The Good: Jennifer Connelly's presence
The Bad: Effects, Directoral technique, Acting, Plot, Utter lack of real character, Pacing, Music
The Basics: With terrible acting, substandard effects, a ridiculous plot and characters that fall flat, Hulk is an incredible disappointment that should be seen only as punishment.
Wow. Usually, we use the utterance to exclaim something incredible. When we encounter something we cannot believe, when we're trying to describe recent ecstasy and run out of words, these are the positive uses of "Wow!" Then, there's "wow." As in, "how could something so bad get made?" Or "How is it people threw millions of dollars into making this when there are people starving in the world?" In that latter sense, when I finished the unending, ponderous flick Hulk, I said "wow." Then, to cheer myself up, I began to read more of Ralph Reed's book.
Hulk tells the story of Dr. David Banner, an unethical scientist working for the military on a project to make soldiers who will regenerate (back in the mid-60s). In the process, he begins to experiment on himself and while there appear to be no effects of his genetic manipulations, when his wife has a son, it does not take David Banner long to realize he has successfully passed something on to his child, Bruce.
Thirty years later, Dr. Bruce Banner is a scientist working on much the same thing his father was. He has just lost the affections of his girlfriend, Betty and an ambitious industrialist is pressuring Betty and Bruce to sell out, work for him and make super soldiers for a private company. While saving a friend from a machine that microwaves frogs, Bruce is exposed to radiation that unlocks the potential of his genes, causing him to transform from a mild-mannered person to an impossible huge green creature that kills, maims and destroys in a ridiculously plot-convenient way.
So, wow. Where to start on how bad this movie is? Actually, first, the good. Jennifer Connelly is in the movie and it is always a pleasure to watch her. Her acting here is nothing spectacular, largely because the character she is playing is rather monolithic, but it's always nice to see Connelly getting work.
I'm rushing the review in bullet points from here on out. Why? The movie was so bad that the time it is taking for me to write this review could be better spent contemplating what I personally could do to help bring about world peace. Hulk wasted over two hours of my life (it felt more like four) and writing about it only wastes more.
The directoral style is just plain terrible. Ang Lee breaks the movie up visually much like a comic book, so there are frequently multiple "panels" on the screen. This is not consistent throughout the movie, but at various places, the film basically resorts to picture in picture. And the size and shape of the various frames continue to change, creating a sense of movement that is lacking in the story. So, as the plot plods along, the movie tries to compensate with keeping the images rapidly changing. It is distracting and annoying. The piece feels like an art school project where a bunch of students got high and went wild on a mixing board. I kept waiting for a star wipe.
Danny Elfman creates a soundtrack that is both unmemorable and uncohesive. Unlike something like the Batman Returns (reviewed here!) soundtrack that works quite well independent of the movie as a creepy, moody orchestral piece, the music backing Hulk is utterly dependent on the movie or vice versa. The film uses the music, like the directoral transitions, to move along a plot that is not headed in a direction satisfactorily.
As for that plot, "just plain terrible" does not begin to describe this one. The time leading up to the first appearance of the Hulk is slow, meandering and feels pointless. Once Hulk arrives, it just descends into ridiculous movement by the greatest cast of military idiots since Beetle Bailey. The last section of the movie, where Hulk faces off against a rather new enemy caps the movie off with an idiotic sequence that is giant in terms of special effects but makes utterly no sense from a plot perspective.
The movie asks the viewer to believe that the U.S. Army, flawed as it might be, would be so stupid as to put two genetic mutants together in essentially a giant power plant without monitoring them when one is a known criminal and psychopath. And the psychopath is not the one locked to a chair. All this without any sort of monitoring.
It's that bad.
And the effects, oh my gosh, the effects. Hulk is just plain terrible, making the tigers from Gladiator look like quality CG. But beyond the Hulk monster, the effects are ridiculous and grandiose in a way that translates to the screen as just plain silly. Hulk begins to leap miles at a time and the viewer watches this preposterous green dot flailing across the desert and we ask, "What's the appeal?"
But to return to the idiot characters, after half an hour of big budget special effects involving shooting everything conceivable at Hulk, it never seems to occur to the characters that this approach is not working. At the movie's climax, there is a similar - though escalated - exchange. Yet, somehow, increased force manages to work there. It buggers all reason and it makes even the imagination say "this is stupid, not creative."
I almost did not finish Hulk. You know the phrase, "You couldn't pay me to watch this?" If I didn't think people might read my review and I might make a few cents off my words of disdain for this movie, I would not have finished it. You couldn't pay me to watch it again.
For other movies based upon the Marvel comic books, please check out my reviews of:
X-Men: First Class
Iron Man 2
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.