Frankly, I feel for Ang Lee because he was an art-house filmmaker tasked with creating a summer blockbuster. As we all know, summer blockbusters are for the masses, who don't necessarily CARE about art-house filmmaking. They like to see stuff blow up! Well, stuff definitely blows up. However, Ang blows stuff up with STYLE. Really...no kidding. There is an art to the action in this movie. It is superb!
But I digress....
I've been reading a lot of reviews of this movie. Some nail the issues on the head, but some just flat-out don't get it. Yeah, the brain-blob thing at the end and the obligatory "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" at the end were cheesy. In fact, those two things single handedly dropped this movie down to a B for me. But the point is, this is well-known character, a pretty old story and, no matter what, it needed to be ambitious. I've read that people thought, "it could have been better" and "lacks focus." Ok, it wasn't perfect. But the fact is, no one (and I mean NO ONE) could have made this movie, using this story, about this character, any better. This was the best Hulk movie that could have ever been made.
I've never been a huge fan of the Hulk. It was one of the comics that I never really bought. I was a huge Avengers fan, whose early issues featured the Hulk, but the Hulk was never a hero for me in the traditional sense of spandex-wearing, glory-hound heroes. And, as a kid, I never really cared for the television series with the late Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, who has a cameo in the film with Stan Lee. The stories were always too serious and I never bought a "human" Hulk. Lou was just too small and, frankly, retarded looking. The show never captured the true impact of the Hulk's strength, agility and rage. As an adult though, I have watched a few of the old Hulk TV episodes and I'm surprised how well done the stories are.
So it came time to add Hulk to the long list of, pardon the pun, green-lit Marvel Hero pictures. X-Men, one of the riskiest franchises in which to try a movie, especially with the passionate fans of Wolverine, has been done perfectly. Spider-Man, although I did not care for it at first, has grown on me in home video to where I realize how perfectly it was done compared to its original story and feel. Daredevil, a comic for which I never cared, resulting in quite a good, dark movie. So how does one now add a huge, very un-human-like character who obviously, to be done correctly, had to be CGI?
Well, first of all, it had to be action-packed. That was a given. In fact, this movie will probably not make its money back because it's not a mindless continuous action-driven bore. It's not 2 Fast 2 Furious. At the very least, the story had to out-do the cheesy television show in depth. And, although it seemed like it would not be a difficult challenge, it had to out do the weak Hulk on TV and the two-dimensional Saturday morning cartoon Hulk. And finally, it had to make the comic book purists happy.
Oh...and one more thing...it had to make money.
Come on! Get real! Those expectations alone are pretty unrealistic, at least in their entirety. Heck, making comic book purists happy could be the hardest part sometimes. However, I started thinking that things were going to be alright with the Hulk when Ang Lee was announced as the director. I mean, you have to hand it to Marvel. Bryan Singer? Sam Raimi? Ang Lee? Heavy hitters baby! These are very good filmmakers tackling these projects. So, at the very least, the best shot would be given.
So let's take this step-by-step. First of all...to comic book purists. I'm interested in hearing more feedback from them about this movie. There are some radical changes to the original story, which may turn off some of the purists. For instance, there was never a father named David Banner (Nick Nolte) who performed a radical experiment on himself only to have the genetic alteration be passed on to his son. However, purists may overlook some of the changes because, in my opinion, the movie makes the Hulk story better, for the most part. Purists may also be so impressed with the comic-book-like editing that they overlook the story changes.
Secondly, the story. I think this part I should have been the least surprised. Ang Lee is a master story teller. In his films, he goes to great lengths to provide extensive character development. Hulk is no different, almost to a fault. However, and I'm not sure if it is because the movie execs made him cut a lot of story out (which is what I read), there are many holes.
The many complaints I have heard about this movie are that Ang spent too much time developing the characters and, that may be true. It is 45 minutes until we see the Hulk (which was fine with me) due to the extensive build-up story and character development.
However, for all its attempts at character development, I never understood why Bruce liked being the Hulk when I saw more evidence to the contrary. I never understood why the "moments" Bruce had seemed uncontrollable until Talbot WANTED Bruce to turn into the Hulk, then he consciously stopped it from happening. And I never understood, until a ridiculous, over-dramatic rant at the end, why David Banner was so hell-bent on creating this genetic alteration. I never understood why some people died (Bruce's mom) as a result of the gamma explosion, but some did not (Betty, David and Bruce). Finally, I never understood why General Ross left his daughter in the cafe alone.
The David-and-Bruce father-and-son thing never really got to me, which may explain why I hated the end so much. In fact, since this was a father/child movie, I actually believed the General Ross/Betty Ross relationship more. Sam Elliott's performance as Thunderbolt Ross was excellent, while Jennifer Connelly's performance was good and well-cast, but I could not get over her empty stare, which I've seen in many of her movies. I'm not sure if she's trying to be sexy (which she lost the ability to do years ago) or if she is just that odd.
One thing that Ang did very well was the relationship between Bruce and Betty. I bought into the fact that Bruce was emotionally distant because his natural instinct, from the genetic mutation, was to suppress his feelings. And when his "emotions" finally came out following the gamma accident in the lab, all he wanted to do was find his love, Betty, who had wanted him to "feel" for so long. Excellent job. This was very well done.
And I liked the father-squabble between General Ross and David Banner. It was believable and drove the story well, even when Ross put aside his anger to allow David to see Bruce one last time because it was "what Betty wanted." It was the father-child relationships that were not very well done. I'm wondering if they were cutting room floor casualties.
Finally, and this was the important question for many, but was the Hulk himself done well? As disappointed as I was in the "fat face" of the Hulk in the Super Bowl trailer, $20 million was successfully spent "reworking" the CGI Hulk at the last minute. In fact, the CGI Hulk was one of the best parts about the movie. At last, there was an accurate portrayal of the green monster in all his strength, rage and agility. Ang outdid himself and he should be very proud. Comic purists should be relieved and pleased at the result of this $150 million investment. From a selfish point of view, I almost don't care if they make their money back. I'm just glad someone spent the money to do the movie right! This success also makes me look forward to the CGI version of the Thing from next Thanksgiving's anticipated Fantastic Four movie.
The build up to the introduction of the Hulk was perfect, as were the battle scenes between the Hulk and the mutated dogs, as well as the military attacks. However, all of the action culminates into an absurd battle against a now-mutated David Banner for a father-son finale. I walked away wondering, "Ok...how did Bruce live through that, but David did not?"
In summary, I would have actually added more story (though I think most people would have left the theater) to explain a lot of the holes in the film and I would have chopped off the pointless final 20 minutes. I honestly think Ang had that idea as well, but was forced into some ridiculous parts to appease the masses.
Hulk was a very enjoyable film though, as long as you don't want to critique it. I left the theater very pleased and only thought about the holes later. At the very least, the action is worth the price of admission.
Yeah, that didn't happen.
What a mess of a movie. For starter, this film made Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte look boring, and it is almost impossible for these guys to look boring in movies. With such lifeless, bland characters at the center of it and the story that is so dull and, frankly, pointless, it was beyond painful to see Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly (two really fine actors in my opinion) talking like some really screwed-up replicants. Do they even possess a soul? Or a heart? Or even consciousness? Why are they talking like robots? Who are these people??
The visual effects do not hold up at all and most of the action set-pieces (not that there were many) lack any sense of heft or visceral thrill. The dialogue is not interesting, the editing style is so awkward (trying to recreate the look of a comic book, with multiple shots popping up within one big frame), and in the end you learn nothing about the characters or their motivations or their purpose in life. I really, really didn't like this movie. What a disappointment.