Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by:John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte
Released: June 26, 2003
Grade: B

I’m tiring quickly of comic book heroes turned movie stars and the numerous previews for The Hulk did nothing to increase my enthusiasm.  Ah, but I must be fair and objective as a critic so unlike the time I dished Brittany Spears’ Crossroads before seeing it, I thought I’d give this film a chance.  All the hype regarding the special effects, the action and the rising status of Australian star Eric Bana meant very little to me.  The real reason to see this film was because of Ang Lee.

Lee is a brilliant director who rose to fame with The Ice Storm (one of my all-time favourite films) and Sense & Sensibility.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is his highest-grossing film to date and it also earned him the best director prize from the Directors’ Guild Of America.  His choosing of a project like The Hulk came as a complete surprise to me but from the very beginning of the film itself, I could see his reasons for doing so.

With a filming budget of $120m, it would be so easy for a director to take a conservative path to ensure box-office success.  Instead, Lee has mixed up the standard screenplay with some wonderful camera and editing techniques.  There are some magical fade-ins between scenes but my personal favourite touch were the split-screen shots where up to four camera angles appeared on screen at once.  Ang Lee is not a Hollywood sell-out and this proves he’s willing to take a risk to further his work.

The brilliance of Lee’s direction has not been matched by the script.  I expected a much shorter time in the theatre and the film would have been better served without the heavy padding at the very end.  There’s also a distinctive lack of adventure.  The focus of the film is on Bruce Banner’s (aka The Hulk) discovery of his past.  His parents died when he was young (or so he thought) and with the help of semi-love interest Betty Ross, he will uncover the mysteries which plague his dreams.  All well and good but the general public may be let down by the lack of a serious villain.

Younger audiences may also be disturbed by some of the violence.  There’s one scene where The Hulk battles three mutant dogs and it’s considerably violent.  You can see though that an effort has been made to eliminate any human casualties which are a bit silly but necessary for the audience they want to attract.

By now everyone should know that Australian Eric Bana is the next “it thing” in America with his role as the leading guy.  More people seem to focus more on the fact that he is in the movie rather than how good his performance actually is.  In my mind, he’s good but not great and in the final hour, he’s replaced by a scary looking green visual effect.  It can’t have been the most mentally challenging task for Bana and it’s his bank balance that will receive the most benefit.

I haven’t focused too much on the plot since that’s not why you pay your admission fee.  Like all these mega-blockbusters of late, the finale sets up an expected sequel.  So if you want to save yourself time, money and effort, wait until the next instalment is due.  By then, The Hulk will be on free-to-air TV and you’ll be one of the few to say that you haven’t contributed to the box-office success of a film that probably doesn’t deserve it.