Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Rage and smash

The comic-book id-monster runs wild on summer screens.

Posted By and on Wed, Jun 25, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Geezer: 2 1/2 stars
2 1/2 stars

Ang Lee’s reputation as one of the most sensitive, wide-ranging directors of the past decade has been built film-by-film. Who else could go from a Taiwanese comedy of generational conflict (Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994) to a subtle adaptation of Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, 1995) to a brilliant evocation of ’70s America (The Ice Storm, 1997) to a pop masterpiece of Chinese mythology (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)? When news came of him working on the Hulk adaptation, a lot of fans were intrigued. The comic-book saga of scientist Bruce Banner’s periodic transformation into an out-of-control id-monster seemed the perfect challenge for Lee — and with Marvel Comics originator Stan Lee aboard as an executive producer, how could this movie go wrong? Well, the Hulk seems to have added both Ang’s and Stan’s best intentions to his smash-’em-up hit list.


Weezer: I see Ang Lee’s presence in the stillness of this movie, which unfortunately doesn’t fit with the Hulk. There are many long, slow and dramatic shots of nature, which are very beautiful — Lee was trying to show a contrast between the stillness of the landscape and the fury that’s the Hulk. But that’s not needed, because the Hulk is so furious that anything in comparison looks still — even the most chaotic scene in downtown San Francisco.

Geezer: It seems that someone would need a particular sensibility to bring a comic book to the screen, and he’s just worlds away from that. After seeing Hulk, you wonder why Lee even took this project on. When Tim Burton did Batman, it was a match made in comic-book heaven — he really breathed it and reimagined everything. And when you see what Bryan Singer, the director of The Usual Suspects, did with X-Men and X2, you think, “Here’s a really astute storyteller who knows how to handle …”

Weezer: A dozen characters.

Geezer: And a whole sense of darkness.

Weezer: Easily the greatest part of Hulk — whoever’s responsible, whether Ang Lee or a group of people — is the comic-book blocking of the images. This technique overlaps shots and segues between them, using a thin, black line to delineate separate areas on-screen. In one shot, a flower appears and blossoms into a palm tree that leads right into the next scene. It’s very comic book-like editing, framed like a comic book and really gives the film a comic feel. It’s the first movie, of any of the adaptations, to do that. And I
wouldn’t want to say that if anybody else did that now it would be a rip-off, because I’d like to see that become the standard.

Geezer: It would be nice to see somebody follow up and use it creatively, like a new language.

Weezer: In that regard, Hulk has surpassed all of the other comic-book films. But the technique is also used superficially, because Lee keeps showing us long, still shots that don’t appear in comic books. You can’t take these postcards of scenery in comics — you’ve got to move.

And the worst part of Hulk is its tempo. The Hulk is pure adrenaline, like “Hulk smash,” like “rrrrrrrage” — and they capture his rage well when he goes on a tear, punching tanks and stuff. But even those scenes are still not as intense as I’d want them to be. The Hulk usually faces off against the military, but not three helicopters, 500 helicopters! Though, since nothing can stop him, it’s just a matter of time before he destroys them all.

And Lee tries to draw out the suspense until Banner finally hulks out, but doesn’t do a good enough job, so it just turns from suspense to annoyed waiting. Its slowness really hurt this film. Maybe Lee tried to be too arty. Maybe he picked the wrong superhero story to film.

Geezer: I appreciated Nick Nolte as Banner’s dad — he’s a real plus. With at least two other actors of his quality, Hulk would’ve improved radically — because Jennifer Connelly is miscast and uninteresting.

Weezer: Eric Bana captures Bruce Banner well, but the script has him doing too much thinking and self-searching that could’ve been done off-camera. And there’s too much backstory.

But I’d like to throw in something that I appreciated that’s a little unsung. I don’t know if comic-book fans will look hard enough to see it, but the Hulk always wears purple shorts. He’s a big green guy with purple shorts and the movie does that every time. No matter what Banner was wearing, he ends up as the Hulk in purple shorts. That’s cool.

Take a look at this week's story From Superman to superbland?

George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a recent high school graduate. E-mail them at


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