I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Summer Movie Flashback: Hulk

tn_hulk

2003
2003

I always loved Ang Lee’s HULK. It was a blockbuster nobody else would’ve made, the Hulk movie that takes time for the Hulk to sit in the desert staring at the moss on the rocks. The weird one. The one that’s split between crazy action and subdued character drama. The one with Nick Nolte in mugshot mode as the villain, commanding a pack of mutant dogs, later turning into an electrical storm.

Well, I still love all that, but I’m disappointed to find that I don’t enjoy the movie quite as much 10 years later. At least not the pre-Hulk chunk of the thing. And I think it comes down to the very idea of it.

Lee cast Eric Bana, so hilarious and maniacal as Chopper, to play a character defined by being closed up, keeping everything buried deep inside. Something bad happened with his parents when he was little – experiments, explosions, etc. – but he doesn’t remember it, doesn’t recognize that it haunts him, doesn’t act upset that his girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly, PHENOMENA) dumped him and he still loves her and works with her and then she sewed the first American flag I believe but that’s not covered in the movie. Anyway the Hulk is all these things boiling inside of Banner, waiting to explode out, but Bana never gets the benefit of pushing the button on the detonator. He does some twitching and then has to tag in the animated character who’s the real star of the movie. Poor Bana (and Connelly) have to spend the whole thing being restrained, and looking real concerned all the time, which is not as compelling to me as it used to be. I used to be more patient with it.

Lee made a couple choices for the people who want it to be “like a comic book,” he uses all these split screens and wipes shaped like comic strip panels. Like it’s that BRENDA STARR movie or something. I remember this being singled out in many of the negative reviews as the one good thing about the movie, but I always hated it. He’s not using split screen in a useful way, like DePalma showing both Carrie and her POV at the same time. And it’s only superficially like a comic book, unless a comic book would have a bunch of panels in a row that are just different angles of the same helicopter, no dialogue, and you’re supposed to look at all the panels simultaneously. I mean, do you really read comic books that are like this:

still_hulk1still_hulk2still_hulk3
Seems to me like it would be a boring read, but I guess I’m not a comic strip guy.

Oh shit, do you remember how Lee kills off the Josh Lucas character? I forgot about this. Check this out:

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Freeze frame t-shirt iron-on in front of explosion footage. Beautiful! I mean I kinda like it in that “ha ha, he doesn’t give a fuck!” way I kinda like the dance scene in SPIDER-MAN 3. But it’s pretty crazy that he put that in there. That would be funny if they did that in a comic book movie now. Like, that would’ve been a good way for Bane to go out in DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Fortunately, the Hulk himself and Nolte as the father/villain are every bit as great as I remember. The Hulk character does not look as photorealistic as many digital creatures, especially today, but he has more personality than many. I thought I preferred the look of the newer incarnations in INCREDIBLE HULK and THE AVENGERS but when I watch this I can’t help but enjoy looking at him. I mean, look at this guy:

still_hulk6

You gotta love him! Unless you’re Josh Lucas. Quit shooting at him, Josh Lucas! It tickles.

The highlight of the movie is clearly the section where the Hulk escapes from a military base out in the desert and spends some time battling tanks, helicopters and jets. Also he gets some time to himself, some Hulk time, to appreciate the fun of Hulkmanship  and the beauty of nature. He uses his super leaping powers to glide across dunes and mountains. General Ross (Sam Elliot, ROAD HOUSE) tells the bombers to “make a parking lot” out of beautiful land formations, so I think Hulk has a deeper connection to nature than man does.

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Nolte is wild-haired, mumbly and bizarre, the best depiction of a truly mad scientist since Brando in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. And his greatest moment is when the military sits Banner and dad down between two giant rocket engines, in case they gotta blast ’em. But at least they give ’em chairs, out of humaneness.

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Dad decides that this is like a stage and he puts on a little performance, a mega-acting monologue piece about his grievances with the military. I still enjoy that and the weird monster vs. man-who-can-turn-into-lightning-and-water climax. To this day it is unique among super hero battles.

It’s weird to watch this movie 10 years later with the knowledge of where Marvel Comics movies have come since. SPIDER-MAN was before this, it’s since gotten 2 sequels and a reboot. X-MEN 2 came out the month before this, it has since gotten another sequel, a prequel, 2 spin-offs. BLADE II had come it, it got another sequel and a TV season. PUNISHER has been rebooted twice. GHOST RIDER somehow got 2 movies. We got 3 IRON MEN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE AVENGERS, and sequels to the latter 3 on the way. The Hulk himself got rebooted in 2008 and recast for THE AVENGERS in 2012.

One decade later it’s a whole new world. They would never pull that split screen thing now. “You know… like a comic book!” Back then the idea of all these characters crossing over into each other’s movies seemed like an embarrassing nerd pipe dream. Now it’s what the audience expects. The sit after the credits and groan when there’s not a little thing where some character from another movie comes out and tells them about some other thing that’s gonna happen.

HULK failed to really connect with either audiences or moneypiles, but it didn’t scare them away from the formula of respected-director-who-hasn’t-done-something-like-this-before directing rising-actor-known-for-recently-acclaimed-performance. The director thing arguably started with Sam Raimi doing SPIDER-MAN (although since he’d done DARKMAN and everything it seemed natural that he’d want to do something like that) or with Bryan Singer on X-MEN, and it continues to this day. I think the difference is that it seems like Lee was pretty much allowed to do what he wanted, while it’s clear that when they bring in Kenneth Branagh or even Jon Favreau they are considered a hired gun and the honchos at Marvel Studios are holding the reins. That’s how they’ve been able to build this thing but it’s also why HULK, despite its weaknesses, continues to be special.

* * *

other movies that came out that summer: X2: X-MEN UNITED, THE MATRIX RELOADED, 2 FAST FURIOUS, CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, BAD BOYS 2, FREDDY VS. JASON

highest grossing movie that year:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

my first HULK review


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
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63 Responses to “Summer Movie Flashback: Hulk”

  1. I hated this movie, sorry, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster mash-up of early 2000’s indie drama and comic book superhero movie and it just doesn’t work, in my opinion, but this was the heady days of 2003 when the rules had yet to be written for how to do a Superhero movie, when it was still a fresh and new exciting thing instead of an increasingly tired thing, so I can forgive HULK for experimenting, but I just can’t bring myself to like it

    in fairness though, the 2008 Hulk was just boringly mediocre and I’ve always really liked the color palette of the 2003 HULK, nice bright, eye popping colors

    by the way, this whole retrospective is making me more nostalgic for 2003 than I thought I would be and I feel a little guilty, because I know it’s my brain self censoring the bad memories and focusing on the good ones, but dammit, I can’t help myself, I think a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that 2003 is the first decade old year that I can remember crystal clearly, that’s a new milestone in my life as a 23 year old (soon to be 24)

    so, on the topic of 2003, does anyone remember the TV channel Tech TV? (now defunct of course), I watched that channel a lot that year

  2. I think another reason I’m nostalgic for the early 2000’s is, while they certainly weren’t perfect, they were pretty darn good compared to the modern day

    I mean, no fucking Honey Boo Boo, Kim Kardashian and Twitter, any year sounds like paradise when you remove those things

    what was the worse thing pop culture wise about 2003? Paris Hilton, awful yes, but easier to ignore back then than the Kim Kardashians of today

  3. Still my most watched HULK movie. I never felt the urge to watch the “official”* Marvel HULK again, although I remember it being kinda entertaining, but this one? I love it! (Despite the way too green colour of the Hulk.)

  4. I love this movie. LOVE IT. That is all.

  5. If CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON showed us anything it’s that Lee isn’t an action director – even with Woo-ping Yuen onboard. I like this movie, but more as a drama than a superhero movie.

  6. I’m really looking forward to this series. It is a great idea. It is kinda amazing that we are now looking back at the 2000s as a strange experimental phase in superhero films before they figured out the big names and decided to production line them. They just wouldn’t make films like the Spirit, or V for Vendetta now. Films like Superman Returns and Spiderman 2 had artistic pretensions you don’t see in the paint by numbers stuff that’s being made now.

  7. I’ve always loved it, but eventually came to terms with people’s hate of it.

    The film’s problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, and I’m not sure Ang Lee gets it to this day. In a recent interview he said he “took the whole thing too seriously” and I dunno about that. It wasn’t so much taking it too seriously, per se, but the mash-up of off-kilter styles and tones that turned people off. Lee is an art-house director and it showed. Anything that could be considered as “fun” was filtered through that prism and turned out… weird. You have an intense dialogue scene followed by Hulk poodles, containment foam, and a cheesy freeze-frame of Josh Lucas. Either Ang Lee has the worst sense of humor in the world or I would also bet many of those moments (and the comic book editing) were crow-barred in. It just felt slightly condescending in a “I heard comic book fans like this stuff, so here you go!” kind of way, like Lee was deliberately trying to dumb himself down instead of organically telling his story. Audiences are more perceptive than he thinks, they saw right through it. But there’s the other extreme. Many scenes are undeniably powerful, but in a very unblockbuster way. The flashback of Banner’s mother dying narrated by Nolte is still one of the most poignant, no pun intended, scenes I’ve seen in a major motion picture.

    So yeah, the movie is a little weird, strangely paced, and the Hulk poodles are inexcusable, but I still think it has some of the most memorable and hypnotic imagery of any comic book movie I’ve ever seen.

    I would compare the general reaction Lee’s Hulk to Mann’s Miami Vice. And they’re similar in that they’re basically 150 million dollar art-house movies with a very very particular tone. With Hulk I don’t think it’s a question of too serious or too light, but that it was both of those things in all the wrong places. You need a tonal throughline for a film for audiences to feel invested. Guys like Spielberg, Cameron, and Nolan know how to do it in a way that connects with audiences. The Dark Knight, Avatar, or War of the Worlds are popcorn movies for sure, but quite grim tone-wise. Watch them again and you’ll be surprised by how seriously they take themselves and how few jokes there are. But they keep a consistent tone and audiences ate it up. This was Lee’s main failing with Hulk, IMO.

    BTW, the whole final action sequence is vastly underrated. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since. From when Banner Sr. starts chomping down electricity, the flight through the clouds, Hulk screaming “Take it all!”, the explosion, and how it’s all punctuated by a flashback of his father kissing him goodnight. I honestly can’t think of another action sequence that is internal conflict visualized on such a scale.

  8. There’s a whole lot of awesome in this movie. I like all the splitscreen shit, particularly the way the panels move and fold. It doesn’t do anything on a storytelling level but it’s a feast for the eyes. And I like the look of the Hulk, with the bright granny-smith apple green and the baby fat. I still don’t think he looks fake. And the action scenes were some of the first times I felt that a movie actually pulled off a real superpowered battle.

    But I gotta say, I could give two shits about Bana and his girlfriend and his childhood and his repressed memories and his mother and blah blah blah. It’s all very tedious. The last time I watched it I fast-forwarded through a good 25 minutes of drama and it improved the experience greatly.

    So it’s still very much a mixed bag. But I still like it. Mostly.

  9. Poodle. Singular. It’s only one. The other dogs belong to a different race. Also I never understood why some people have no problem with a guy turning into a green giant when he gets angry, but think mutated animals (that aren’t even green or something, but instead more “realistic” [as in groteque exaggerated]horror film creatures) are too silly.

  10. By the way, am I the only one who noticed that all three modern live action appereances of the Hulk feature at least a scene, where he falls out of an airplane or a similar flying vehicle and survives unharmed? I wonder if it has to do with the fact that the Billy Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk was killed by falling out of a Helicopter.

  11. Jareth Cutestory

    August 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Wait, what? Did they kill the Bixby Hulk off prior to that show being cancelled?

  12. They made a few years after the series ended three TV movies. In one of them Thor and in another one Daredevil appeared. And in the last one, the Hulk tried to stop the bad guys from escaping with aan airplane, but while doing so he fell to his death. I’ll be honest here. Seeing that crate with the lifeless Bill Bixby inside of it, was both one of the coolest and most traumatizing images of my childhood.

  13. in fairness to the people that liked it, I should probably give it another chance one of these days, one thing I did like was the ending, it didn’t have that typical “to be continued!” ending of modern comic book movies where they obviously leave it open for a sequel, it tells a very self contained story

    but still, stuff like “HULK STARE CONTEMPLATIVELY AT MOSS!” is undeniably corny as hell

  14. Reasons I love Hulk:
    1) the first act plays out almost like a horror film (especially when you consider the child abuse metaphors)
    2) I love the way he looks in this one – the whole bright green, play dough quality just makes this version more iconic
    3) the third act battle – a homage to the trippier stuff that Marvel were putting out in the ’70s (on a side note, I always thought that was the one big thing the first Ghost Rider movie had going for it – it didn’t shy away from keeping the 1970’s Marvel horror comic vibe)
    4) Nick Nolte’s hair
    5) in one film, it did everything I would want to see in a Hulk film – Hulk fights monsters (the monster dogs scene is weird but it’s obvious why it’s in there), Hulk fights military, Hulk fights super villain…it’s epic in the right way
    6) the schizophrenic feel of the film is totally on theme
    7) it has that really distinctive, dream-like quality that you wouldn’t associate with the genre
    8) having said all that, I did get laid a few hours before I watched Hulk for the first time therefore my fondness for the film has likely been influenced and should be questioned.

    Over here in the UK, this seems to be playing on tv all the time at the moment. When I stumble across it, I’m glad that the Avengers kids who don’t have a history with the character are getting this version pushed on them and not the neutered follow up.

    Great retrospective and writing as always Vern

  15. I haven’t seen Hulk in a number of years, but I will defend it to the death. I remember a lot of people actually complaining about the split screen use, but I thought it was really engaging. I understand that a lot of people hated the extreme tonal shifts in the film, but I love when films play with tone. Hulk veered from an indie drama about family, nature v. nurture, trauma, and memories to a campy comic book. It’s combination of high and low art is very rarely seen in movie theaters today, and almost never seen in a large blockbuster. Again, I can see why these shifts in tone were a turn off to a lot of audiences, but I completely dug it. Like I said, it has been years since I’ve watched the movie. And maybe it has lost some luster. But I can only imagine that compared to the solid but workmanlike superhero movies we get today, Hulk will look even more radical in ten years later.

  16. If you think about, this movie was kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda the blueprint for SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. Here it was a family drama that was played as a surreal science fiction action movie with comic book look and PILGRIM was a low key indie RomCom that was played as surreal action movie with video game look.

  17. This was a pretty clunky movie, but it completely redeems itself with hulk poodles (Sorry Vern, have to disagree with you here).

    I just about shit myself laughing.

  18. My problem with Lee’s HULK might be the same problem I have with MAN OF STEEL: Both movies are designed to make you feel, yet they’re esoteric endeavors and can’t give a shit. Yet Vern liked both. Go figure.

    HULK especially was a tragedy, but I never felt any tragedy in it. What’s tragic about your evil scientist father being taken away who killed your mother when you were a kid? (OK seeing her death, I can understand that trauma. More to crying like a bitch after snapping a supervillain’s neck after he killed millions of people.)

  19. And doesn’t Hulk punch one of the giant dogs in the nuts? That alone makes the scene worth it.

  20. I liked this movie when it came out but to me it’s become even more interesting as the superhero movie template has become calcified. There’s more of a set in stone way to make them now, as opposed to the wild west days when you could make something this weird for $100 million+.

    Whatever the hell Nick Nolte is doing in this movie – ‘acting’ feels insufficient to describe it – I fucken love it. There’s times when I think he might be the best actor alive, and those times are usually when I’m watching Hulk by Ang Lee.

    Also, I really like the ending gag of this movie and nobody ever talks about it – Eric Bana with a crazy beard saying you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry in Spanish while a lizard crawls on his hat.

    Russkov – I like the Miami Vice comparison. That’s another movie taht doesn’t really ‘work’ but is still fascinating for all the things it does differently from any other movie of its type. Every time I revisit MV I find something new to appreciate about it.

    RRA – I get what you’re saying. I don’t like this movie because of the timeless character of Bruce Banner and whatever the hell his problems were, but I do think its human stuff is still more involving than any of the grey-faced talking mannequins in MAN OF STEEL. And I like HULK’s four color weirdness more than the meticulously recreated 9/11 of MoS.

  21. Hey I didn’t say anything bad about the Hulk Dogs. I love the Hulk Dogs. (And CJ is right, only one of them is a poodle. And I don’t see anything wrong with a poodle. Poodles are fuckin creepy even when they’re not Hulks.)

    I disagree with the idea of Ang Lee not being a good action director. Maybe it’s not his primary interest, but he’s way better at it than most people. The action scenes in this, for example, are miles better than in the other HULK movie made by a guy who only does action movies.

    Griff, you should watch it again but you’re remembering wrong, it does have an open-to-sequels ending pretty much lifted from the first BLADE.

  22. I have to say I’m not a big fan of this one. There are certainly some good things in there, but overall I find myself irritated any time I try to watch it.

    When I saw this in the theater, I had never heard of Bana. I ended up hating him for a few years because of this movie. Of course, I’ve grown much wiser in time and now he’s one of my favorite actors. Just goes to show that even a great actor can suck when the script is boring.

    For me this is similar to MOS in a different way. In both cases, I think the filmatists had little respect for the source material and felt they needed to make drastic changes to the character, backstory, etc. I’m not against changing things, but for me in both cases the changes were crappy.

    And the dogs? Sorry. I hate the dogs.

    So, yeah. This is an interesting, but ultimately failed, experiment in my mind. I think the reboot and the Avengers are a far better screen translation of the big green guy.

  23. Oh yeah, Sorry Vern, I mixed up Russkov’s comment with your article.

    The fucking dog scene rocked.

  24. Holden, good pick-up on the recurring helicopter motif.

    Would love to see Vern tackle the TV movies. Watched them recently and, budgetary limits aside, they’re pretty decent! In line with the TV show, so they don’t have the scope more contemporary Hulk fans would expect, but serious-minded, well-acted and unique.

    In fact, I think the three Hulk TV movies heavily reflect the Nolan Batman films.
    -The first one feels the most beholden to the source material, as it has some silly sci-fi trappings centered on Thor entering the real world from Asgard, fighting side by side with the green giant. It’s got that same vibe as Batman Begins as far as “yes, we’ll acknowledge the roots, but we’re also shaking off some rust, you haven’t seen this for awhile” clunkiness. Also, the guy playing Thor is kind of a hoot.

    -The second one, like The Dark Knight, is a more urban, serious-minded crime story, where Banner comes in contact with Daredevil as they team up against the Kingpin. Kingpin’s whole scheme involves surprising Daredevil by beating the crap out of him on film, then showing the film to fellow mob bosses to scare them into working for him, which is not only similar to the Joker’s attitude towards the underworld, but also based on the idea of the illusion of order and the idea of chaos: Kingpin doesn’t even stick around to see if Daredevil survives, he just needs to present them with a viable-enough beating.

    -The third is a come-down from the second, but it’s like The Dark Knight Rises in that it has Banner bedding a woman who may or may not be on his side, since she’s a Russian spy (named Jasmin, but obviously supposed to be Black Widow). It’s also surprisingly bleak and it’s not a spoiler to discuss the darkness of that ending since the damn thing’s called THE DEATH OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK. It’s also got the overly complex plotting and double crosses of the Nolan Batman films, a lot of stuff about spy cloak and dagger material that was really big on TV in the eighties.

    Wikipedia says they wanted to bring the Hulk back to life and team him up with She-Hulk and Iron Man, but Bill Bixby died shortly after. That would have been interesting.

  25. I know the popular opinion on this site is that HULK is for sophisticated cinephiles and INCREDIBLE HULK is for mouth-breathing morons who just want to see punching, but I just can’t jump on that bus. There’s stuff I like about HULK, but overall I found it really fucking boring. I like indie dramas just fine, I just didn’t think this was a good one.

  26. Very refreshing to see a positive retrospective of this movie, and in the comments as well! (I expected haters to pile on, this being the Internet) Some good points that y’all have made about the era’s super-people movies.

  27. It would be nice for Vern to do a retrospective of 1993, 1983, and so on.

    The fight in the cloud is one hell of a piece of good filmatism. Ireally liked thebright green play—do Hulk.

  28. I will say that I like both Hulk movies (though I like Lee’s better), but the EXTENSIVE deleted scenes on the Incredible Hulk blu-ray suggest a much deeper, more interesting film. Apparently that was all stuff that Norton had written, which led to his refusal to promote the film. I would be pissed too if I wrote a half hour of footage that was ALL cut from the finished film I was starring in, particularly since a lot of that footage was used in trailers and commercials for the film.

  29. Hulk was always my favorite growing up, more from the live action series than anything else. I was really pumped when I heard they were making a hulk movie, but I found this one profoundly plodding and morose. It seemed like a compromise between moody, intimacy and action epic, and for me it was a big did on both counts.

    I will say that the casting was perfect, the film looked gorgeous, I dug the split screen, and I also thought there were some scenes where the hulk looked really cool and iconic (like when nick note touches his face), but also a lot of others where he looked pretty cheesy (like the transformation scene when josh Lucas confronts him at his house.

  30. Dikembe Mutombo – I might actually agree with you there.

    OK folks since I’m bored: I think unless Marvel surprises me, we’re getting yet another solo Hulk movie in the next few years. What story/storyline/approach should they use other than “better than HULK and INCREDIBLE HULK”?

    There was that rumor that they were going to adapt Planet Hulk, then another claims they’ll follow that recent “Indestructible Hulk” title where he’s with SHIELD and smashes more shit. Either way, I’m all for a Mark Ruffalo-starring summer blockbuster movie.

  31. They’d never make a Planet Hulk movie, not after JOHN CARTER. I’d like to see them move away from the looming spectre of the TV show and follow on from Banner’s arc in THE AVENGERS, where he has come to terms with his own anger and tries to channel it in constructive ways. Haven’t read Indestructible Hulk, but it sounds like a good approach.

    I just want to see a mid-budget Hawkeye spin-off movie based on the Fraction/Aja comics.

  32. I was told they would do a movie where Hulk goes rogue again and General Ross sends the Black Panther after him, but I suspect that dude was 100% full of shit, because he also told me Dr. Strange was gonna be in Thor 2. I am a sap.

  33. I watched this one again sometime last year, right before The Avengers was released, I guess. I always liked it more than just about anyone I knew at the time when it came out, and I thought it held up fairly well. Like some other folks have said, this was like the Wild West days of comic book flicks where there was an “anything goes” mentality. I know a lot of folks hated it because it was kind of a mopey drama thing, but, fuck it, I love that it’s definitely Ang Lee’s Hulk and not somebody else’s.

    Also, I know you’re not a fuckin’ jukebox or anything, but I’d like to request a Freddy vs. Jason review.

  34. Well, they made an animated Planet Hulk movie. It was okay. Never read the comics, so I don’t know if the storyline is better in printed form.

  35. I want to ask you guys something, should I feel guilty about my nostalgia for 2003 despite things like the Iraq war?

    make no mistake, the things that were good about the early 2000’s were good DESPITE Bush

  36. If we aren’t allowed to remember and feel good about the good times we had anymore, just because somewhere else some real shit went down, we can all start killing ourself.

  37. Off-topic as hell, but did anybody catch the leaked GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY footage from D23? I still don’t know if the masses will embrace it, but it felt nice that the gut feeling I had in the potential of the property seems to have been justified after all.

    http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/webdr03/2013/8/13/15/anigif_enhanced-buzz-32612-1376423794-12.gif

    CrustaceanHate – The only thing I honestly ask from another Hulk picture is She-Hulk. Kinda like how the inevitable THOR 3, I only ask for Beta Ray Bill.

    Gabe T. – to be fair to that person, Marvel might’ve planned it at one point but changed their minds. Hell AVENGERS film outline originally, if I remember right, Red Skull was the villain and initially the Avengers were created to capture the Hulk. (Remember that RDJ scene in INCREDIBLE HULK? Let’s just say that scene, now nonsensical, was made for a film story that Whedon nuked.)

  38. Always thought this was alright. I’m a Peter David Hulk guy so I appreciated how this movie dealt with the psychology and duality between being Banner and being a monster like a lot of those comics did. That to me is far more interesting than making a big budget lesser episode of the TV series like Louie The Terrier ended up doing.

    Still haven’t seen an ideal Hulk movie but realistically it lies somewhere between this one and the ironically more boring yet “action packed” movie that followed it. The problem with both movies is that they leaned way too much on the extreme sides of the spectrum in either direction. There is no middleground balance.

  39. Vern’s eloquent words on this important Hulk film approximates my feelings on the matter. Good-to-forgettable movie with at least 1 and a half sections of uniqueness & awesomeness.

    Also I might be the only person ever to compare the ending of Ang Lee’s HULK with the beginning of Cronenberg’s THE BROOD, which makes me brilliant in my opinion.

    Here, I’ll recall & update my controversial Marvel movie rankings from the THOR thread, with loosely hierarchical tiers of quality:

    1. BLADE II
    2. THE AVENGERS
    2a. BLADE
    2b. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE

    big drop-off in quality at this point

    BLADE: TRINITY
    FLYING HULK, CROUCHING NOLTE
    IRON MAN
    X-MEN FIRST CLASS / THOR (tie)

    getting bad now

    KICK-ASS (Non-Cage, non-Hit Girl parts are unwatchable. Should have been a brilliant 45 minute film.)
    THE PUNISHER, Tom Jane edition (still haven’t seen Dolph’s yet)
    MEN IN BLACK
    RED SONJA
    WOLVERINE: ORIGINS: THE MOST COMPLETE BODY DOUBLE IN THE WORLD EXPERIENCE (Turned out to be pretty okay on rewatch! Good ridiculous stunts throughout.)

    useless but inoffensive

    THE INCREDIBLE HULK redux
    X-MEN 2 & 3 (tie)
    X-MEN 1
    GHOST RIDER VS VENGEANCE

    would not watch or recommend

    MEN IN BLACK 2
    CAPTAIN AMERICA
    IRON MAN 2
    SPIDERMAN
    DAREDEVIL
    GHOST RIDER
    IRON MAN 3
    FANTASTIC 4
    SPIDERMAN 2
    SPIDERMAN 3

    most unfortunate

    KICK-ASS 2: DE-CAGED

  40. Oh yeah, put “Tom Jane *is* Dirty Laundry” just above X-MEN 1

    and put “Item 47” at #3 or 4 overall. Very nice short Marvel One-Shot on the AVENGERS blu ray extras.

  41. The original Paul

    August 16th, 2013 at 11:47 am

    “KICK-ASS (Non-Cage, non-Hit Girl parts are unwatchable. Should have been a brilliant 45 minute film.)”

    Dayum, I thought I was the only person who thought that.

    Vern, looking at your Summer movie list, might this be a good time to post that defence of “Reloaded” that you were talking about? At least get the arguments in their own thread.

  42. The original Paul

    August 16th, 2013 at 11:48 am

    That last bit meaning, we’ve been discussing that movie a lot in the comments for some reason. Might as well give the discussions a place to call home.

  43. What the three hulk outings to date suggest is that he really does best as the strong, laconic straight man in a group dynamic. He lacks the character dynamism, wit, range of emotional expression to be a compelling protagonist, and just from a size perspectives his ability to directly engage with humans in battle or in meaningful relationship is incredibly constrained. If they were to push further with the notion of blurring the line b/t hulk and banner (allow hulk to formulate articulate thoughts), that might be interesting. It might be a disaster, too. It probably wouldn’t be boring, which is one adjective l’d use to describe both of the previous standalone films.

  44. I do agree with broddie. The Norton hulk tried to overcorrect from the bana one. The character development was really limited, and it wanted to be nonstop on the run but didn’t deliver enough tension or truly engaging action to succeed. I love Tim Roth but was absolutely indifferent to blonsky/abomination. The Tim Blake nelson sorta becomes the Leader scene was complete schumacher-grade camp in an otherwise non-camp film, bill hurt gravely miscast, zero chemistry b/t Norton and live Tyler, the final battle might has well have been a video game, and the visuals and production design were washed out and bland (even the stuff in Brazil). It felt like a film made by committee and or focus group, with no prevailing, compelling vision or aesthetic. Other than that, 4 stars.

  45. Planet Hulk was an amazing storyline in the comics, one of the best Hulk arcs I’ve ever read. The animated version was pretty enjoyable, but a LOT was cut out, too, and it pales compared to the comics(understandable, though. Planet Hulk covers about 15 issues I think, not counting the 6 issues establishing the setup for it).

    As for the Bill Bixby Hulk movies, the one with Thor deserves to be watched just cause, as someone else mentioned, the guy playing Thor is a bit of a hoot!

  46. CJ – thanks, that makes me feel better about things, like the fact that I also have a lot of nostalgia for fall of 2001 despite everything because GODDAMN what a season for video games, the best one in my lifetime so far as a matter of fact

  47. Also I’m not sure I would call the early 2000s a “wild west” of comic book movies. Try instead the 1960s when basically they were doing insane stuff like DANGER: DIABOLIK! Vern would like that one I think.

  48. well, in the early 2000’s comic book movies, which had been hurting since Batman and Robin, got a major shot in the arm after Spider Man, it was still a novelty back then, even for a non-comic book guy like me, to see Superheroes on the big screen

    now however it’s becoming increasingly formulaic, in my opinion it peaked with Nolan’s Batman trilogy and The Avengers, so compared to now the early 2000’s was a more “wild west” era for them

  49. Griff – fair enough valid point.

    Weird we calling today too formulaic even though we’re living in the Golden Age of these movies. Will the low tide crush us, punishing us for having AVENGERS and the Nolan movies? Perhaps.

    Of course then again I’ve lost count how many times prophets of doom claim that epoch was over.

  50. Just because I’ve got nowhere else to put it, it’s amazing to me how well shot the Cinemax series Strike Back is compared to the $120M+ blockbusters of today.

    Also it has boobs.

  51. and boobs make EVERYTHING better!

  52. I never understood the hate against this movie, and i never will. Ang Lee makes a movie that’s respectful to the material, treats it with respect and seriousness, and respect for the audiences, in total contrast to what was the norm back in the day, and people still bitched, basically complaining the movie was not silly or dumbed down enough. Who understands that?

  53. I understand that. I’s just a slog of a film. It’s not entertaining. It did not deepen my understanding of or appreciation for the human condition. I did not connect with it emotionally. I did not laugh, cry, cheer, or gain any significant insight. And many if not most people shared thay sentiment. Contrast this with Iron Man, where I had fun or Crouching Tiger, where i also had fun, plus there was angst, yearning, intrigue, action, strangeness, yet a sense of satisfaction and coherence about it all.

  54. So your complain about Ang Lee’s Hulk is that it was not made like a Michelangelo Antonioni philosophy treatise movie? Really?

  55. No, my complaint is that I didn’t enjoy it, and I think it fails as an tentpole action film and an arty psychodrama, and perhaps this is because it tries to be both. I think the Nolan Batmans show that an audience will accept drama, character development, and genuine pathos in an action film. So, it’s fine if you enjoy the film and have particular affection for certain elements of it, but you go a step further and imply that this film’s failure is really a failure of the audience’s intelligence or aesthetic sensibilities.

  56. No, my complaint is that I didn’t enjoy it, and I think it fails as an tentpole action film and an arty psychodrama, and perhaps this is because it tries to be both. I think the Nolan Batmans show that an audience will accept drama, character development, and genuine pathos in an action film. So, it’s fine if you enjoy the film and have particular affection for certain elements of it, but you go a step further and imply that this film’s failure is really a failure of the audience’s intelligence or aesthetic sensibilities. .

  57. Wow, sorry about the double-posting computer love

  58. “the final battle might has well have been a video game”

    there’s no ‘might’ about it. the ‘Hulk turns cars into boxing gloves’ is straight out of the great Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game

  59. oh yeah, I remember that game

  60. I never liked this film but have been tempted to rewatch it. I appreciate that they let Lee do his thing but the interesting weird bits are far and few in a pretty boring film.

    Mouth, I have to disagree with your list comic book films. For one if it is supposed to be a list of films based on Marvel characters KICK ASS does not belong on the list and you left out the disturbing tribute to bestiality HOWARD THE DUCK. However, I agree that BLADE II is the best Marvel film. If I had to pick a top 5 best Marvel films (in no particular order) it would be, BLADE II, IRON MAN, THE AVENGERS, SPIDERMAN 2, and X-MEN FIRST CLASS with PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, SPIDERMAN, BLADE, and X2 all receiving honorable mention.

  61. I’m fascinated that this one continues to polarize opinions because to me it is near un-fucking-watchable. Whenever I hear people talking about what they liked about it I’m mystified; I understand the words they’re saying, but they have no resonance with me. Yes, he pauses to look at some rocks and stuff in the desert, but it’s a totally flat scene because he is a underdeveloped CGI character whose thought process I don’t understand, so it is just a scene of watching a special effect looking at rocks. Yes, it swings for the fences with a plot about repression and child abuse, and it totally misses because the scripting/performances/direction are all unengaged. Yes, this is a unique film, but still a terrible one. Glad some people like it but I will never understand why, because even the supposedly ‘good’ things about it are terrible, in my opinion.

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