Year: 2003
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: James Schamus, John Turman, Michael France. Honorary credits for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby


I’ve wanted to watch this movie for a while now, since we reviewed the most recent Hulk movie. I specifically wanted to try to pinpoint why this movie was such a failure.  I remembered how much it bombed when it was released but didn’t think it was that bad of a movie.  Well, I was being too generous to the film.  Having watched it now I can verify that it is that bad.  It’s an awful movie to go along with a character that films should not be made about.  There are things I do like about this movie, good ideas from the director and casting coordinator, but they couldn’t do enough to help this hopeless film.

There is one lone thing that I think does make this movie exceptional and I don’t know why it hasn’t been tried by any other comic film as of yet.  Ang Lee used an interesting technique when editing the film in which he split the screen to have different footage playing simultaneously at one time. I think this gave the movie a real comic book look and feel to it. It was an excellent idea, and probably the best thing the movie has to offer.  This Hulk movie came out early in the era of Marvel character movies and I thought it was a really clever touch to set it apart from others. In the dozen or so comic book movies that have come out over the last ten years I am surprised I haven’t seen this effect again. It very well could be that nobody would do anything that was done in this movie again simply because it was such a disaster of a film.

I also thought the special effects and action in this movie were good.  This is something Lee excels at as we have seen from his prior work. However while his movies may sport great and exciting action they are never short of long and boring retarding points usually peppered with long shots of scenery and horizon shots. I have never really been a fan of Ang Lee but he isn’t a bad filmmaker.  When this movie came out I was familiar with him from his film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so I knew what to expect when the movie was being made.  Great action, long stretches of boredom.  At the time in 2003 Lee had been up for two directing jobs, this movie or Terminator 3. I was glad he chose to do this one because I felt he would ruin the Terminator franchise by directing the long-awaited third film. Lee got behind the camera on this one with lots of buzz from his successful foreign film that had been a hit in the US (Crouching Tiger) but he pretty much destroyed all his credibility with this movie.  You could argue that he got it back with Brokeback Mountain, but I never saw the film and can’t get behind that idea.  I have high hopes for Life of Pi and look forward to the opportunity to see it.

For the most part I liked the cast of this movie and felt they all fit their roles appropriately.  I am not an Eric Bana fan and don’t think he really captured the character well here but I do think he looked the part.  He looked much like I had expected Bruce Banner to when I was young and reading the comics.  Although I really think his performance was campy and I think both Ed Norton and Mark Ruffalo played the part better.  I think Sam Elliott was great as General Thunderbolt.  I really think when they rebooted the franchise they should have had him stay on board and play the part in both films. Jennifer Connelly was a good choice for Betty Ross and I think she played the part better than Liv Tyler did in the reboot.  I think the writing of Bruce Banner’s father was a bad idea and I think Nick Nolte did an awful job playing the part.  It’s not Nolte’s fault mind you, the role was ridiculous, but he didn’t do anything to justify the character.  I think Josh Lucas’s character was stupid as well and brought the movie down a notch.  When you stand next to a stick of dynamite you don’t light matches, why this guy kept trying to pick a fight with Bruce Banner and the Hulk is beyond me. It was just another stupid thing in a stupid movie.

This movie failed most miserably in establishing a real villain and by centering the story around Bruce Banner’s father.  Not only was Nolte bad as a villain but I thought his mutant dogs were really stupid.  Maybe if they were just giant pit bulls I could have been accepting to a degree but the poodle sealed it, it was a stupid idea.  Josh Lucas’s puny human sub-villain was unnecessary and poorly written. I think when you make a movie about a famous comic character it is important to stay true to the roots of the character.  You are making a film about a character that everybody already knows and loves.  You make the movie about him the way it is supposed to be made; you don’t screw around with what people already know about the character.  Making Bruce Banner turn into the Hulk as a direct result of his father’s scientific experiments on him was a bad idea. They kept the Gamma radiation accident as part of the story but in this film it is only what triggers the transformation and not what started it.  During the whole film the movie alludes to this back story that Bruce remembers and is supposed to explain how everything happened but by the time you get to it you are already bored.

The real problem here is simply that it is difficult to make a movie about the Hulk character.  The Hulk is different from other Marvel characters in that he is not a hero, he is a monster.  Bruce Banner is a brilliant and innocent man who is cursed with this monster he turns into.  It goes against the basic elements of all super hero films.  The movie centers on the hero as he tries to stop the dangerous villain threatening the world or something personal to him. The Hulk doesn’t think and he doesn’t save.  He simply destroys, he is fueled by rage and when he gets going he is going to leave a path of destruction behind him.  Despite all this the jolly green character has always been popular so studios are always going to try to bank on the name recognition.  This only makes for a difficult task for the writers, although the others have been much better.  The reboot was fantastic and I really like how the Hulk was incorporated into The Avengers movie.

This movie however, is not worth your time and I strongly suggest you don’t waste any watching it.  The movie may have moments here and there but overall it is a waste. The reboot too is practically insignificant now that The Avengers has come out but it is still a much better movie than this one.  I think I have sufficiently covered why this movie was such a failure but if I missed anything by all means leave a comment and add to the story.

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