Raging inside Dr Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a monster waiting to be unleashed. Anyone familiar with the comic book or the TV series that starred the late Bill Bixby will be familiar with the setup of “Hulk” the new film version of the classic tale by acclaimed director Ang Lee of “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” fame.
For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, when Dr. Banner is exposed to an overdose of Gamma radiation, his body chemistry is altered in such a way that he transforms into a large, green, and destructive creature when he is angered. Naturally, this puts him at odds with the authorities and the military and Banner is forced to live a vagabond existence while he searches for a way to contain his inner rage. In the new version, much of the established background of the characters are removed in favor of a new background that basis the origins of the creature on work begun by Banners father before he was born. It seems that the senior Banner was working for a government lab when he decided to experiment on himself with his new regeneration serums which in turn, caused him to pass on his altered genes to his son Bruce. Flash forward to the present where Bruce is now going by the name Krensler as he is under the impression that his family is dead. He works closely with old-flame Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), who still cares for him despite Bruce being very distant emotionally.
While prepping for an important presentation, Bruce is exposed to an overdose of Gamma radiation that sets the stage for the emergence of the creature as it activates the alterations that were present in his system based on his father’s tamperings.
It is at this point that the film takes several bad turns that drag the film down. When the creature finally emerges 45 minutes into the 2 hr and 20 minute film, it is underwhelming. While the creature looks interesting, I had the impression that I was watching a computer game, as at no time, did the creature seem to fit into the background and was very clearly superimposed. While the facial and skin textures and reactions of the creature were good, the action sequences were far too few and in between and very underwhelming. Once the creature emerges, it does not take long for Betty’s father General Ross (Sam Elliott), to actively begin plans to destroy or contain the creature as his genes contain the key to vast fortunes for a government contractor and his presence reminds Ross of the threat Banner’s father represented thirty years earlier which Bruce has repressed all of these years.
I am going to avoid going into too many details of what happens to whom and when but suffice it to say soon the creature is on the loose with the military in hot pursuit fearing the rage of the creature unleashed in a populated area. What I will say however, is that while I was a fan of the series and comic, I was very unhappy with the film version, especially with the huge array of talent that was brought into the film. Connelly and Bana look like they are sleepwalking through the film as the dialogue is so bad and bland that it makes the Star Wars Prequel banter look Shakespearian in comparison. The actors rarely show any emotion at all, and seem to be uninspired by the material. Only Nick Nolte playing the senior Banner puts any emotion into his role, but he is reduced to chewing scenery and spouting lines that elicited groans from many of my colleagues in the press section. The action of the film was very unspectacular as the trailers have shown the majority of the major FX and the few battle scenes unfold in a very ho-hum manner with no pacing, tension, or excitement. I found myself caring little for the characters as they were so emotionless and uninspiring that their fates were of no major consequence other then returning for possible sequels.
I really wanted to like this film, but I found myself unable to find anything about it to recommend or like. The long gaps when the creature were not on the screen dragged by, and when the creature did appear, it was little payoff. Worse yet, I found myself wanting to leave the film before it was over and I stayed mainly out of professionalism and that is saying a lot as I have willingly sat through many a stinker in my film career.
With so much talent in the film, and the fantastic FX people at ILM, it is sad to see that something so promising went so wrong. I had hoped that with Lee helming the film, there would be many emotional segments of the struggle to contain the inner beast we all have, or an emotional tug of war blended with gripping action. Sadly there was neither, and as a result, “Hulk” is little more than a bloated production that is soulless and empty.