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Hulk (2003)

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Directed by: 
Ang Lee
Eric Bana
Jennifer Connelly
Nick Nolte
Sam Elliot
Bottom Line: 

 Weird. Quite why Tim Burton's stupidly romantic and quite frankly often embarrassing Batman  feature received such kudos whilst Ang Lee's film has received such seemingly universal flack kinda frustrates me. Hulk is a seriously brave adaption, not only in terms of the fact that a new origin was created involving repressed memories and serious inner anger, but also in terms of the extraordinary visual look of the film. I've never seen so many daring camera techniques and screen wipes employed in such a large budget film before. And Danny Elfman's atypical score is in my opinion, his very best since Edward Scissorhands.
I must admit that whilst I still thoroughly enjoy watching the X-Men features, I do find them rather pretentious. Actually in my humble opinion, the much-loved Wolverine character and representation is seriously carrying those flicks to date. Whilst the X-Men comic obviously contained messages about racism and a lack of tolerance towards folks who are different, it's as if I keep getting hit over the head with a heavy stick about it. Almost as if the X-Men film creators have forgotten that sometimes that franchise just had plain ol' superhero adventures without a (not so hidden) meaning prevailing throughout. And do I have to see Magneto in every darn entry?!
Where was I? Oh yeah, Hulk. Well, a friend mentioned an excellent point to me. That Hulk is actually a more pretentious adaption as the Banner/Hulk character has now had an almost Freudian explanation for his dual character nature added on to the familiar gamma ray or explosion reasons for his strange affliction. Of course, my friend was correct...but I love this film anyway! This really is wonderful viewing. The only problem being that it's a film clearly designed for adults rather than children. However being a selfish adult viewer, I just don't care!
Eric Bana, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Eliott. That's some line-up don'tcha think? I like and respect all four of those actors. Add some of the most extraordinary visual techniques EVER employed (they have to be seen to be believed), a Hulk rampage or two, and a very abstract almost 2001 finale like final battle between the Hulk and a cinematic version of Marvel's Absorbing Man, and there you have Ang Lee's extraordinarily brave adaption. Wonderful stuff in my opinion. Although I would still advise a possible sequel to drop or lower the Freudian aspects of the character now that this new origin has been shown and explained.
So does the Hulk look like CGI?
Er...yes, of course he bloody does, get over it already. Having said that, the green creature's animation is startlingly impressive. Ya know, nothing irritates me more than folks often complaining about the use of any CGI in modern films. Granted it's seriously overused in films such as Attack Of The Clones but here we have a very intelligent movie where that process never detracts from the adult storyline or screen images. It's wise to recall that stop-motion effects would actually look far less real (or identical at best) and that the CGI process can be an art form in itself. As for the guy that once told me that these modern comic adaptations shouldn't even be made if they're only possible with the use of CGI - what the hell? If you want to go on a dubious personal crusade against the use of CGI in films, do so please, boycott them by all means...but don't ruin my fun.
As far as I'm aware, the Hulk is the strongest character in the Marvel Universe. Why? Purely because the angrier he gets, the stronger he then becomes. There's no limit to his powers. To illustrate this, the
theatrical incarnation of the Hulk grows larger as his temper rises. Not a bad idea at all although I must admit that I still find it rather odd! What I like so much about the Hulk/Banner invention is that he's a cursed almost lycanthrope or Jekyll & Hyde type characterisation. His powers seemingly serve no actual purpose. Although it was to change in later editions of the comic, Banner (at this point) couldn't control his powers. A man doomed to have to try to control his anger for fear of the consequences.
The disc itself? Ang Lee's Hulk is presented in flawless fashion here. Sadly, there's no DTS (although I still rate the 5.1 sound) but this region one DVD's print quality is AMAZING, this really IS as good as it gets. When you can clearly see eyelashes on faces, you know it's a damn fine print. Extras:
An Ang Lee commentary track.

Six mins. of deleted scenes.

Cast and crew filmographies.

Short featurettes to be accessed whilst watching the feature itself.

Anatomy of a Hulk. Highlight the body area, find out the facts. Sadly no lengthening schlong stats on offer here.

A multi-angle extra whereby the storyboards of a particular scene can be compared to exclusive images drawn by four comic book artists offering their own individual interpretations.

A 16 min featurette on the creation and origins of the Hulk character.

"The Incredible Ang Lee." A 15 min extra showing interviews and behind the scenes footage.

A 10 minute examination of the dogfight sequence.

5 Mins. discussion of the unusual editing techniques.

A 24 minute making of featurette.

DVD ROM extras for PC users and a level of the computer game for X-Box owners.
No doubt in my mind at all, Ang Lee's Hulk is a much better, more groundbreaking and far riskier film than Singer's still impressive X-Men 2. And it's a very sad state of affairs indeed when a film such as this should receive so many irritatingly negative or lukewarm reviews. This film is an absolute stonker and for me, easily the best non-horror release of 2003. Wonderful stuff and highly recommended to all intelligent viewers of cinema and fans of visually striking works. Argentophiles should love this! I'm certain that Lee's film will be re-evaluated in years to come.

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