"In some respects, I believe this is one of the best comic to movie translations there is."
- Sergio Martorelli
The Hulk (2003)
AKA: The Inrcedible Hulk, Hulk
Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd, Larry J. Franco, James Schamus
Writer: David Hayter, James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman, Michael Tolkin
Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas
Running Time: 138 min.
Plot: In this adaptation of the long-running Marvel comic "The Incredible Hulk," research scientist Dr. Bruce Banner's (Eric Bana) failed experiments cause him to mutate into a monstrously powerful and savage green-skinned behemoth whenever he loses control of his emotions. Jennifer Connelly plays his love interest Betty Ross, Nick Nolte plays Bruce's dangerous father, and Sam Elliott plays Betty's father, the tough-as-nails General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross.
DAVE BELL'S RATING: Ok, the Hulk wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. It was just kind of there. Like Ted Kennedy in the Senate. However even with my vast indifference, three things stuck out in my mind that I have to deal with.
1. The lead actor looked like Corey Feldman. And that's all I could think of when he popped up on screen. Hey, that cat looks like Corey Feldman. Hell, the Hulk looked like a green Corey Feldman, which I guess is reasonable considering when he was a kid, Corey Feldman slept in the same bed as Michael Jackson. Which I think would make anybody green...with nausea. But going back to the lead actor, why not just GET Corey Feldman? It's not like Ang Lee had to wait for Corey's other films to wrap before The Hulk could start filming. It's more like <ring> Hello? Is this Corey Feldman? Yeah. Listen Corey, when you're done pretending to be a rock star and singing for spare change at bus stops, could you do this movie? We'll pay you $500. When do we start? Boom, instant Corey Feldman and no more Corey Feldman wannabe. Plus you know you'll get a heroin-addicted Corey Haim as a bonus. He could be Jennifer Connelly's stunt double. He'd do it for some hair gel and $20.
2. When did Nick Nolte become Gary Busey? Every movie this guy is in, his delivery gets wilder and weirder. Next movie all Nolte's dialogue will be is grunts and growls. And he'll probably be nominated for an Oscar. Hollywood sucks.
3. What's with all the friggin split screen? Ok, one time it was cool, when that Hitler Youth looking guy was walking out and you got to see everybody's expression from three different angles. After that it was annoying. I started to think I was watching Woodstock and kept waiting for Jimi Hendrix to come on play the Star Spangled Banner.
Anyway, like I said it was the kind of movie I wished I had waited until I could catch at a bargain rental.
DAVE BELL'S RATING: 4/10
SERGIO MARTORELLI'S REVIEW: Warning: spoilers - The film starts out with Bruce Banner's father as a young man working on experiments to increase the human immune system to literally be effective against any disease, poison, or chemical known to man. He's working on a military base under a Young General Ross. Ross and Banner argue about the experiments and Ross tells banner not to test on humans. Well, Banner tests the serum on himself and Ross finds out and pulls the plug on the experiments. Meanwhile we learn that after Banner injects the serum, his wife gets pregnant, thus Banner passes on his changed DNA to Bruce. When Banner finds out that he's off the project he sabotages the base to blow up and goes home to in effect KILL his son because he knows that he will become a monster. He can't work on the project anymore to try to cure his son, so he decides to kill him. The wife gets in the way and he kills the wife by accident. The military come and take him away and Bruce is brought up by a foster family. Bruce was 4 at the time and he saw his father kill the mother but doesn't remember any of it. Bruce is told his family died when he was young.
Strangely enough Bruce grows up to be a scientist just like dad. He's working in a new lab with Betty who he had a relationship with but then she dumped him. They are working on nanomeds (nano-machines) used to heal wounds in patients. He doesn't realize who he is, his last name is that of his foster parents. It's just a coincidence that he happens to be working with and recently involved with the daughter Betty Ross of the General Ross who put his father away. On the big day, their experiments do not work, killing the frog it was supposed to heal. They would put nanomeds in the frog that was injured and then expose the frog to gamma radiation, which would start the nanomeds healing the frog, but it doesn't work and the frog explodes. Talbot is here too, but he's a scientist, working for another company that wants to take over Betty and Banner's experiments for military applications. That company is working with General Ross's military labs.
One day, while working with the nonomed and gamma machine, something goes wrong and Bruce and his assistant are trapped in the room just as the machine is going to release the gamma radiation. Bruce does the courageous thing and stands in the way of the machine and the assistant. He takes all the gamma radiation and nanomeds into himself. He wakes up in hospital and no one can understand why he isn't dead. It seems the nanomeds fixed any damage from the gamma radiation and fixed his old weak knee among other things. No one knows it's because of the dna from his father that let him survive. Later in the lab one night we see that Bruce's dad (Nolte) is working as a janitor in Bruce's lab. He was released from Prison after being held there for 30 years. He wants catch up on his experiments and keep an eye on Bruce. He tells Bruce all this but Bruce doesn't believe him. Bruce starts having a nightmare and straining to work/think and then we see him finally change into the hulk. He smashes up the lab and he finds his father and just stares at him, recognizing him before smashing through the roof and jumping away. Betty goes to find Bruce at his house the next day and Bruce can't remember what happened. They think it was an explosion at the lab. Ross comes to the home and takes Bruce away under suspicion that Bruce knows more than he's telling. Ross knows that Bruce is really Bruce Banner and thinks he's working with his father. Meanwhile we see Bruce's father working at his home injecting nanomeds and gamma rays into his 3 dogs. Betty goes to visit Bruce's father and he tells her to stay away from Bruce that she can't help him. Banner is put under house arrest and Talbot comes to visit him they get into a fight. Bruce's dad calls Bruce and tells him he sent the dogs after Betty. Talbot and Bruce wrestle around a bit, Bruce hulks out, and goes to save betty from the hulk-dogs. Betty isn't afraid of the hulk and the hulk recognizes and protects Betty.
The next day betty lets her father and his men drug and take Bruce to the Ross's science base to help him, but Ross is really just making sure they can contain him and kill the hulk. Betty convinces her father to let her try to help Bruce. She and Bruce revisit their old homes to try to get Bruce to remember what he saw (his dad killing his mom) but before that happens, the NSA tells Ross to let Talbot and his company do experiments on Bruce. Talbot wants to get a sample of The Hulks tissue for weapon experiments, so he induces Bruce while unconscious to Hulk Out. He hulks out, and breaks out of the base. A long and lengthy chase fight sequence begins with tanks, helicopters missiles and Hulk doing his mile long jumps. The hulk winds up in san Francisco trying to find betty, who finally appears and the hulk changes back to Banner.
Meanwhile we learn that Bruce's dad has exposed himself to nanomeds and gamma rays and has the ability to absorb energy from anything and even turn into anything, metal, water, electricity. He goes to betty and asks her to let him see his son one last time and then he'd give himself up.
So Banner is being kept on a secret base, under maximum security in a room that they can electrify and kill him instantly should he start to hulk out again. They bring his father in to talk, and the dad tells Bruce that he needs to absorb his energy when he's the hulk, in order to keep his body stable. Ross tries to electrify the room and Bruce's dad starts to absorb all the electricity in the room. He starts growing and becomes an energy being this starts to trigger Bruce to change. The dad grabs hulk and shoots into the clouds where they are fighting. They land in a lake and dad starts to absorb hulks power getting even stronger. Dad freezes the lake and in their minds Bruce tells his father to take all his power and the hulk breaks the ice, Getting even stronger. It proves to be too much energy for dad to take and he dies. Cut to Ross who decides to drop a gamma bomb directly on Bruce and dad.
1 year later, betty gets a call from her father asking her that even though they think nothing could have survived that bomb, if Bruce did survive and contacted her would she tell Ross She says no she wouldn't because she still loves him. Cut to a man in the jungle helping impoverished people with medicine. Some guerillas arrive and start to take all the medicine that was meant for the villagers. The man tries to stop them and then we see it's Bruce! The guerilla walks up to him telling him that they are going to take the medicine and Bruce says his famous line...You won't like me when I'm angry...? but in Spanish! THE END!
The first thing that strikes me is the stunning editing and cinematography. They do indeed have multiple frames, shots a la 24, but you realize that it's more like panels in a comic book. Each scene pans, fades, cuts, splits, and every other trick you can imagine. There is even one shot that pans back and you can actually see other panels like a comic book, before zooming into another panel. This is really inventive and striking, and continues through out the entire movie. It really is a pleasure to watch that. Very stylish and different.
The acting is all superb, with Bana and Nolte REALLY standing out. Bana IS Bruce Banner and Nolte really shines and the evil (but is he?) Father figure.
This movie is not about action. Not AT ALL. It's about Bruce's struggle. It's about coming to terms with yourself. Realizing that every part of you makes us who we are. At one point Bruce actually says he likes losing control because his whole life he's kept everything bottled up inside. He wants to be free of the confines of his own emotions.
Bruce changes into the hulk only 4 times in the whole movie. The hulk gets maybe 15 mins of screen time. This movie is REALLY about the struggles and inner turmoil of Banner, of repressed memories, of a child witnessing something horrible and how that can affect the rest of it's life. Becoming the hulk is really almost an after thought.
The effects are impressive, and what I saw is just a work print, but at times the Hulk DOES look very real, but at other times he does not. His size increases throughout the film, as the hulk gets angrier, he gets larger. And the hulk actually speaks. 2 Lines, but he speaks! This isn't the MINDLESS hulk from the comics, most of the time he's mad is because he's being attacked. But if left alone, he's gentle and changes back to Banner.
At the end of the film, Bruce actually takes control of the hulk, leaving the HULK 2 open to the possibility that when he Hulks out, he will still have his own mind, just like in the comics when Bruce has control over hulks body.
The music they used (which I doubt will be in the final cut) was very middle eastern and asian a la gladiator and black hawk down or even Crouching Tiger. It might very well be the same music, but surprisingly it fits and gives the movie a more epic tone at times.
We don't even see the hulk for the first 40 mins of the movie, but the beginning is surprisingly interesting and holds your attention. Maybe that's because I was fan? I do think that some people will ultimately be disappointed with this film, thinking it's all action and the Hulk smashing everything for 80% of the movie. But it's not. This is drama. Plain and simple. Is it a summer action blockbuster? No. Not at all. But the previews will make you think it is, and that's where I think they have gone wrong. Misleading the audience will invite negative reviews. People are expecting a popcorn film and that's not what this is. In some respects, I believe this is one of the best comic to movie translations there is. They do not inject the humor and sarcasm into this movie like in Spider-Man which in my opinion cheapend that film. I didn't laugh once, there were no jokes. No sly comments. No sarcasm. This is a serious movie. I don't know if KIDS will sit still through it. But fans will sit spellbound.
I can say a lot more, but I need to see this again, on the big screen to truly appreciate this film. I am pleasantly surprised how good of a job they did.
SERGIO MARTORELLI'S RATING: 8/10