Back in 2003, super hero films were still a new craze. During that time, director Ang Lee decided to take on the challenge of adapting Marvel’s favourite angry strongman, The Incredible Hulk. The film made money but its response from viewers and critics alike was heavily mixed. So, let’s take a look and see just which half of the viewers were right.
We open with Doctor David Banner performing experiments in an effort to grant humans regenerative abilities. Before you can wonder if you put on a Spider-man film and this is what they’ve done with Doctor Connors, he experiments on himself and the modifications get passed down to his son, Bruce. Years later, Bruce has been raised by an adoptive family with no memory of his early childhood. He’s working in a laboratory with Betty Ross and some dude no one cares about when there’s an accident with their gamma equipment.
Let’s ignore the obvious changes they made to Bruce’s origin story including the lack of long time supporting character Rick Jones. There are two big issues with the narrative. The first is the absurd amount of coincidence If you thought Steerforth showing up at random ten thousand times stretched believability, in this film we find out that Bruce and Betty grew up on the same base. Her father arrested his father. Their fathers were probably carrying on affairs with the same man, given how stupid this is getting. He went into the exact same field of science as his father in spite of not remembering him at all. And they’re both involved in similar research. Not only that but he ended up in the same laboratory, doing research with that same girl he was on a base with when they were very small children. Those are a lot of big contrivances in a rather short period of time and it gets really ridiculous.
There’s also a major problem with the climax of the story. It works by having the entire United States military carry the idiot ball. So, at this point they know that Bruce’s transformation is triggered by making him mad. So, they decide to allow his father to see him. His father then proceeds to make a really over the top villain speech while deliberately and very blatantly antagonising him. Now, you would think they’d send in guards to remove the crazy man trying to cause Bruce to transform into the Hulk. But that would make too much sense. They just watch it all unfold while looking at monitors and wondering whether or not they should do something. Useless bastards.
There’s just not much to our heroes in this. You can tell they’re trying to flesh out Bruce’s back story and give him some tragedy while simultaneously building up his father as the main antagonist, but they just don’t do it well. If you thought Betty Ross was a boring character in the Silver Age, she’s easily as bad in this. They try to give her and her father some baggage to make them more interesting, but they fail to develop it in a remotely interesting way. The Hulk doesn’t have that many important characters that you’d need to get right and they leave one of them out. But even what they use is apparently too much.
Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:
The effects are pretty bad. Even for the early 2000s. It’s especially apparent during an action sequence where the Hulk fights a bunch of gamma hounds. Not only does the action look really stilted, but the hounds themselves look dumb as hell. There are points throughout the film where they try to use a more comic aesthetic by having panels on the screen but it only succeeds in making the scene cluttered.
Acting & Music:
They did get some good actors for this. They got Jennifer Connelly. She was really good in Labyrinth. They also got Sam Elliott. They just aren’t particularly good in this. Eric Bana, who plays the titular Hulk, is fine when he’s not transforming. A bit boring, but passable. Those transformation scenes are seriously awful though. Josh Lucas & Nick Nolte are both over the top terrible in this. Which I’m almost certain is the direction since they’re both playing really badly written antagonistic characters. Danny Elfman’s music is, by far, the best part of the film. It’s not one of his better scores, but it’s solid.
This film is pretty bad. There are points where you can tell they’re trying to do something that could be interesting but the execution is just consistently off. Factor in the over the top antagonists, terrible plot points, poor CG and it really doesn’t hold up. It may not be the worst super hero film out there, but it’s closer to the bottom than it is to the top. I give it a 3/10.