Ed Driscoll

HULK SMASH PUNY FILM INTO

HULK SMASH PUNY FILM INTO GUITAR PICKS! The film version of The Hulk is truly, truly dreadful. Save your money, wait for the DVD, where you can (a) rent it and (b) fast forward to the action sequences which are only so-so, but far better than the scenes leading up to them. The only way to like the Hulk is to (a) like and (b) identify with Bruce Banner before he’s subjected to the “lethal gamma rays”. There was nothing to like about any of the human characters, and the CGI Hulk was surprisingly phony looking (and acting).

The film sort of resembled King Kong meets Austin Powers, with its combination of goofy split screens and Andromeda Strain-like government lab deep underground in the middle of the desert (which could double as a pretty good set for the next James Bond or Austin Powers movie.) I know the split screens were supposed to create a comic book-like atmosphere, but instead, all they reminded me of were Austin Powers and the same 1960s films (such as The Thomas Crown Affair that it tried to parody.)

The Australian newcomer Eric Bana was a reasonably good blank cipher to play Bruce Banner. He’s wasted in the role, but that’s the director and screenwriter’s fault, not his. Jennifer Connelly is wonderful eye-candy (if a bit anorexic looking), and Nick Nolte goofily chewed the scenery as Bruce’s dad, David (the late Bill Bixby not able to take the part, alas). But what was the deal with Sam Elliot’s moustache? It looked like the same strange Montgomery-like style that Michael Bates, the warden in A Clockwork Orange wore.

Actually, in a way Eric Bana is part of the problem: Michael Keaton was an established star by the time he played Batman for Tim Burton. He had just come off Clean and Sober where he established that he can do more than blackout comedy and slapstick. Despite the dire warnings of the comic book crowd, because Keaton was a known and likable star, you identified with him as the tortured Bruce Wayne, and felt for his plight as an orphan–a man-child living alone (aside from his faithful butler) in an isolated mansion and wearing a silly costume at night

As I said, since there’s no humanity to Bana’s Banner, there’s no reason to feel sympathetic towards the Hulk.

And what was with the Hulk not killing anyone (other than the odd giant radioactive poodle of course)? King Kong, whom the Hulk is clearly modeled after (with more than a touch of Frankenstein, of course), killed dozens of people in the 1933 film–and yet everyone felt for the big lug when he was blasted off the top of the Empire State Building.

(By the way, key tip for future reference: anytime there’s a film with a giant radioactive poodle, you know you’re in serious trouble. And it was one of the film’s highlights, for crying out loud.)

Speaking of “what was with”, what was with Bruce’s father experimenting with gamma rays in 1966? Bruce was supposed to be four at the time, meaning he was born in ’62, making him 40 or 41 in this film–which was clearly set in the present day. Yet the Bana and Connelly are both in their early 30s, and both of their characters are played as if they’re 30 or younger. Perhaps Ang Lee should have set the film in the late 1980s, and had Josh Lucas’s Talbot character give a “greed is good” speech.

Truly an awful film–and dreadfully slow pacing, to boot. Easily 30 to 45 minutes of the film could have been cut out, and nobody would have missed them. And it’s surprising to see Hollywood make such a blatantly anti-military (and anti-technology) film so quickly after 9/11.

Ang Lee, who knows better, was recently quoted as saying, “I’m trying to make a delicacy out of American fast food”. He should have started with better ingredients. McDonalds’ food is fine for what it is: fast food. But trying to make filet mignon out of a Big Mac is a futile. And fast food at the movies can be surprisingly satisfying: last year’s Spider-Man was a textbook on how to make a fun summer movie version of a comic book character. Considering how much James Lileks raved over Spider-Man last year (and rightly so), I’ll be very interested in reading his take on The Hulk, the textbook example of how not to make a film of a comic book character.

In the meantime, if the next batch of Fender heavy celluloid guitar picks I buy has a lime green tint to them, I’ll know where they came from.