Incredible Article on The Hulk in The NY Times

Sunday, May 11 2003

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Hulk fan Herr Helmet posted a great scan of James Schamus' NY Times article on our boards here.

Below is the transcription from the NY Times website:

Sing to Us, Muse, of the Rage of the Hulk

RAGE. It's the first word of Homer's "Iliad," whose hero, Achilles, has always stood in the Western tradition as a troubling precursor for many of our great epic protagonists. What to make of this overgrown mama's boy, so often petty, jealous, sulking and, when called finally to action, murderous? That he also, at the end of Homer's poem, sits and cries, in mutual mourning, with his enemy, King Priam, whose sons he has slaughtered, only adds to our confusions about the nature of his heroism, and of the heroic legacy he has left us. For as every reader of Homer knows, Achilles would soon go on to kill more of Priam's people, all the while knowing he himself was doomed to die in Troy.

The big question about Achilles as a character is one every Hollywood executive and actor asks more or less daily: What's his motivation? But of course that is an unanswerable question in the vocabulary of Achilles' world. A hero is fated, not motivated, and is all too human because his inhuman greatness is an unchosen gift from the gods. Achilles' flood of rage is a mark of both human psychology and inhuman destiny: the patterns that give his life enduring meaning are precisely those that strip him of his mortal identity.

I write the above basking in the glow of the good news coming out of Hollywood: in recent years, the so-called copyright businesses, like movies, recorded music and TV shows, have become America's No. 1 export. You might ask what this has to do with rage. As a writer and a producer of Ang Lee's "Hulk," which opens June 20, I have a vested interest in the enduring marketability of epics of anger and destruction, and the accompanying heroes who perpetrate the mayhem and try to create meaning out of it. Last year's big numbers were driven by films like "Spider-Man," "The Two Towers" and "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones," as this year's will no doubt be by "Matrix Reloaded," "X2," and, I hope, "The Hulk." Of course, this has also been the year, in the words of the C.I.A. officer quoted at the end of Bob Woodward's "Bush at War," that "America will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation." But unlike the C.I.A., which gives its exported violence away, Hollywood gets the world to pay for its exports.

Why do audiences at home and abroad so gladly cough up for these privileges? Certainly spectacles of mayhem have always had their pure entertainment value. But on a deeper and more important level, such spectacles hold little fascination without the heroic figures who are inscribed within them. It is the constant testing, reconfiguring and evolution of such heroes that make these movies so compelling, and the Hulk provides the opportunity to explore a particularly complex member of the heroic tribe.

As first introduced to the world four decades ago in the groundbreaking Marvel comic book series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk was immediately remarkable as a different kind of hero — perhaps not even a hero at all. Paired in a Jekyll-and-Hyde struggle with the ultra-nerd nuclear scientist Dr. Bruce Banner (played in the movie by the Australian actor Eric Bana), the Hulk was at once the accidental, Frankensteinian expression of our highest scientific ambitions, and the brute, primal cave-dweller that still exists within us all. Emerging from inside Banner at moments of frustration and rage (we all remember the famous tag line from the Hulk TV show, "You're making me angry — you wouldn't like me when I'm angry"), Hulk was a perfect embodiment of American repression, a curiously asexual rampaging id, a gigantic "No!" shouted out against the technological order.

Interestingly, the Hulk is neither superhero nor supervillain; but he is not, as Nietszche would put it, a super-man beyond good and evil either. He is, rather, before them — an innocent being, like the cute 15-month-old toddler, who, one day, without warning, turns into an apoplectic, screaming, hyperventilating, tantrum-throwing mini-Hulk — as awe-inspiring a combination of humanity and inhumanity as a person can witness.

Whether or not he is called a hero, Hulk and his destructive innocence clear a path that gives us access to the domain of the heroic. The genius of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's childish creation allows us to connect to a time before memory — a time filled with emotion, purpose, feeling and awe, the experience of which forms us in incalculable ways. The Hulk's heroism is the heroism of our children, and, of course, of our inner children. And the wonderfully exportable, entertaining fear he inspires is not just the fear of the monster lurking in the shadows, it is the fear of ourselves — a fear that is also the sign of our own connection to the gods.

James Schamus is president of Focus Features and teaches film at Columbia University's School of the Arts

This is a scan from the paper

This is the image from

IThnaks for the heads up Herr Helmet!

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