DIRECTED BY Ang Lee
STARRING Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte
Opened July 18, Cert 12A, 137 mins
On the face of it, Ang Lee—director of sensitive, tasteful films like Sense And Sensibility and The Ice Storm—isn't the first name that springs to mind when considering who could successfully bring to life Marvel Comics' rampaging, 20-foot-tall green monster. But, surprisingly, Hulk works—just.
After a '60s-set prologue, where we learn the Hulk is the product of genetic experiments conducted by Bruce Banner's deranged scientist father David, Lee jumps forward to the present to find Bruce has followed in his father's footsteps and is now working alongside former beau Betty (Connelly) at a secret research facility. Both have issues with their parents—Bruce holds his long-absent father responsible for his mother's death, while Betty has a dysfunctional relationship with her own dad, General "Thunderbolt" Ross (Sam Elliott), the man who, 30 years back, tried to shut down David Banner's experiments. Bruce is a bundle of barely repressed rage and frustration and, after exposure to gamma radiation, this deep-seated fury finds shape and form as the Hulk.
Bana, who impressed as the cheery psychopath in Chopper, pinpoints Banner's sense of simmering anger and emotional confusion. But Banner isn't quite as interesting as his alter ego. Nor is he quite as entertaining as Nolte, playing David Banner, who returns to check in with his son, eager to see the experiments he began 30 years previously through to their sinister conclusion. Nolte hams it up as Banner Snr, a ragged loon raging away like a cross between King Lear and Baron Frankenstein.
The Hulk itself doesn't appear until nearly an hour into the movie, and it's only in the final showdown against the might of the US military when the creature's full powers get unleashed. The CGI is impressive—watching the Hulk trash a squadron of helicopters is a real delight. But the build-up is slow, as Lee attempts to inject psychological gravitas to the story before bowing to the inevitable multiplex spectacle. Lee's Hulk movie tries too hard to bring highbrow ideals to a comic-book movie.
Rating: 3 / 10