By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
In 2003, fresh off of resounding critical and box office success for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, director Ang Lee decided his next project would be… a big budget superhero flick? Hulk turned out about as well as you’d expect it to, with his first cut apparently full of all kinds of crazy art house flourishes. The studio balked, and after a series of compromises we got a movie that pleased pretty much nobody. Recently, though, some critics have begun to call it a hidden gem, with some even suggesting it belongs above films like Ride Like the Devil in Lee’s oeuvre.
Criterion says No
This version of the Hulk story takes us all the way bask to Bruce Banner’s conception, almost literally. David Banner, who disappointingly doesn’t spit rhymes even once, is a government scientist who likes playing God a little too much. When this gets him fired, he stages a disaster that kickstarts a little something he planted in his and his son’s genetic code. When, years later, Bruce reencounters Gamma radiation in a lab accident, voila! You’ve got yourself a Hulk. Now, stir in some Jennifer Connelly love interest, Sam Elliot military antagonist, Josh Lucas dbag contractor, and the reappearance of good ‘ol dad (Nick Nolte), and voila! You’ve got yourself a Hulk.
You have to at least applaud the thinking behind giving Ang Lee a superhero movie. He threw plenty of ideas at the wall for Hulk, and some of them, like the comic book panel split-screens, or a beautiful, lighting-illuminated flying scene, actually stick. Connelly does a great job with a fairly thinly written role, and Nolte is every bit as bugfuck insane as you could hope for.
It’s just what I do.
Unfortunately, most of those ideas hit the wall and just slid slowly down, leaving a trail of sticky residue behind them. Lee from the look of things took a lot of inspiration form the cheeseball 60s and 70s superhero TV shows, and if his aim was to be cheesy, the result would make a Wisconsin dairy farmer beam with pride.
Look what I done made!
You know what goes great with cheese? Ham. Apparently that’s Eric Bana’s line of thinking, anyway. He’s not the only actor guilty of hamming it up in this one, but then again, allegedly dogs would converge from miles around on the studio backlot where he was filming his scenes.
And they looked like this
Yep, there have been whole articles written on the many, many ways they fucked up the CGI for this one, and it certainly has not improved with age.
The theatrical cut of Hulk runs for a robust 138 minutes. Since cheesiness and character development are nigh on mutually exclusive, you have to think 20 minutes or so of either could have been lopped off of this behemoth.
Well, you have to give it to Ang Lee- he was trying to make something original. And he did, just not in the ways you’d like. Hulk isn’t the complete disaster a lot of folks called it when it came out, but it’s still not very good.
Take a Drink: for every flashback or dream sequence
Take a Drink: whenever Hulk smash, of course
Take a Drink: every time someone says something “sciency”
Take a Drink: every time a comic book edit or flourish is used
Do a Shot: whenever Banner switches to Batman Voice™