A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 232 – Hulk (2003)

Hulk (2003) – October 18th, 2010

I will freely admit that nowhere in my dalliances with comic books have I delved into The Hulk’s canon. The closest I’ve ever gotten is the occasional guest cameo in other storylines. I know enough about the character to have the basics down. Dude was exposed to gamma radiation and subsequently when he got mad he got all green and muscley. Yeah, I got that. I always assumed it was a reference to Jekyll and Hyde, and as far as I can tell Stan Lee has flat out stated that. Jekyll and Hyde combined with Frankenstein’s monster. Classic horror movie stuff. But neither one has ever been my thing. Bruce Banner’s cool, all brainy mild mannered scientist, but eh. If I may steal a line from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I don’t like men with too many muscles.

As a result of me not being particularly interested in the Hulk as a character, I’ve never bothered to watch any of the film or television versions until now. This one included. Sure, I’ve seen clips from the television show, but the movies just weren’t priorities for me. I’d heard this one was a mite bit slow and somewhat thoughtful. More concerned with the psychology of the Hulk than the smashing. And that’s fairly true. The movie takes a bit to get going. As you might guess, I’m not really a great resource when it comes to speaking to accuracy to the comic canon for the character, so I’ll just speak to the movie itself. And it is on the slower side. There’s a lot of talking and thinking and meaningful looks and flashbacks. There’s a romance built into the movie’s plot and that, along with some repressed memories, make for a significant portion of the film’s thrust. I’m not sure about that choice. It’s an interesting one, and it makes for a deeper movie than I might have expected if I hadn’t heard exactly that.

In this movie, Bruce is a scientist whose childhood is largely unknown to him. He believes his biological parents to be dead and doesn’t really open up about anything even to his girlfriend. So they’re broken up, but they work together and it all seems like it would be horribly awkward, and it is, but that’s the point. Their work together is what catalyzes Bruce’s transformation into his Hulk form, but in this movie Bruce already had the potential for the transformation in him, thanks to work his father did before Bruce was born. And I don’t know if that comes from any version of the comic canon, but I kind of like the idea. It makes for a Bruce/Hulk with some deep-seated psychological issues, and makes the whole division between his two forms more of a metaphor. I think it really always was, but it’s emphasized here. Purposefully. Because that’s a lot of the focus of the movie. It wasn’t done and cast aside. It’s a big deal from beginning to end. Bruce’s issues are dealt with bit by bit, but never completely. We hear about how closed off he is as a child and then still as an adult, since that’s Betty’s major complaint about him. And she’s the one who tries to help him later on, exploring some of the sources of his memories in order to try and get control over himself.

This whole approach also gives some material for the villain of the film. I don’t think it’s a big-ass deal to go explaining that Bruce’s father is not a great dude, and eventually goes full-on villain. And as villains go, he does a good job. He’s unstable, in more ways than one, and to be honest, I’m not even sure what his goals were in the end, but I’m not sure I need to know. He wanted to tear shit down. Destroy things. Get back at the military and government who wouldn’t let him do what he wanted. Okay. Not unique as villainous intentions go, but it works. The movie sets up Bruce’s father in one corner, and then Betty’s father as a high ranking military officer in another, and they’ve had dealings before, so that whole plot works rather well. The fathers, the children, the results of research that should never have happened, children rebelling against their parents. Great themes, and they’re worked in together nicely. Except there’s a secondary villain, and he’s where I think things get sloppy.

The two-pronged villain approach has been done in other movies, notably both of the Iron Man films. There’s a petty villain and the true villain, superpowered if we’re going that way, and we are here. I just don’t know if this movie really pulls it off. I think I like it best when the petty villain has some connection to the true villain, or at least fits into his plot somehow. But in this movie our petty villain is a man named Talbot. He seems to have some sort of background with Betty, and he runs some big company that wants to buy Bruce and Betty’s lab and take over their research. It’s implied that he works with the military, but isn’t military himself, so there’s some rivalry between him and Betty’s father, but we’re never given much on him. Talbot and our main villain here are pretty disconnected. The only things they have in common are connections (somewhat antagonistic) to Betty’s father and wanting to use Bruce/the Hulk for their own purposes. Talbot gets his ass kicked six ways to Sunday and he’s really not too bright when you get down to it, so he really is petty. He seems less a villain than a tool, and a clumsy one at that. His whole role in the movie bothered me. It felt disjointed and poorly incorporated into the rest of the movie, I think because it had so few connections with the rest of the background plot and because it doesn’t play into the more serious aspects of the story at all.

I liked some aspects of this movie. I liked that it tried to so some serious looking into the character and that it still had fun action scenes. I can’t complain about the performances. Eric Bana did well with the split character of Bruce/Hulk, and Jennifer Connolly did a nice job with Betty. Nick Nolte seems to have jumped right into the role of Bruce’s father, and Sam Elliott was great as Betty’s father. And those are the truly important roles. But there were bits that felt uneven. The Hulked-out dogs and Talbot being the most notable. They’re weak and/or silly in a movie that’s dealing with strong and serious issues. I’m all for adding some tongue-in-cheek nods to the pulpy comic canon and background of the material. Cameos by Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno in the beginning are the right touch there. But a giant snarling poodle getting smashed into green dust (what, are they fungi now?) just don’t fit for me. It left me frustrated. Maybe if I loved the character and the canon I’d have let it go, or maybe it would bug me more. I don’t know. But I’m not so into the story that I can overlook some unevenness in the plot. So while I liked the movie fine, it just doesn’t excite me. But I guess since I’m not a fan of the original comics, they didn’t make it for me.


October 18, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] The movie starts off a little slow and action-less. It’s a bit complicated and somewhat cheesy, seeing as the father appears in Bruce’s life and tries to become involved. It’s not bad, but it could have used a little more conflict in the beginning. The rest is OK! […]

    Pingback by The Three Hulks: Eric Bana, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog | September 26, 2012 | Reply

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