I guess I expected a movie called “Hulk” to feature its titular character more frequently than this movie does. And maybe I hoped that when he does appear, he’d be allowed to do something more than jump around in the desert. It’s possible that these expectations didn’t allow me enjoy Hulk all that much, but then it’s also possible that director Ang Lee’s film just wasn’t entertaining enough to keep me interested.
We begin in the 1960s, in which a man named Dr. Banner decides that disobeying protocol and doing experiments on humans would be a good idea. He eventually gives birth to a son named Bruce (eventually portrayed by Eric Bana), who, unfortunately, is also tested upon. He grows up to be a scientist too, who works with and used to be romantically linked to Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), a woman who cries whenever given the smallest reason to do so. They broke up before the main story begins, although they’re still quite close and when Bruce’s life is put in danger through an experiment gone wrong, she’s right there to have teardrops dripping down her cheeks, despite Bruce telling her that he feels better than ever after surviving. His bad knee is now his “good knee,” for example.
But this feeling of good health comes at a price. You know what’s coming, because it’s in the title, but he doesn’t seem to. It seems that those experiments his father had done on him as a child, added on to the recent radiation has made a mess of his body’s internal chemistry. When Bruce gets angry, or even slightly unsettled, he transforms into the CGI monster that you paid money to see. He gets to smash things, smash more things, and then jump from place to place for a while. When he calms down, he transforms back into the quiet Bruce Banner, a man who doesn’t want to hurt anyone else.
You might expect this to lead to a bunch of action sequences in which Dr. Banner gets to transform whenever it’s convenient just so that he can crush his enemies. You’d be wrong, because if you go into Hulk looking for action, you’ll largely be disappointed. The first transformation doesn’t even happen until nearly an hour in, and when it does, the worst that happens is that he breaks down a few walls and then wakes up the next morning not remembering anything that he did.
Instead, what you get is a film that attempts to delve into what it’s like to have a superpower that you can’t control, and how that might impact your life. The Hulk is a character that doesn’t get to pick and choose when his powers activate, and that’s almost a weakness for him. It’s not so much a physical strain as it is a mental one, especially because he’s pretty much indestructible every time he transforms. How much can he control his powers though? And what happens if he encounters someone he cares about when under the influence of them? These are potentially interesting situations, and Hulk does strive to answer them.
But did it have to take almost two and a half hours to get those answers? I don’t think so. There’s not enough depth here to occupy that amount of time, and because we’re running low on ideas by the end, I found myself struggling to stay awake. It takes a long time to get going, it takes a long time to finish, and what happens in the middle isn’t entertaining enough to make it a worthwhile endeavor. I sat there not having fun for a large portion of the time Hulk was playing, and in the end, I felt like I had wasted my time.
At one point, Nick Nolte shows up claiming to be Bruce’s father, David. You know, the one that experimented on him earlier on. He’s still performing experiments though, as we get to watch him turn rats and dogs into giant creatures that want to eat whatever comes near them. He’s one of our antagonists here. The other is Betty’s estranged father, General Ross (Sam Elliott), who leads some army men to try to kill the Hulk. Oh, and I believe he was also responsible for prohibiting David Banner’s earlier experiments too, and since he doesn’t have a positive relationship with any of the other primary characters, he’s an all-around awful guy.
There are parts of Hulk that work. We get to learn more or less exactly what Bruce is thinking whenever he isn’t the monster of the title, and this is something that superhero films often overlook. The special effects also look quite good, even if the Hulk himself isn’t all that interesting to look at. Okay, he’s a big green thing that doesn’t have much in terms of problems considering all potential issues can be resolved with a swift club to the back. But at least it looks like a lot of effort went into his creation.
However, there’s just too much boredom and tedium to make it worth a watch. Points are hammered home with far too much redundancy, and some of the scenes just didn’t work in holding your attention. There’s also some awful acting from Jennifer Connelly, who, like I said earlier, seems to cry at the slightest provocation. Even when not in tears, she still never seemed comfortable with whatever her character was doing, whether it be talking in scientific jargon or attempting to have a meaningful conversation with Bruce. She never seemed at home with her role, which is something that made me laugh whenever she appeared.
In the end, I didn’t have a good time with Hulk. It’s not a complete waste, as it does venture into territory that some superhero films completely neglect — in this case, the psyche of its hero — but it’s often boring and runs out of ideas way before it is ready to finish. We almost get more of the Hulk jumping around in the desert than we do of him smashing things, and I guess if that’s fun for you to watch, then you’ll have a field day. I found it beautiful, but only for the first time. After that, it’s redundant and I was ready to call it a day. Hulk wasn’t, and at that point, we disagreed and decided to never meet each other again. It’s probably for the best.