Hulk (2003)

He’s angry….and boring.

Researcher Dr. Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) failed experiments cause him to mutate into a powerful and savage green-skinned hulk when he loses control of his emotions. And the only person who seems to stand by him is his girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), proving that love is indeed blind. Nick Nolte co-stars as Banner’s father.

Director Ang Lee is a very strange director for this type of material. I mean this is the same dude that made Sense & Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain so adding this to his list is strange but also disappointing.

I have to say that that Lee does do something new with the superhero film here and that is bring a lot more emotional depth to a film that would just seem like constant smashing everywhere. The film focuses a lot more on the actual characters, story, and happenings which is something new and actually cool for a superhero film because we never see that really and Lee somehow makes it interesting.

The problem with Lee’s ambition is that at a staggering time-limit of 138 minutes, a lot of this does feel kind of boring. Not much really does happen except for a lot of these people just talking about what’s going on and a little bit about the mysteries of their lives. The action does come every once in a blue moon but not enough for a film that is all about a big green dude who goes around and smashes things.

The script is also kind of lame because instead of actually trying to create any sense of real tension with this story, it just focuses on Banner and his father’s relationship, or how he still can’t remember what happened to his parents when he was young. The humor is gone within the first 10 minutes so therefore were stuck with just a bunch of serious people, doing their very own serious face and overall just being dull.

However, despite the problems with the script and story the constant visual fest of this film is what had me liking it more. Lee makes this film look like a comic book on the screen with the use of light colors, split-screen to portray about 3 different things happening at once, and The Hulk itself. I loved how the green just stood out amongst the area around him and when the action actually does happen it looks really cool and is actually exciting because even though Lee may not be able to keep this film exciting through its over two hour time limit, the action still provides some fun here.

The acting itself was pretty good and brought me into the film more as well. Eric Bana as Bruce Banner is good and plays that torn, all messed up dude that doesn’t know exactly who are where he came from very well even when he starts to get angry. Jennifer Connelly is practically doing the same exact “stand by your crazy scientist lover” performance that she won an Oscar for in A Beautiful Mind but that’s not so bad; Sam Elliot is a total dick with his snarling and teeth grinning performance that looks like he came right out of the comic book itself; Josh Lucas is a dick as well here as Glenn Talbot, but isn’t in this film as much; and Nick Nolte plays Banner’s father, David (Get it, David Banner) and looks like he just came right out of that disastrous mug-shot but is still pretty good with that craziness he always uses so well.

Consensus: Director Ang Lee strives for ambition here with some dramatic depth to the story, good performances from the cast, and a beautiful, comic-book look to the film, but overall there’s too much talking and most of it just feels plain boring with not enough cool action sequences which makes me question how didn’t Lee know why Lee tried to aim for a Greek tragedy?



  1. I’ll sum it up for you: too much story, not enough action.

    Great review Dan. Props for linking Nolte’s look here with that now ubiquitous mugshot he’s famous for. I always get a laugh out of that.

    (Did like the bit with the three giant gods though. That was cool.)

  2. I watched this movie so long ago and remember very little, but I definitely agree with all your points. The biggest problem for me is that the Hulk himself looks too fake and too cartoony. 2008’s The Incredible Hulk did a way better job of creating their CGI Hulk…

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it yet I’m willing to give it another shot to see how it holds up. I doubt it will rank anywhere among Lee’s best work but I’ll try and keep an open mind. It can’t be as bad as the one that Edward Norton did.

  4. I really enjoyed this different take at a comic book flick when I first saw it, but I don’t know how I’d feel about it now. I think it has a fluidity and depth that was overlooked and perhaps Lee just didn’t know his audience. It’s a little too talky, sure, but I think that the visuals of Hulk are among the best ever put to screen. His facial expressions and the vulnerability behind the character are really something – at least I think so.

    • This had some real great visuals and color to it, but for Lee’s sake, it was just too talky and he could have cut a little bit out of that out honestly. Thanks!

  5. I actually took part in a focus group survey of the HULK before it was released, and got to see long clips of the movie and rate them. I was SO not impressed by the CGI, and just as you say, the rest of the film was BORING. I think the lead was miscast, amongst other glaring issues. I never even went to see the finished film!

    • The finished film wasn’t that good but this was pretty boring with some redeeming qualities to it but not that much really. Sorry to hear Debbie!

  6. Too overlong indeed. It’s funny, they went the complete opposite way with the reboot which was probably too action-heavy. Combine the two and we might have had something good.

    • Indeed! But I guess their just going to wait when Ruffalo takes over in The Avengers which is kind of a bummer because if they did put both, they would be cooking something good. Thanks Castor!

  7. You forgot to name-drop Lee’s best movie, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.

    But yeah. Long. Slow. Boring. I thought going in that my biggest worry would be the CGI (It was still a pretty new technology at this point) but actually I thought the Hulk looked great. It was the rest of the movie that sucked.

    Plus, this was – if I remember correctly – the introduction of skinny Jennifer Connelly. A tragedy almost as big as the film itself.

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