HULK, one of the big summer flicks this year, has a lot to commend in terms of big production values, some exciting sequences and good story set-up, but bigger is not always better. As the movie goes along, it starts to unwind, getting bogged down in multiple endings that peter out in the end.
Like most Marvel movies, HULK begins with a scientific visualization of cells and their components (with a few star systems added to suggest gamma radiation). In this Marvel movie, however, the scientific sequences continue much longer in an often very interesting, but sometimes disjointed fashion.
Soon, the audience discovers that David Banner is trying to develop a way for human beings to regenerate, just as frogs and starfish do. When General Ross refuses to let him experiment on human beings, David injects himself with the potent regeneration formula he’s developed. Regrettably, he discovers that his wife is pregnant. He recognizes that the child is a monster in the classic sense, as some being that violates the created order. David starts looking for a cure for his son, Bruce. When he’s ordered to shut down his research, however, he goes bonkers.
The story skips ahead to Bruce Banner, grown up with another name, working alongside Betty Ross, the general’s estranged daughter, working in their laboratory. They too are working on a formula to help humans regenerate. Into this mix comes a new janitor, who turns out to be Bruce’s father, David, released after 30 years in prison. A gamma ray accident at the lab releases the Hulk inside Bruce Banner. Furthermore, he finds out who his father is. Betty tries to deal with Bruce’s anger and condemns the father for violating God’s boundaries when the father says knowledge of oneself is the most important thing.
The rest of the movie involves the army trying first to harness the Hulk, and, then, when he escapes, trying to destroy him. Betty tries to rescue the Hulk from her father, General Ross, and turn him back into the Bruce Banner she loves.
Although audiences laughed at a previous cut of HULK which made it to the Internet, the final edited version is an entertaining movie, with some wonderful scenes. The first half of the movie is particularly well constructed, but when the chase starts, the movie seems to lose its way.
The problem is that the Hulk never develops. He shows a few glimmers of compassion, but he never becomes the conflicted hero that he should be to win the hearts of audiences. As he is, the Hulk is invincible. Therefore, there is no real ending and no real resolution. There are also three pseudo-endings, one of which is wrapped up in his father, David, becoming the Hulk’s arch-nemesis.
The movie is also filled with pop psychology, where all of Bruce’s problems are vested on his father and a little repressed memory treatment can solve all of his angst. In this regard, FINDING NEMO is a much more satisfying movie, showing fathers in all their complexity, and yet with a commendable heart. HULK’s portrayal of fathers is just too dark and too artsy for a blockbuster action movie that’s designed to attract children and young teenagers.
Nick Nolte is a terrific actor, but he goes over the top at the end in a scene that seems unintentionally comical. The good news, however, is that he symbolizes the Berkeley anti-government, anti-religious hippie of the 1960s, and his rantings in that scene are implicitly rebuked.
Ang Lee should have cautioned Sam Elliott, who plays General Ross, against using strong profanities, including two GDs and a reference to Jesus Christ. After all, this is supposed to be a kid-friendly movie.
Jennifer Connelly as Betty is terrific and probably plays the most interesting character in the whole movie. Betty is truly the heroine, but the movie does not give her the scope she deserves.
In the final analysis, HULK is divided between heavy psychological drama and an Ang Lee action flick. This is not always an easy fit, especially in the movie’s final ending, which may be too confusing and too bizarre for many people. Ang Lee should have pulled back a bit on the arthouse spirit of adult psychological angst and inserted a stronger sense of summer fun. He also missed a great opportunity to provide moviegoers with an ending that would capitalize on the redemptive aspects and pop culture sensibilities of the original INCREDIBLE HULK.
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SUMMARY: HULK, one of the big summer flicks this year, describes the familiar story of Bruce Banner, who turns into a raging green monster when two genetic experiments go wrong. Despite major story flaws, HULK has a lot to commend in terms of big production values, some exciting sequences and a good story concept, but its psychological themes about parents and children are too dark and heavy for an action movie intended for children and teenagers.
(B, Ab, AP, C, LL, VVV, N, A, M) Light moral worldview with a villainous father who bashes religion and government in a 1960s anarchist way (implicitly rebuked), a tough American general father who swears, some redemptive elements when a loving girlfriend mentions God positively and main character shows some signs of compassion and self-sacrifice, but movie’s portrayal of fathers is too dark for children; seven obscenities, three or four strong profanities, two light profanities, and father mocks religion; strong violence includes parents argue intensely with child nearby, violent and angry fathers, large scary monster smashes labs, large monster battles and pummels large and vicious dogs that have been genetically altered, monster tosses men around and throws humongous objects at them, army tanks, soldiers and helicopters fire missiles and weapons at large monster, explosions, and monsters battle one another to the death; kissing and hugging; total rear and upper male nudity; alcohol use; no smoking; and, pop psychology about childhood trauma, repressed memories and angry fathers.
GENRE: Science Fiction