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Hulk   (2002) Dir: Ang Lee 


When I heard that Ang Lee would be directing the movie adaptation of Hulk, I was not the least bit skeptical about this. Having been enthralled by his previous movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, pull it off I knew he could, but has he really? The answer is simple: indeed he has. Ang Lee has crafted a complete tour de force, which has enough drama, action and visual effects in order to satisfy hungry comic book nerds, geeks, fans and general moviegoers alike. It might not be the masterpiece some were hoping it to be (although it ain't too far), but, let's be honest here, this could've turned out a mess had it been done incorrectly. The movie remains faithful to its source and also serves as a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, King Kong and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde simultaneously, all these in the same package. Okay, so I didn't grow up reading the comic books and very seldom watched the Hulk television series with Lou Ferrigno or the animated ones, but one thing is clear: I loved the movie, I loved every single minute of it.

After a gripping preamble to the movie (which contains one of the most extraordinary credit sequences Ive ever seen), we're introduced to Bruce Banner, a young science researcher who, after the apparent death of his parents, has adopted the surname Krensler. While working on an experiment with a fellow scientist and his past girlfriend, Betty Ross, something goes wrong and Bruce is exposed to Gamma rays. Surprisingly, and to the astonishment of his ex, he isn't killed and feels better than ever. However, from that moment on, every time he gets angry he suddenly turns into Hulk, a huge green creature that causes mayhem and destruction. Not knowing the motive for his darker alter ego, he will have to delve into the secrets of his past to discover the real truth, while the US Army, led by Betty's father, is committed on trapping Hulk, as he supposes a danger to society.

Lee takes time and care in both presenting and developing the characters, showing us their feelings and emotions with incredible ease and confidence. This is of course an excellent thing, as character depth and development is one of the most crucial things that are missing from nowadays' films and it seems as though Lee is not afraid of doing it. The acting is fine and adequate, with Eric Bana providing a subtle performance in the lead role. Connelly is no exception and gives an equally good performance, and the rest of the cast, Nick Nolte included, is solid, too. The story begins to unfold slowly yet Lee makes sure that the audience's interest is kept high throughout the whole running time; never did I feel as if it left me unengaged.

Visually, the film is a sensation. Making clever use of the split-screen technique, which enables the audience to see the same action from different perspectives or two images occurring simultaneously but in different places, Lee gives the film an even stronger comic book feel. Some might argue that this is confusing and might get somewhat abusive, but I had absolutely no problems with it. Sure, it doesn't advance or improve the story in any way at all, but it doesn't slow it down or make it worse, either. The special effects, created by George Lucass company, ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) are mesmerizing and totally credible, way more amazing than what I expected. The computer generated Hulk is utterly realistic and its movements varied, and the action sequences are very well executed, the helicopter scenes being standouts. Few people would have thought that things like these could be accomplished and there's no denying that the visual style of the film is as breathtaking as it is its own.

However, though minor, there are some slightly negative things in the movie. The movie feels somewhat overlong and, like its title character, it sometimes seems as if it suffers from an identity crisis, as if it didn't really know what it was. The film balances on psychological drama and action, yet it is never self-centered, it doesn't know what and where its real place is. It might be noticeable that the movie often takes itself too seriously, and being a comic book adaptation, this ends up being harmful to it. Hence the fact that Ang Lee once described it as a sort of Greek tragedy.

Despite its flaws, one has to be sincere and admit that the film is sheer spectacle. Sure, it's not perfect but meticulously, confidently, masterfully, Ang Lee has created a truly brilliant film with a heart and a soul, a film with amazing special effects and a convincing story that surpasses all expectations and does even more. On the whole, Hulk is one of the best pictures of what we've seen so far this year and is possibly the best comic book adaptation to date. Terrific, hypnotic, magnificent, Hulk is an immense movie, a must see for any comic book lover.

Reviewed by The Third M?n, 2003