Yeah, I liked the Ang Lee version, too.

§ June 19th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Yeah, I liked the Ang Lee version, too.

I’m one of the apparently five people on Earth who liked Ang Lee’s Hulk film from a few years ago…I liked the “comic book panel” presentation, I liked the slow, moody build-up, and the focus on the psychological aspects of the Hulk’s transformation, I especially liked Hulk versus the Army in the desert…watching that fight was like watching a Herb Trimpe-drawn Hulk comic come to life. The climactic battle was, admittedly, a bit on the jumbled side, but I watched that Hulk film on TV a few months ago…and it holds together a lot better than people seem to remember. Not saying it’s perfect, but I don’t think it’s a bad film, by any means.

And I thought this new Hulk film was pretty good, too. It’s hard to say it’s a better film, as it’s certainly a different film, more in common with the Bill Bixby TV show than with its cinematic predecessor. If pressed, I’d say this new film feels more Hulk-ish, more like what we’d expect from a Hulk film. It meets expectations rather than surpassing them, whereas the previous Hulk film’s grasp may have just slightly exceeded its reach, trying to present a Hulk story in a way a potential audience for a Hulk film wasn’t willing to accept. A failed experiment, if you will…much like the film origins of the Hulk himself.

God, that was pretentious. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all going to give me a ration of crap for defending the Ang Lee film, so let’s get right down to business and start my SPOILER-iffic obvervations of this new film. The SPOILERS start with the pic of the Hulk leaping down at you, and end when you see the Hulk right up in your face.

  • I liked the extreme shorthand retelling of the Hulk’s origin at the beginning of the film. It’s mildly different from the origin presented in the previous film…but aside from that, this film can function as a direct sequel to the previous movie, I think, kinda sorta, if that sort of thing worries you. The last film ended in South America, where this film begins, which helps ease the transition. Aside from the origin’s details, there aren’t any HUGE contradictions between the two films.
  • And if you were put off by the looooong set-up in the Ang Lee flick, you’ll be glad to know this new film jumps right into the action and only lets up enough to set up the next bit of action and get all the characters in place. A very fast-paced film…it’s just shy of two hours, but doesn’t feel it. And the acting is fine…Norton is tormented as Banner, Liv Tyler is the faithful girlfriend, William Hurt is sufficiently gruff as General Ross, Tim Roth chews the scenery only slightly as Blonsky…no one’s winning an Oscar, but the melodrama is serviced well.
  • Your gratuitous Stan Lee cameo: Stan accidentally imbibing some of Banner’s blood (long story…you saw the movie, you know how). I was hoping for a brief scene of Stan Hulking out, even slightly, but alas, it was not to be. (Stan doesn’t manage it here, either.)
  • They really try to evoke memories of the ’70s Hulk TV show, via cameos from Lou Ferrigno and the late Bill Bixby (via a TV broadcasting another show of his, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), the use of the signature “movin’ along to another town” theme music, having Lou himself provide the voice of the Hulk, some paraphrasing of the show’s most famous line (“You wouldn’t like me…” etc.), and so on.

    Speaking of which, when I heard Ferrigno was providing the voice, I…well, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting the Hulk to be giving soliloquies or anything, but I pictured more dialogue than I got. But, really, what the film gave us was enough…less is more, in this case. In fact, his bits of dialogue really sum up what the Hulk character is about: “LEAVE ME ALONE,” “HULK SMASH,” and “BETTY.” There you go…that’s the Hulk. Well, the Hulk most people know, anyway.

  • Another TV show reference pops up, paired with a reference to the comics: two witnesses to a Hulk battle are named Jack McGee (the reporter from the TV show…the character in this movie is also a reporter) and Jim Wilson (one of the Hulk’s sidekicks from the comic).
  • I did enjoy how they sort of gloss over just how, exactly, a poor, shoeless, begging Banner in Guatemala somehow, within a period of just over two weeks, managed to make it to Virginia, and pick up a pair of shoes along the way. I think we can assume that Banner 1) has had some practice at this sort of thing, and 2) is a SUPER-GENIUS and is able to do things like this with a little bit of effort and brainpower.
  • MIKE’S SEXIST MOMENT (Johanna, avert your eyes!): I spent the first part of the film thinking, “huh, Liv Tyler looks weird” — until the hotel room scene where she’s in the flannel shirt with the wet hair. At that point, I thought “Oh, I get it now,” and rescinded my previous “looks weird” observation.


  • A couple of things borrowed from the comics, one obvious, one sorta extrapolated:

    1. The whole “Mr. Green/Mr. Blue” thing from the Bruce Jones run on the title…worked nicely in the film, with a solid payoff introducing a future Hulk villain (more on that later).

    2. That bit at the very end, where it implies, I think, that Bruce is learning to exert some control over his alter ego: it reminded me a bit of the end of Peter David’s initial run on the comic, where we see a very in-control Bruce Banner flashing his gamma-green eyes over his sunglasses, and the threat that implies.

    I don’t expect to see “The Adventures of Smart Hulk” in the next film or anything, but, if there is a next film, some more movement in that direction would be interesting to see.

  • FREEZE FRAME FUN: I’m certain there are in-jokes in that bit of business in the film where we see e-mails and such whiz by us on the screen like a cheap screensaver. When I rent the DVD, I’m totally going through that frame by frame.
  • I’ve mentioned in the past where one of my favorite parts of the Ang Lee film was the Hulk making his huge leaps through the desert landscape, finding his own moment of peace. It was a quiet and affecting moment.

    There’s a moment sort of like this in the new film, where Betty and the Hulk just sit, side by side, looking at the thunderstorm from a small cave in a cliffside.

    Earlier in that scene, however, I’m sure we were all reminded of Mr. Kochalka’s Hulk story.

  • Like Iron Man, the climactic battle features our hero in a life-or-death struggle against an evil and more powerful version of himself. I know this is nothing new in adventure stories…particularly Hollywood-made adventure stories, where everything ends with either “How can I defeat…myself?” or something big owned by the bad guy blowing up. Hopefully there’ll be a little more variety in future Marvel films. It’s not a big hope, but still.

    Not saying I didn’t like the battle, mind you. It was supremely satisfying to see the Hulk just open up and beat the crap out of a monster. I know it was one computer-generated cartoon beating up another computer-generated cartoon, but it was still effectively violent, the characters just real enough to sell the action.

    And it was a nice change to see an ending where the hero is encouraged not to kill the bad guy.

  • Setting up for follow-ups: though it seems unlikely Ed Norton will pop up in sequels (unless he’s contractually obligated…I have no idea), we get a brief glimpse of Samuel Stearnes beginning his metamorphosis into longtime Hulk baddie the Leader (and how he clearly Just Doesn’t Get It when it comes to the Hulk’s potential for destruction vs. salvation), and we get a name-dropping (and usage!) of the Super-Soldier serum, which is, of course, what powered Captain America.

    And of course there’s the cameo at the end, which I thought everyone knew about by now but still was an apparently welcome surprise for folks at our viewing. Just down the aisle from us were a couple young kids who were terribly excited that Iron Man just showed up in their Hulk movie. There’s your potential audience for that Avengers film, should it happen.

So there you go…overall, a pretty good film, with plenty of entertaining action. Not as good as the Iron Man film, but given the Iron Man movie was far better than anyone could have anticipated, there’s no shame in the Incredible Hulk not measuring up.

So, what did you all think? And if you posted reviews on your own site, please drop them in the comments section.

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