That Big Green Guy Who Smashes

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

The Hulk is easily one of the strangest movies to have been thrown at the movie-going public in recent years.

It’s a high-profile blockbuster that purports to be about smashing things but really wants to be about smashing HULK’S TORTURED PSYCHE!

Of course, that’s what you get when you hire Ang Lee, who brought poetry to kung fu in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and soul-deadening literalness to his film adaptation of The Ice Storm. The Hulk falls somewhere in between these two films. The action is fun, pulse-quickening stuff and it’s exciting to watch Nick Nolte froth at the mouth as the Hulk’s twisted dad. However, Lee’s attempts to drive home the themes of fathers and sons and nature versus technology (is there any movie not about nature versus technology these days?) feel heavy-handed and slightly ridiculous.

When The Hulk was in theaters, people criticized the effects for looking fake. Truth be told, I can’t tell where they’re coming from. The special effects are one of the few things that deliver every time in this movie. They somehow make a giant, green monster seem believable and organically originating from the movie’s desert world. When the Hulk tosses a tank far off into the desert, I bought it.

I bought the rest of the story less. Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly spend lots of time staring poignantly at things to very little effect. Actually, the performances in this movie are fairly solid and would be the most solid performances in a superhero movie ever if Ang Lee knew what to do with these performances. As it is, he seems to be content to let them stare at nothing in particular for long periods of time.

In short, The Hulk needs a bit more action to it. This is odd, coming from a critic who believes comic-book movies could do far more than they typically do and incorporate grand themes of desire and loss and all that jazz.

The Hulk tries to do too much of this and suffers as a result. What we really want to see is the Hulk smashing junk and tossing it around after whirling it over his head. What we don’t want to see is the Hulk confronting his childhood demons this much.

The Hulk could have used one more edit that balanced the action and the tortured family drama a little better than it does right now. As it stands though, it’s an interesting enough experiment that it merits a slight recommendation.

But if you can understand what happens at the end, you are a smarter person than I.

3 stars (out of 5)