Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a brilliant scientistworking with cutting-edge genetic technology. He is also a person who leadsa quiet, emotionally distant life that conceals a nearly forgotten andpainful past and one that has resigned his ex-girlfriend and fellowresearcher, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), to remaining an interestedonlooker.
One day in the lab, a simple oversight leads to anear-fatal situation. Bruce makes a split-second decision and his heroicimpulse saves a life and leaves him apparently unscathed, despite his bodyabsorbing a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation. Things such as vaguemorning-after effects, blackouts and other unexpected fallout from theexperiment-gone-awry are beginning to happen. Banner begins to feel somekind of a presence within. That turns out to be a massive, rampaging creature, an impossibly strong green monster who appears when Banner’s levelof anger goes too high, cutting a swath of destruction in its path.
In no time, the military is engaged, led byBetty’s father, General Ross (Sam Elliott) and Bruce’s rival researcherGlenn Talbot (Josh Lucas). Personal vendettas and familial ties soon comeinto play. Betty has her theories, and knows that Bruce’s father, David(Nick Nolte), is somehow connected. She may be the only one who understandsthe link between scientist and the Hulk, but her efforts to stop themilitary, may be too late to save both man and creature.
Ang Lee’s Hulk is not your usual big screencomic-book adaptation. Sure, the screenplay adheres to the pulp formula ofthe genre while Tim Squyres’ flashy editing, Frederick Elmes’ richcinematography and Danny Elfman’s booming score definitely help make it feellike a comic book. Yet, Hulk plays more like a Greek Tragedy aboutone man dealing with sizeable inner and outer demons than it does awall-to-wall action and effects orgy. Characters and their motivations havealways been the most important factors in Lee’s movies, among themCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the effort he puts forward hereto chronicle Bruce’s journey while examining his inner struggles give themovie the edge it needs.
This is not to say that Hulk is nothing morethan a dark character study with a budget. With the exception of the film’sdrawn-out, effects-laden showdown between good and evil, the action scenesare exciting, at times amusing and a lot of fun. The much-discussed visualeffects of Hulk are equally sublime. Industrial Light and Magic, workingclosely with Lee, have done an excellent job in bringing Banner’s green alterego to life. The instances, where the Hulk may look a bit unconvincing,are few and far between. The effects found in this film are the best kind:ones that propel the story forward instead of detracting from it.
Bana gives a low-key, brooding performance as thescientist, resonating with just the right amount of arrogance, emotionalpain and quiet rage without going over the top (ILM’s Green Guy takes careof that). Connelly, proving once again that she has the talent to match thelooks, makes Betty much more than just the suffering girlfriend thescreenplay makes her out to be, while Elliott and Nolte, the latter stealingevery scene he’s in, are excellent in their supporting roles. And eventhough it is a lot of fun to see his character be tossed by the Hulk like arag doll, Josh Lucas’ Talbot comes off as one-dimensional and thus pales incomparison to the other leads.
With the exception of the dreadful Daredevil,the Marvel Comics universe has recently been both a creative and financialgoldmine. The Hulk, like Spider-Man and the two X-Men films, shows us that with the right people working on the project, great comic books can become great cinema as well.