January 27, 2004


hulk.jpgI was never a reader of the Hulk comic books in the few years that I was into comics. I was a Marvel fan, though. I read Thor and Captain America and Daredevil and some of the short-lived 80s series like Dazzler (the roller-skating crime-fighting mutant disco queen. Really.) and Moon Knight. But Hulk, no.

So coming into this movie I didn't know anything about the character except that he turned into a big green guy when he got mad.

I loved this movie.

For my money, director Ang Lee has done the best job yet of taking the experience of reading a super hero-style comic and translating it into the language of film. I'm not saying it's going to have this effect on everyone--it obviously isn't since the movie didn't exactly rake in the bucks in the theatre.

There are three things that I think made it work this well for me.

First and foremost, Lee and his actors show nothing but respect for these characters. I think the scene that brought this home to me was the introduction of Betty Ross (played by Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly) where Bruce Banner (Australian (though you'd never guess until you watch the documentaries, his American is that good) Eric Bana) rides his bicycle to the lab at UC Berkeley and walks through the building with his helmet on. He talks to a colleague and then talks to Betty, and these characters are capital-G Geeks! They're all totally gorgeous, they speak intelligently to each other, and yet they have the geek nature in spades. This is not something you see every day in a movie. Most movies can't resist falling into the lame stereotypes of pocket protectors and clumsily-repaired eyeglasses and mis-matched socks and verbal tics. Here in this movie, that little scene convinced me that these were real people, and nothing else they ever did made me lose that conviction even when they were turning green and being attacked by mutant poodles. Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott are both great as non-cliche father figures, too. Nolte especially managed to portray an over-the-top wacko without ever sinking into caricature.

Second, I loved the visual style of the movie. Lee makes copious use of crazy angles and multiply-split frames and simultaneous views of scenes from different angles that is straight out of the comic book vocabulary and, for me, he made it work on the screen. It bugged Becky and Rachel, but I thought it was great.

Finally, the movie is chock full of effects shots and they never once felt like effects shots. Partly this goes back to the fact that Lee and the actors made the characters so real to me that my suspension-of-disbelief system was charged up to eleven, but it's also a tribute to the artists who made a big strong green guy who can jump half a mile look totally real. We watched some of the documentary features on the DVD that show how they did some of that, and it just makes it more impressive to me. They got it right.

We watched it from the library but I need to go buy a copy so I can watch it again.

Posted by jeffy at January 27, 2004 11:38 PM