In a world where most superhero movies are disposable entertainment like many of the comic books the characters spawned from, one movie happens to be even more erased from most of the public’s memory. Ang Lee decided to try something different with the superhero genre, with Hulk (2003). Lee was given over 130 million dollars and creative freedom from Universal to pretty much do anything he wanted and what we got was a flawed masterpiece that definitely requires another viewing.
What puts the movie above other superhero films is Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) inner struggle to control his anger as the main plot of the story. Lee used influences such as Beauty and the Beast, King Kong, Jekyll and Hyde, and Greek Mythology. And used his references to craft a think piece about the struggle between man and monster. The film explores the character of Hulk as being the repressed memories of Bruce. Showing that both Bruce and The Hulk disliked each other and wanted to completely take over the other’s body. In a very pivotal dream sequence in the movie, the Hulk grabs Bruce in the bathroom and snarks “puny human”, representing the struggles of both characters. Bruce even states that he when he loses control and the Hulk takes over he “likes it” but at the same time wants the monster in him to be destroyed.
Hulk also includes two villains who can be seen as parallels to each other, General Ross (Sam Elliot) and Bruce’s father, Doctor David Banner (Nick Nolte). General Thunderbolt Ross has motives for containing Bruce and is not completely one dimensional and unlikable. He wants to protect his estranged daughter, Betty (Jennifer Connely) (Bruce’s ex-girlfriend) and knows about his dark past and bottled up emotions after witnessing the death of his mother. However, Ross really wishes to use Bruce’s DNA to create a super soldier serum. David Banner is the first villain introduced in the movie. He is a military scientist working to create super soldiers. He is denied to do experiments with the serum on humans so he begins to test it on himself instead he then discovers that his child, Bruce has inherited some the effects of the serum and works to cure the disease. After being found out that he experimented on a human, he is then forced to stop his experiments and attempts to kill Bruce, accidentally killing his wife instead. This makes David Banner a tragic character as he is a man that was corrupted and destroyed his family due to his thirst for power. Another reason to have David Banner be in the movie is to have the father and son relationship which is important as it shows the repressed emotions Bruce has held onto and tries to forget about and ignore in his mind. Because Bruce’s transformation is because of his father, we see the villain create the hero in this case. Rather than the other way around in most stories. Both General Ross and Dr. David Banner can be seen as parallels because both of them do not really love their children and are simply using them to obtain the power they want so badly.
Danny Elfman’s score is terrific and that Hulk main theme is something that is so easy to hum without even knowing. Just like all good scores it is a perfect fit to the movie that stands out when it needs to. It also makes terrific music to listen to by itself.
The real reason why people detest this movie so much is probably because of the editing and the CGI. Lee used quick cuts and split-screen to keep viewers interested and to many, it came off as weird and gimmicky. But after re watching it, the cuts are actually fit to the tone of the movie. The editing is crazy, just like the Hulk. It is also used to build tension in certain scenes. As far as the CGI goes, it is pretty terrible. But that is not the main point of the movie. Lee wanted Hulk to be more about the story rather than effects. They still manage to do some great action scenes with the CGI however, like the desert fight scene. Which is one of the best scenes in the film.
Please give this film another look. There seems to be a bandwagon to dislike this movie without much merit and without giving it an honest objective look. Ang Lee did a good job directing a movie that if fixed in a few ways could have been much more respected by people and should be more respected now as well.