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  Hulk It's Not Easy Being Green
Year: 2003
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Paul Kersey, Cara Buono, Todd Tesen, Lou Ferrigno, Stan Lee
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 4 votes)
Review: Dr David Banner (Nick Nolte) experimented on himself in the hope of discovering a way to regenerate damaged tissue, and in so doing, create invincibility. His wife gave birth to a son, Bruce (Eric Bana), who he discovered was carrying some of the effects of the experiments, but when the military decided to shut down his project after they found out what he was up to, David Banner blew up the laboratory and ruined his son's life. Now grown up, Bruce is a scientist too, with no memory of what happened to his parents or what was done to him - but he is about to get a big reminder when a lab accident has an incredible effect on him...

Written by James Schamus, John Turman and Michael France from Schamus' story, Hulk joined the illustrious ranks of blockbusters that make a heap of money on their opening weekend, then make a fraction of that amount on their second weekend. The problem seemed to be that audiences were not too keen on the director Ang Lee's arthouse sensibilities putting a pretentious spin on the famed comic book character, and it was nothing like the familiar 1970s television series either. While it's true to say that Hulk, the movie and the character, have a split personality, this does conjure up a tension between the intellectual side and the plentiful fantasy violence.

The theme, if you haven't noticed from the first five minutes, is not a man struggling to control his dark side, but one of the damage that an abusive parent can do to their child, even into adulthood. Bruce's father hasn't died in that explosion, oh no, he's still around and has just been released from a top secret prison, only to begin his experiments again. Bruce is doing similar work, trying to use gamma radiation to heal wounds in seconds, but the research isn't going too well, and not only is he having girlfriend troubles with Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), the military want to take over his project for their own dodgy scheme for super-soldiers.

It's unusual for a 2000s movie to have its heroes experimenting on animals, but as the test subjects are not cute little mice but lizards and frogs, presumably it won't bother us too much when a frog sadly explodes. After Bruce is exposed to the radiation, however, he doesn't explode, due to his father's scientific interference, but, of course, he does start turning green, growing giant size, and smashing up everything he can lay his mighty fists on. The film's mistrust of authority figures means that, naturally, the military involvement in trying to contain the Hulk spells bad news for Bruce and Betty (who herself has a testy relationship with her General father).

Lee's way with relationships offers a lot of notably low key dialogue scenes, as if to contrast with the outrageous action when the Hulk gets mad. The not so jolly green giant is rendered with blatant CGI, but why shouldn't he look like a cartoon character when he hails from a comic book? The action sequences, where the monster fights mutant dogs, helicopters, tanks and even takes a trip into space, are so gleefully presented that the earnest relationships lack impact - the film is obviously pulling in two directions. Less a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story than a cross between The Wolf Man and King Kong (Betty's love has a calming effect on the brute), Hulk is never less than interesting, yet doesn't quite make it as a thinking person's blockbuster. And the finale is muddled. Music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Ang Lee  (1954 - )

Taiwanese director who can handle emotional drama as effectively as action. The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman secured him international attention, and Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility and 1970s-set The Ice Storm were also well received. Epic western Ride with the Devil was a disappointment, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won four Oscars, including best foreign language film, and led him to direct flop blockbuster Hulk.

"Gay cowboy" yarn Brokeback Mountain proved there was a large market for gay films among straight audiences as well as homosexual, Lust, Caution pushed sexual barriers in the Chinese market, and he won his Oscar for the adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable Life of Pi. He began pushing at the boundaries of technology with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and sci-fi actioner Gemini Man, but they were not hits.

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