How do I piss thee off? Let me count the ways... (With due apologies to Shakespeare.) In the 60's, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby found enough ways to make six hugely successful comics about a big green monster fuelled by anger. But the scriptwriters of The Hulk movie often seem intent on finding the hulks inside all of us. I found myself going into the aaarrrgghhhh!!! mode myself a few times because the plot moves so damn slowly.
Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a scientist working on groundbreaking research involving the use of gamma radiation on living organisms. Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) is his co-researcher and, unable to handle his emotional fences, now his ex-girlfriend. Corporate and military forces want the research and threaten to blow the research lab in, but Bruce is thinking not-by-the-hair-of-my-chinny-chin-chin. We trawl through some flashbacks of Betty and her dad General Ross (Sam Elliott) and Betty and Bruce and come to the conclusion that it was all an utter waste of time.
The experiments ain't going all that peachy when something goes horribly wrong (as it invariably must), and to save a co-worker, Bruce absorbs a mondo dose of gamma radiation. Everyone's surprised that he's alive while he's having a gala time, having some tripped out dreams. Bruce was led to believe that his parents died when he was four, and he's battled some suppressed memories and emotions. In the hospital, he's visited by David Banner (Nick Nolte) who claims to be his dad and gives him the inside scoop on what went down 30 years ago.
David starts a story about his own genetic experiments, which seems like nothing more than a vaguely pregnant piece of nonsense. Soon, our boy Bruce gets pissed off (it's a little unclear why exactly) and transforms (too quickly?) into the green gamma goliath we've come to know and love as The Hulk.
The baap knows that the Hulk's only weakness is Betty, and tries to kill her. All the beta wants is to be with her, though he's a little bigger, greener and meaner now. So anyway, a skirmish with mutant dogs and a few broken buildings later, he's captured and taken to a military base. Soon he escapes, and the movie finally begins - an hour and a half later. The scheming dad has some devious designs himself, and this adds a few more painful reels to the film. A majorly melodramatic father-son showdown later, you realize that that's two hours of your life gone straight into waste-of-time folder.
If this movie had mammoth openings in the States, either the Marvel comics fan club had their quadrennial group outing or biological warfare is here dahlings - 'cos something in the air's affecting their brains. The Hulk is like something in the background while you chat, have popcorn and drink some pesticides with friends.
I found myself waiting for a flicker of expression from Eric Bana, and it took the arrival of the green guy to bring it out. He looks like he was cast here because his face most closely resembled the CGI of the Hulk. Jennifer Connelly is very good in her supporting role and pours life into a character that would otherwise have been easily overshadowed. Nick Nolte raves and rants a lot, but by and large gives a good account of himself.
The special effects in the two or three memorable sequences are quite good. Director Ang Lee has tried some novel picture-in-picture form of editing - he was probably trying to replicate the feel of the comics, but it's more disconcerting than exciting. Lee also seems to be suffering from a Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon hangover - he's got the Hulk flying all over the place!
You do feel kinda sorry for The Hulk in a human King Kong, misunderstood monster sort of way, but you feel even sorrier for his wardrobe designer, what with all those clothes ripping off every so often. The girls next to me were giggling at the thought of what big, ahem, muscles, those shorts must be hiding. Wonder what material the shorts are made of, eh?
It's not in the league of X-Men and Spiderman, but The Hulk has its moments - sadly, a bit too few and a bit too far between. It's only the special effects that lift this movie out of the pits.