Rückblick 2016The incredible Hulkand gave a fairly complete overview of the character and his backstory. Obviously there's no point in repeating all of that again, so I'll just share this little detail that I found while researching this movie because it's the most perfect summary of the Ultimate Marvel Universe I've ever seen .
Wow. This is mature AND realistic.
Most people familiar with the comic book movie genre know this just five years before Ed Norton starredincredible Hulk,there was another theatrical version directed by Ang Lee that had a less flashy titleHulk🇧🇷 what many can donoKeep in mind (because unlike me, these aren't ancient, decrepit relics dancing helplessly at the grave's edge) how big this movie originally was. Yes, sure, now that little afterthought is kind of forgotten, but back in 2003, this movie was going to change the game completely.
Imagine the scene. It's the summer of 2003. America is gearing up for what will surely be a brief and uneventful occupation of post-Saddam Iraq, and the world breathes a sigh of relief as Vladimir Putin ushers in a secure and stable government in Russia after the chaotic years of Yelstin. And at the box office, movies based on Marvel characters have finally broken their decades-long curse and are enjoying box office success and even a measure of critical acclaim. But still only one measure. Comic book movies were still largely considered silly, disposable (albeit funny) mental popcorn. We hadn't seen a film that truly captured the intellectual and emotional weight of the comic book medium at its best.
With a few notable exceptions.
Hulkwas made to change all that. In Ang Lee he had the most critically acclaimed director to direct a film of this genre. In the Hulk, he had a character that not only had mass notoriety (thanks to the '70s TV show), but also had the potential to tell a more mature story about anger, trauma, and manhood. And the initial excitement and interviews made it clear that that was exactly what Lee intended. That wouldn't be a stupid summer campaign. That would be a serious film with serious themes. This was the film that would propel the superhero film to rise. This was what would finally break the genre's "credit ceiling". Was it successful?
Well, the positives first. It's distinctive as hell, one of the few superhero films of the era that possibly had its own visual style.I really like Danny Elfman's score, an edgy, sweaty descent into madness that suits the character very well.🇧🇷 Um... what else? The Hulk's effects have aged really badly in some scenes, but in others I really think they've held up great. And I really like the design of the current model.
It's more childish and innocent than Norton or Ruffalo Hulks and it works for me.
And we should give credit where credit is due: It's doing something else. It definitely is. And more power for it.
The downside is that what it's trying to do is DULL.
And I know how that sounds! "Oh, mouse couldn't keep his eyes open because there isn't an explosion every five minutes!" But that's not what I mean. In fact, I'm all for a Hulk movie that barely features the Hulk. My favorite part of the Norton version isn't any of the Hulk scenes. It's the first act set in Brazil where Banner lives in disguise because they had scenesvoltage🇧🇷 They hadHeap.This movie isn't art or bullshit, but it figured out how to take the concept of "when this guy gets mad, the shit gets badass" and wring some fucking tension out of it.Hulk 2003... something doesn't work. There are a lot of good parts here, but the wheel just doesn't click.
So the film begins in 1966 with military scientist David Banner doing obscure military science. He asks his superior, Thaddeus Ross, for permission to begin experiments on humans, since killing starfish and monkeys no longer does it for him. Ross, of course, refuses, and Banner, of course, also decides to experiment on himself because it's the '60s and scientists didn't give a damn about it back then. A few weeks later his wife tells him they will have a baby with all the warmth and emotion of the talking clock.
So here's the first really big problem with this film; Every performance is so damnsubject.I don't think anyone really raises their voice above a low murmur in the first half of the film. It's so ubiquitous that it has to be a conscious choice. And I think I can understand why it might have worked, contrasting that muted, universal emotional reticence against the Hulk's angry identity when he finally emerges, but even the Hulk's scenes are eerily... muted.
However, Ross discovers that Banner is experimenting with human DNA and kicks him out of the project. Banner calmly and willingly responds, setting off a nuclear chain reaction in the base, then rushing home to his wife and young son Bruce...
Cut to the present day: The scientist Bruce Krenzler works in Berkeley on a medical miracle technology with radiation, nanomachines and frogs. Krenzler needs today's experiment to be great because a revision is due and further complicating things, he just broke up with his lab partner Betty Ross. Apparently the relationship didn't work out because Bruce wasn't "passionate" enough, but I honestly don't see how it's fair that he has to show emotion when no one else in the entire universe is.
Okay, enough time to talk about split screen.
One of the things this film got a lot of praise for when it came out was its innovative use of split screen to mimic comic panels.
It's like a page from my favorite comic; Boring Idiots #134!
I remember reading a lot of reviews that said approvingly that this was a real "comic book movie" and not a movie with comic book characters. But here's the problem. Comic panels are not such an aesthetic or artistic choice. They are just a functional necessity of the medium. It's a bit like driving a carsense and sensitivity,Ang Lee ended each scene by turning the page, because that's how they do it in the books. Now absolutely split screenI canserve an artistic purpose, as in24used to increase the sense of rising threat, but it's fair hereLaub🇧🇷 It just reminds us that this is based on a comic and yes the creators are aware of that. Occasionally it makes for a visually pleasing image, but more often than not it's just a distraction and a gimmick.
Anyway, the experiment only succeeds in making a frog explode, and Bruce and Betty are devastated by this failure and sit alone in a room, talking to each other in muffled monotones.
The next day, Betty gets a visit from Glen Tablbot, her stupid blonde ex-boyfriend with a crappy smile who works for her dad but is in it for the money, not the science, man.
Thankfully, this incredibly original film that redefines the superhero genre doesn't rely on stale, overused tropes.
I'm kidding, but I actually really like Josh Lucas as Talbot, if only because he seems to understand that movies should be fun. Anyway, sing along if you know the words; Talbot has heard about the incredible toad-killing power of Betty and Bruce's research and wants to acquire it for the military if France gets cocky. But Bruce is too pure and noble a scientist for that and he wants his research to benefit sick children and injured dogs and GAWD THIS SHIT AGAIN.
I explored this in the previous Hulk review but it needs to be repeated. Bruce Banner is not a good man. Bruce Banner, like Frankenstein, ruthlessly manipulated forces he did not fully understand for selfish reasons and was punished for his DAMN HUBRIS. It's meant to be a cautionary tale, not a story about the nicest man in the world getting shit from fate for no real reason. And it's honestly baffling to me that no live-action version, be it Bixby, Norton, Ruffalo, or Bana, has ever had the nerve to say, "Yeah, that guy kinda deserved it."
When Betty returns home during the day, she notices that the new caretaker is a lot more "Grizzly Adams" than the old one. This is David Banner, now in his 70's, played by Nick Nolte. Nolte grew his long hair into a delightfully wild and shaggy mane for the role, which backfired when he was arrested for drunk driving during filming.
The next day, while conducting another experiment, a malfunction occurs and Bruce and Betty's lab assistant, Harper, is nearly killed by a burst of gamma rays. Luckily, Bruce heroically stands between Harper and the machine and blocks the explosion. The distinguishing feature of gamma rays, of course, is that it goes straight throughthrough thesolid matter and that's why it's so dangerous, so Harper will almost certainly die of cancer. Still, very nice touch, Bruce.
Bruce wakes up in the hospital and Betty tells him he should be dead (honestly, by this feat I'm not sure he isn't), but Bruce tells her he's "100%. Most" .
"I use the exaggeration Betty! Hyperbole! God! I feel so alive!"
Later, after getting a dose of painkillers, Bruce wakes up in the middle of the night to see Nick Nolte hovering over him, which happens to all of us from time to time.
Left to right: dog, dog turns Nick Nolte, Nick Nolte.
David tells Bruce that his real name is Bruce Banner and that he is his father and that it is his experiments that are the reason Bruce is not now a giant jelly-like mass of tumors. Bruce tells David to go for a walk, but later loses his temper in the lab and turns into a Playstation 2 cutscene.
The next day, Betty finds Bruce unconscious at his house, having apparently had a great night on the town (eh? eh?). Betty's father, now General Ross, comes and puts Bruce under house arrest and says they found his wallet in the destroyed lab.
Later that night, Bruce gets a call from his father saying he took some of his DNA and injected it into his dogs and sent them to kill Betty. Just then, Glenn Talbot arrives and starts punching Bruce, believing that he is acting behind his back and making a deal with Ross. As you can imagine, that doesn't work so well for Talbot because the Hulk's catchphrase is, "You wouldn't like me if I was in a hurry to get to my girlfriend who's about to be eaten by big green dogs." . 🇧🇷
Bruce comes out, crushing Talbot as Russia's chances of winning the soon-to-be Eurovision Song Contest, and jumps into Betty's house just in time to save her from being eaten. I wish I could say that the sight of the Hulk chasing a whale in a bright green poodle was enough to elevate this film into the realms of dizzying comic book fun, but even that is SOMETHING boring. Much of the combat takes place off-screen in a dark forest while Betty sits in her car and looks worried.
After Hulk kills the dogs he returns to Bruce and Betty calls her father who takes her back to the secret military base where all this mess started. Betty convinces Ross to help Bruce, though he doubts David Banner's son is anything but a threat.
As if to prove his point, David Banner breaks into the lab and undergoes the same experiment that turned Bruce into the Hulk. He doesn't quite become the Hulk, but he does get a decent consolation prize. He transforms into the absorbing man, with the power to take in literally anything he comes in contact with and make it a part of himself.
I think that explains why Disney doesn't want this to be canon. It probably hits a little too close to home.
At the base, Talbot, somehow still alive, takes over Bruce's treatment and begins torturing him to get him to leave. This goes as smoothly as one could hope and soon the Hulk is rampaging through the base and we have a ridiculous moment where Talbot gets blown up and freezes in mid-air because Ang Lee really wants you to know that this is a comic book movie.
Ohh O! we have fun here
Hulk escapes through the desert, and I have to give credit here, the scenes of Hulk lazily leaping through the desert are very comedically faithful. Ross tracks half the US military and they eventually track the Hulk to San Francisco where Betty manages to calm him down enough to turn him back into Bruce.
Bruce is placed in a special prison cell, believed to have been built by the same company that made Magnetos, and his father is placed with him since David surrendered on condition that he be allowed to speak to his son.
Now we have probably my favorite scene in the whole movie, which is this minimalistic little two-man play between Eric Bana and Nick Nolte. And it's weird, but does it somehow work for me? Maybe it's just the theater snob in me.
I would absolutely pay $200 to see this and then pretend to understand over wine in the foyer.
Seriously, Nolte and Bana go HAM and this scene really stands above anything else in the movie. And only two men are talking. But it's not boring, I'll tell you that. Banner tells his father that he remembers his mother (and remembers it was David who killed her). David tells Bruce that he came to see his "real" son because he needs to absorb the Hulk's power to destroy the US military, and when Bruce refuses, he bites off a power cord and absorbs the entire one Electricity from a military base.
"I know actors who just metaphorically chew on the set and are all cowards."
What follows is unattainable. I don't mean it badly, I mean I literally can't see it. I can't visually analyze what should be happening here.
As the Hulk and the Absorbing Man fight in a dimly lit pot of pea soup, Betty explains that David absorbs all of the surrounding energy, which is certainly one way of explaining his feat.
Anyway something happens, there is an explosion and everyone thinks that David and Bruce must be dead.
But far away in the Amazon rainforest, a mysterious American doctor has started treating the locals, warning local bullies that they won't like him when he's angry.
Is it better to strive for greatness and fail, or strive for excellence and achieve the goal? There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in Hulk 2003, but if you'll excuse me, so what? Interesting is not good. Interesting is not moving, thrilling or transcendent. Only "huh" makes it interesting and that doesn't justify the cost of a movie ticket.
Look, I know that's the most basic and unenlightening criticism you can make of a movie, but it sucks. That is. Just that. There is no life. There is no spark. IT IS DOA. blunt. Overbearing. Aggravating.
It somehow makes Boring one of the most bombastic and visually spectacular characters in comic book history.
Our heroic hero25/09
A decent and fairly faithful portrayal of the old Jade Jaws let down by a clumsy and just...offbeat...performance by Bruce Banner.
Our nefarious villains25/14
If everyone in this thing had managed to rise to Nick Nolte's level, it would have been a better film.
Our brave companions 25.05
I want to retract my earlier review of Liv Tyler as Betty Ross as lacking in energy because my god Jennifer Connolly makes her look over the top like Margot Robbie.
No stitches in these pre-MCU barbaric times.
Wait a minute, was that Stan Lee?!
it ishe wasStan Lee, who stars as a security guard with TV's original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno.
Any awkwardly designed comic book character names in dialogue that no one would ever say in real life?
"My father sent them. He is my father. He wanted me to change. He wanted me to turn into this foolHulk.
BOTTOM LINE: 36%
NEXT UPDATE:March 31, 2022
NEXT TIME: Pokemon? Is that like Digimon?