Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hulk

Today, we follow Eric Bana from Munich to 2003’s version of the Hulk by Ang Lee.

I grew up a big comic book fan. One of the things we have consistently suffered through is the poor translation of our favorite characters from the four colored page to the big screen. The problem s reasonable--the characters have to be altered to appeal to a mass audience, not just geeky fan boys-- but recent times have introduced a golden age of super hero films faithful to the comics. You have a generation of filmmakers who grew up o comics to thank for that.

Ang Lee is not one of those comic book fans turned filmmaker and his Hulk is a blight on the genre during a otherwise glorious time.

What bothers me is that I went to the theater expecting a popcorn munching summer thriller experience, but got an uncomfortably dark exploration of severe child abuse with all its consequences. I might have been fine with that, too, but the elements were an awkward fit with the rest of the story.

Within the last twenty years or so, it has been added to the Hulk’s mythology that Bruce Banner and his mother were brutally abused by his father. The Hulk is a personification of the childhood rage over his helplessness. The subject has been treated wit much care and aspect over the years. Said care and respect has elevated the character far beyond the, “Hulk smash puny human!” days when the comic often languished in the doldrums.

I suspect the average moviegoers does not know that,however, and went to the film expecting high adventure. Heck, I did know that, but I was still expecting more fun.

The problem can be summer up with the following anecdote. I went to see Hulk o a whim when I saw it was playing at an afternoon matinee on my way to Taco Bell. I had a day off from summer session of classes at Regent Law and I just decided to go alone to see it. About 35 minutes into the film, I heard a little bot whisper to his father, ’Is the Hulk gonna how up now?”

The question gave me a realization then and one later. The first realization was it is a terrible summer action movie when the title character does not even appear util the movie is a third of the way over. The later realization came when the flashbacks of abuse began playing a dominant role. Then I wondered why anyone would bring a child to see this movie. I was 26 and jaded as all get out, but I did not wat to see it, either.

Hulk fails for me big time. The action is not fun. The drama was not compelling. It made me feel traumatized myself. I still have a difficult time with the existential ending. Not of that belongs in a summer super hero movie.

I will give the film two kudos. One, the special effects were good. The Hulk bears an uncanny resemblance to Eric Bana, which is a nice touch. You might even thik the special effect sequences are worth seeing the movie for. Be my guest, but brace yourself for what the movie is really about. The other kudo goes to Nick Nolte for playing the abusive Brian Banner. He is an unappealing character, but Nolte plays him to the hilt.

But you should skip Hulk altogether. Ang lee is usually a great director, but he missed the mark badly here.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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