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The Hulk Review

By Joe Lozito

The Green Style


Ang Lee has a story to tell. And whether he's working in a period piece, family drama, martial arts epic or, as in the case of "The Hulk", a comic book adaptation, he is going to tell his story. Sometimes it may take a while. Sometimes, it's a long while. Those with the patience to pay attention, however, will be rewarded.

Not only is Mr. Lee not content to settle for a standard superhero blockbuster, full of the requisite explosions and mayhem, but he won't even leave Stan Lee's Marvel comics Hulk mythology alone. Director Lee takes writer Lee's original idea and inserts so many storylines (some more interesting than others) that the movie becomes as bulky as its rage-aholic hero. There are not one but two paternal complexes, an evil military opportunist and a childhood full of repressed memories standing between mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) and the Big & Tall Man's shop (oddly, for all its plot, the film still doesn't answer the burning question of why the Hulk's pants stay on).

Despite Lee's stunning directing style (he uses multiple split screens to create the effect of panels of a comic book), the pacing of the film's first act suffers. Once the film gets going, however, it is a blast. There are moments of "Hulk" that are unlike any comic book adaptation to come before it. The way Lee orchestrates the film is closer to painting than directing. At times, it feels as though a graphic novel is being laid out on screen. The comic book arena frees Lee to explore the bounds of his medium. Here, like his masterful "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", it is clear that he is a master, wielding his camera like a paintbrush.

Much has been made of the look of our green hero and, yes, at times he looks a little too cartoonish (though the worst effect in the film belongs, oddly, to an errant drop of blood). But for the majority of the film, he is real and he can smash it up with the best of 'em. He destroys houses, throws tanks and leaps onto helicopters with seamless grace, and watching him bound around the desert is a transcendent moment for any comic book fan. Here, more than any recent adaptation, is a merging of technology and storytelling that actually works.

At times, "Hulk" generates real emotion thanks to its stellar cast, particularly Mr. Bana and Jennifer Connelly who, after "A Beautiful Mind" again finds herself cast opposite a deranged scientist. Ms. Connelly has the unenviable task of acting opposite the completely computer-generated Hulk, but she is up to the challenge. As Ms. Connelly's father, Sam Elliot all but steals the movie as the classic military dad with rage problems of his own. Rounding out the paternal nightmare is Nick Nolte, looking like he just finished the photoshoot for that infamous mugshot as the elder Banner.

Sadly, the film's ending degenerates into a special effects debacle that muddies up any elegance that came before it. But aside from that and its overlong running time, this "Hulk" is a smash.

What did you think?

Movie title The Hulk
Release year 2003
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Ang Lee's stunning direction nearly overcomes the bloated and ill-paced script which makes this latest Marvel adaptation as bulky as its chartreuse hero. Visually, however, there are moments of pure comic book nirvana.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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