The Hulk

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Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity

Cast:
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

Summary:
Ang Lee’s Hulk is a modern film paradox – an effects-heavy tale that has a better tale than effects.

Story:
Bruce Banner (Bana) endures a life without a past, yet filled with dreams. Adopted as a child, Bruce knows nothing about his parents and their story other than he was told they died. Plagued by unexpected nightmares, Bruce continually struggles with tumultuous fits of embarrassment, anxiety and rage. As a genetic scientist studying the regenerative effects of gamma radiation on damaged tissue, Bruce wages an escalating battle with an unknown monster inside him. Catalyzed by a freak lab accident exposing him to lethal levels of gamma rays, Bruce’s inner conflict culminates when he becomes the Hulk. General Ross (Elliot) – backed by an army of tanks, helicopters and soldiers – aims to destroy the Hulk. Through it all, Banner – a hunted abomination – strives to mend his relationship with General Ross’s daughter, Betty (Connelly), and uncover the answers to his shadowy past.

What Worked:
First, a preface… I know next to nothing about the comic book Hulk. My Hulk exposure is limited to the 70s TV show starring the late Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. So walking in to this film, I really didn’t know what to expect. The first thing I got was the opening bits to another solid score from former Boingo-boy Danny Elfman. He scores just scream comic book genre – from Batman to Beetlejuice and back. I also witnessed some pretty solid performances from Nolte, Elliot and bad guy Josh Lucas. Nolte is excellent as the crazed father David Banner, back after 30 years of incarceration. His cool, matter-of-fact approach following his introduction plays well off contrast to his frenetic mood during the second half of the movie. Elliot is ice as the tougher-than-you General Ross. He even trimmed up his patented push-broom mustache of the role. Lucas is great in his limited time as the greedy businessman Talbot. One scene where he and Connelly were talking, I thought I was watching ‘A Beautiful Mind’ again. Connelly remains a vision, but truthful doesn’t have too much to do here.

A tip of the hat to Stan Lee for getting himself and old Hulk Lou Ferrigno in the mix with a brief cameo. That got a rise out of most of the fan boys at the screening.

I was into this story of the Hulk as well. Like I said before, I’m not sure how much of its roots are in the classic comic book story, but I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the younger Banner.

What Didn’t Work:
They weren’t horrible, but the special effects in Hulk have gotten a lot of attention, because – well, frankly… they are not that special. That might be an unfair statement, but given the state of big budget effects movies these days, audiences expect the bar to be raised with each outing, no matter who is in charge. After seeing Gollum in The Two Towers, the Hulk… well, he kind of looks like a really pissed off Shrek. Perhaps a little more texture or a lighter shade of green would have helped… I’m not really sure. After the screening, I heard folks complaining about how CGI he looked. Well, guess what… HE WAS CGI! …but definitely second-tier CGI.

I also found myself growing very tired of the comic book panel-style editing job that ran throughout the movie. This is where a lot of split screen shots are used, jamming three, sometimes four different images on the screen at the same time. Sometimes even of the same thing from different angles. It is a cool effect in moderation, but very tiring on the eyes in a two-hours plus feature film.

I felt Bana’s performance was uneven too. Not sure if it was due to the script or his delivery, but it seemed mostly with his anger scenes that he may have been overacting a bit. Maybe that’s what the script called for… this is based on a comic after all, but a few scenes involving his unpredictable temper just didn’t flow well.
Lastly, the ending was weak. Yes, they left it open for the pending umpteen sequels, but it was they way they did it. Given a notebook and half an hour, I could have come up with something better. I won’t give it away here, but I just seemed silly.

In all, I would say go see Hulk… but wait a week or two until the lines die down. It is not a must-see in my book, but at least it has a story… and that’s more than a lot of this year’s big budget effects flicks can say.

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