleased to see him heavily featured in the music video. (Heck, even Slash gets some screen time for an interview.) It’s a pretty good making of video feature.

The Dogfight (making-of-featurette) – One of the more exciting action sequences in the movie is detailed in this bonus feature. Here you get an in-depth look at the planning and execution of the dog fight in the film. It’s amusing to see Ang Lee present his storyboards for the sequence, then see the jaws of the ILM folks drop. To see Ang Lee throw his ideas out there without thought to cost is pretty cool. It definitely challenged him to reduce it and the effects gurus to step up to bat and realize as much of it as possible. You also get to see dogs in motion capture suits and the battle being rendered in computers. Overall it’s a really impressive look at the creation of the scene.

There is one gripe I have to mention about this whole DVD set, though. When you put the first disc in your player, it forces you to watch trailers for Sinbad, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Bruce Almighty, and Battlestar Galactica. There’s no way around this and you have to view it all every time. It’s incredibly annoying and a horrible way to have view the Hulk. There’s also the inexplicable inclusion of a Sunny Delight ad in the extras that has nothing to do with the Hulk whatsoever. It comes across as terribly commercial and is a turn off.

The Bottom Line:
This is a must-have DVD for comic fans, ILM fans, and action fans. Other folks will find it a bit of a mixed bag, but it is still very much worth checking out at least once.

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