Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hulk (2003) & The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I wanted to see the new one, so I revisited the Ang Lee one.

To me, these two movies are best analogized by food. The Incredible Hulk is proud to be nothing other than a Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Burger, it's totally a piece of product, of prepackaged responses, a collection of action sequences justified by a gummy connecting tissue of drama. Meanwhile Ang Lee's film from five years ago intends to be a juicy steak dinner with a little something for everybody, an expensive effects driven movie with a core of human drama. The problem is, Lee's film ended up being crispy on the outside and cold in the middle, overcooked and underdeveloped. For all of Ang Lee's ambition, it's the junky Louis Leterrier movie that more fully succeeds; and when it comes to a comic book movie about a man who turns into a giant green monster when he gets angry and smashes stuff, maybe the more simplistic Leterrier concept was the right approach all along?

Ang Lee's Hulk, his project in-between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, is the kind of movie that separates the cineastes from the boys. It's Lee's The Terminal, or his Kundun, or his Mission to Mars; a movie that fails with a mainstream audience but is of interest to the dedicated auteurists in the audience, to pick apart the themes and how they fit in alongside The Ice Storm or Lust, Caution. It's a thematically and visually interesting movie with strong performances from a good cast that nonetheless is kind of a drag to watch, thanks to a subpar screenplay. There are too many flashbacks, too much leaden family-based backstory for Eric Bana's Bruce Krenzler, who winds up with virtually nothing to do but react and mope between effects sequences. I see and respect that Ang Lee had a vision of the Hulk that was different from the traditional one, a Bruce Banner consumed by repressed Oedipal rage and inherited sins, but the film simply does a poor job of dramatizing and visualizing these ideas - I mean, maybe it would have been a good idea to actually show Bana get angry at some point in the movie, instead of merely having Jennifer Connelly tell us "I'm attracted to men with emotional problems" early on, right? Ambition is great but it's not enough to make for a good movie.

So after the clumsy exposition of Hulk, it's incredibly refreshing to watch the opening sequence of The Incredible Hulk, which consists of a simple, clean montage of the new, rebooted origin story, heavy with references to the television series of thirty years ago starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. The opening five minutes of this movie are as clean and efficient a piece of moviemaking as you're likely to see all year. From that point on, the movie devolves into something pretty simplistic, a trio of decent action sequences connected by Edward Norton and Liv Tyler demonstrating virtually no chemistry and Tim Roth waiting to turn into a less well-designed CGI monster. The final action scene did give me a visceral thrill: after some 220 minutes of Hulk movies, finally, Hulk Smash! But cars getting thrown through apartment buildings and rubbery CGI will only get you so far under the guise of a director with as limited of an imagination as Louis Leterrier - fortunately he's smart enough to keep it short and simple, with the occasional joke ("You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry") so it goes down smoothly enough and doesn't trigger the gag reflex - at least after one viewing, which is probably all I'll ever give it. But you know you're probably not a good director when the star of another movie wanders in at the last minute and gives a more interesting performance than anything else that you've been laboring on for months and months.

Hulk: 5/10
The Incredible Hulk: 6/10


glimmer said...

loved your food bit ! :)

so the hulk smash movie with better word of mouth from public isn't doing much better box office than the 'too intelligent' hulk/the general public supposedly hated(i've seen neither)

uh what's happening ????

Craig Kennedy said...

I'm way behind on other people's blogs, but I have to wade in on the Hulk thing...again.

If the new Hulk is a better superhero movie than the Lee Hulk, then I'm really really bored of superhero movies. It was an amusing diversion that I've already almost completely forgotten about, yet big chunks of the Lee Hulk linger. A failure perhaps, but a far more interesting one than the supposed success of the new Hulk.

Ross McPhee said...

Good review. I haven't seen the new Hulk movie yet. Is it worth my while? Part of the reason why I saw Ang Lee's film was to see how Eric Bana acquitted himself, and it was disappointing that it didn't turn out better for him.

I could also mention the ropey CGI in the climatic battle sequence between the Hulk and his father, in which it was almost impossible to see what was going on. Obviously the studio had a release date to meet, so this meant a rushed production schedule.

Jeff McMahon said...

For sure, there elements of Ang Lee's movie that are superior and more memorable than anything in this new one; I'd also say that there are things in Lee's that are sillier or dumber than anything in the new one (lousy expositional dialogue in the first act and the bizarre Nolte/Bana scene at the very end, for example). That's hwo artistic risks work, sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't.

Ross McPhee, I'd say the new Hulk movie is worth your while if you've already seen Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and Wall-E and are looking for something mindless and mildly fun.

I'm also disappointed that Bana hasn't done better career-wise; his movies (Hulk, Troy, Munich, Lucky You) show that he wants to work with talented, established directors in moody pieces, but they keep ending up flaccid for various reasons (although I love Munich and think he's good in it, he's also a bit one-note). I hope that he can find a juicy part along the lines of Chopper that really shows what he's capable of, because that movie showed he has charisma to burn.

Craig Kennedy said...

My main beefs with the Lee Hulk are that it's very slow to get going, somewhat muddled and the CGI is often pretty unconvincing.

What I liked was Jennifer Connelly who was the rare comic book female who was actually given something to work with and she made the most of it.

In fact, most of my favorite scenes in the movie involved her and either Bruce or Hulk.

The main thing as I've said elsewhere is that when Bruce Hulked out in the Lee film, you could FEEL his rage in your bones where in the more recent movie it was just so much roaring and smashing. It didn't have any emotional weight to it at all.

It's strange, I've done nothing but bash the new Hulk at every opportunity, and yet for what it was I enjoyed it. I think ultimately I'm just bored of empty summer movies. As far as they go, Hulk was a pretty good one.

Jeff McMahon said...

Craig, another problem I have with the Lee Hulk is that, even though it feels more like a spawn of Bruce's rage, the motivations for Bruce to get angry are inconsistent. The first time the Hulk appears, Bruce is just in his lab and has a string of flashbacks and memories and, for no particular reason except that the movie needs it to happen, he Hulks out.
On the flip side, even though the Norton Hulk never feels as motivated, I felt he was a scarier character, and a more threatening, violent, uncontrollable one, and Leterrier's action chops helped here.

viagra online said...

The new one was too much better, the effects were less false and the story have more sense. I definitely prefer the last one.