Saturday, September 29, 2012
(June 2003, U.S.)
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I wanted to be the Incredible Hulk!
(Wait! What the fuck did he just say?? First he told us that he wanted to be John Travolta when he wrote his blog for GREASE and now THIS???)
Okay, maybe I really didn't want to be the Hulk himself, but I did have these wild childish fantasies about being able to turn myself into something much bigger and much stronger than who I was. This is what happens to a kid who watches CBS-TV's THE INCREDIBLE HULK so religiously! Cheers, Bill Bixby...
Despite my childhood wishes and fascinations, I can't say I was quick to get on line to see Ang Lee's film version of HULK when it was first released. Perhaps I was hearing too much mixed to negative hype surrounding the film, particularly with the CGI effects used rather than something a little more "human". Well, one Saturday night after feeling rather fed up with my weekend houseguests, I decided to escape for a couple of hours and give HULK a look at the local neighborhood movie theater in Westhampton Beach. I have to say, for the life of me, I can't understand why the film was so widely disregarded. In my humble cinematic opinion, HULK is everything the story should be; dark, mysterious and menacing.
I'm not an expert on the Hulk as a comic book hero (nor am I an expert on ANY comic book hero!), but it just seems to me that when you're dealing with a character like Dr. Bruce Banner (played by Eric Bana) whose accidental exposure to gamma radiation gives him the unconstrollable power to transform himself into the legendary green monster whenever he becomes enraged, you need to concentrate the film on the dark issues of a man dealing with his horrible "green" predicament rather than the comic book camp that has been the failing element of so many other comic book movies, in my opinion. The film also explores a story aspect that I'd never seen on TV before and that's Bruce Banner as a kid falling victim to his father's rather twisted scientific experiments on his own son, which serves as the genesis of Bruce's inevitable super powers. Perhaps this was an element in the original comic books? I'll never know. I do know that if you thought YOU had issues with your father, they're nothing compared to Bruce's when he learns what his own father (played by Nick Nolte in a great role, I might add) did to him. Yes, that would make any man angry, wouldn't you say?
One of the additional criticisms I recall at the time of HULK's release was Ang Lee's artistic touch to the character and the story. It's a shame that mindless critics and moviegoers would attack that particular issue because we were all more than willing to accept that sort of induction into a superhero character when Christopher Nolan gave us BATMAN BEGINS (2005) only two years later. With HULK, the director of films like SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995) and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000) tries his best to actually deal with the issues in the story of Bruce Banner's tormented soul as the Hulk, rather than simply compensating with and relying on brainless visual motion picture effects. The tormented soul aspect is important here because other than Bruce's daddy issues, the Hulk does not battle any traditional comic book villian in this story (that comes later in THE AVENGERS, which I still haven't seen), and that's part of what makes the story work so well.
So again I ask, what exactly were disappointed Hulk fans expecting from the first film? The televisions show revisted? Not likely. A bodybuilder painted green? We did that already! No, the CGI effects (as much as I often condemn them) were the logical choice for human transformation on screen in the 21st Century. I'm not saying a make-up legend like Rick Baker wouldn't have done a viable job, but it likely would not have contained the same spectacular power that the Hulk is expected to display on screen. The plight and fate of Bruce Banner is clearly an ongoing saga, and in my opinion, rebooting the franchise with new people like Edward Norton and Liv Tyler are not going to improve what I already felt did not need fixing.
Superhero films as art films! Yes, they can and they DO work!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Bruce Banner (in Spanish): "You're making me angry! You wouldn't like me when I'm angry!"