Review of The Hulk

Monday, June 16 2003

This review is based on a Hulk press screening that I attended on June 1st at the Alfred Hitchcock Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood. This review of The Hulk does contain minor spoilers. For a Hulk review with major spoilers, click here.

Let’s cut to the chase here. The Hulk is thus far the best film that I have seen this year, and is the most accurate comic book film adaptation to date. This is a solid film with an intelligent plot, incredible acting, innovative editing, and the most believable CG that I have ever seen.

The film wastes no time in engaging the viewer. By the time the opening title sequence is over (which is driven by Danny Elfman’s powerful score), the complete back story and motivations of David Banner (as in Bruce Banner’s mad scientist father) has been revealed. The film moves along at good pace, allowing for all of the main characters to fully develop. I found myself deeply moved by Bruce and Betty’s relationship, (or lack thereof); amazed at how one man (Gen. Ross) could be so unsympathetic and narrow minded; totally loathing Josh Lucas as Glen Talbot; and in complete awe of the Hulk.

Let me put that rumor to rest. The CGI Hulk is outstanding. The trailers and commercials thus far do not do him justice. Now, it should be said that he looks better in some scenes than in others (the Hulk particular shines in the desert and SF scenes), but he always looked believable. As far as how he sounds on screen, he roars like a Hulk and when he does talk (yes, he does talk) his voice is gravelly and terrifying.

Is he better than Gollum? These types of comparisons are unwarranted. Gollum was a speaking character, and he really preformed well in his speaking scenes, especially when he talked to himself. These rather touching moments drew the audience in and made Gollum believable.

The Hulk, however, is not a speaking character (he only has two lines in the entire film), so he relies purely on his facial expressions and body language to convey emotion. And his body language speaks volumes. There are two scenes in particular that really moved me. The first occurs when the Hulk is in dessert and is enjoying his freedom. He wears this look on his face of complete joy and of being completely lost in the moment. The second takes place right before the Hulk performs a heroic act. He deeply burrows his brow and wears this confused look, which quickly turns into surprise as he realizes what is about to happen.

There have been many comparisons to the television series 24’s use of multiple screens. These comparisons are similarly unwarranted. The cuts, fades, zooms and edits as they are used go way beyond a static 4 panel split screen. They are visually engaging and unlike anything seen in a film before.

To dismiss The Hulk as a typical summer smash ‘em up, light hearted action flick would be a huge mistake. The Hulk is a very serious drama with a solid plot and believable characters. There is no campy dialog and the film maintains a serious, almost dark tone throughout. I would definitely categorize this as an adult film. Only during the last 2 minutes is any form of hope or levity given to the viewer.

If I had any complaints at all with the film, it would be that I felt that the final act of the film was overshadowed by the middle act. This is not to say that I disliked the ending; it’s just that the middle part of this film was simply mind blowing. Still, I would have liked the final act to have been similarly mind blowing, and it wasn’t.

I’d give this film 4/5 stars, 8/10 stars, 2 thumbs up and the Hulk fan’s (20 plus years) seal of approval. I can’t wait for the sequel.

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Check out the fan trailer here.


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