Directed by Ang Lee, starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott.
John Woo adapting 'The Hours', James Ivory helming 'The Matrix Reloaded', James Cameron behind the lens for 'Igby Goes Down', Ang Lee directing 'Hulk'. Incongruous couplings of directors and films, but only the latter is a reality to concern us this summer. And if you saw the trailer and felt uncomfortable, this is one case where first feelings prove best. It was always going to be a push for Ang Lee to take a comic icon and childhood TV favourite and make him appeal across generations, but the results should never have been this flat.
It begins promisingly with Lee creating a backstory of Bruce Banner (Bana)'s father David (Nolte) playing God in the lab and leaving his baby son with a horrible burden for later life. There are some nice touches with split screens echoing the comic page and cameos from the Hulk's creator Stan Lee and his TV incarnation Lou Ferrigno. The sense of anticipation grows as Banner reaches adulthood and destiny and altered DNA collide, but once the green mist descends 'Hulk' fails to properly channel what is unleashed and becomes a monster movie that drags its knuckles for too long before grunting and groaning to a conclusion.
With the spectres of male rage, emotional distance and dysfunctional relationships surrounding this story, the chance to make the thinking person's blockbuster was there for the taking. Instead, what you get are some very adult themes undermined by a cartoonish way of moving the action along. After seeing the very shaky CGI of the trailer, it seemed as if a rugby player in lime pajamas would look as convincing as the hero. Mercifully, the finished film is a little smoother but the standard was set 26 years ago on the small screen by a body builder with a fluffy mullet and the millions here have not been well spent.
Bana excelled in the Australian movie 'Chopper' at portraying someone who you could like and be terrified of during the same scene. Whatever the failings of 'Hulk' on a thrill level, it should have always made you care about what's happening to the lonely man at its centre. You don't and with no chemistry between Bana and Connelly as Banner's love interest, the actor doesn't make the character his own as say, Tobey Maguire did with Spiderman or Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. There was a joy in 'The Incredible Hulk' series watching an outcast get one over on the local heavies and doing the right thing; here, taking on an entire army and jumping around California as if space travel is only a huff away, you'll find yourself laughing, not cheering at his exploits.
'Hulk' ends with a teaser that leaves the way wide open for a sequel. The two hours which precede it aren't strong enough to support such optimism. Lee's bravery at choosing the project in the first place cannot be argued, whether he played it too safe can. His creation is a big man but he's out of shape. You won't like him when he's angry - for all the wrong reasons.