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The Hulk (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Feature commentary with director Ang Lee; Hulk Cam: Inside the Rage – access to behind the scenes footage throughout the film; Thunderbirds teaser trailer.
Disc Two: Making of; Superhero Revealed: The Anatomy of the Hulk - manipulate and dissect a 3D hulk model; Deleted scenes; Hulkification – "You’re Making Me Angry" scene drawn by illustrators from around the world (in Japanese Anime, Euro Style and Marvel Comics style); Evolution of the Hulk; The Incredible Ang Lee; The Dog Fight Scene; The Unique Style of Editing the Hulk; DVD-ROM content.

ONE of cinema’s greatest visual artists turns his attentions to the blockbuster market with surprisingly stylish results in The Hulk, the latest Marvel comic to be given a big screen makeover.

Ang Lee has been responsible for some of the great movies of recent years, including the period drama, Sense and Sensibility, the Civil War epic, Ride With The Devil, and, most notably, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Yet his decision to take on the summer market raised a few eyebrows, particularly when early trailers revealed The Hulk to be a digital creation that looked decidedly dodgy. There was a very real fear that Lee had created the wrong type of monster, and that audiences would be the ones to become angry.

Yet now that the green giant has finally arrived, it has revealed itself to be quite a creation - a blockbuster which delivers the wow factor, while also working on an emotional level; a big budget movie that could well appeal to the art-house crowd as well.

The Hulk functions as much as a tragedy as it does a full-on crowd-pleaser, taking one man’s struggle to find a place for himself in the world, while understanding what has happened, and turning it into a genuinely affecting emotional tussle.

Eric Bana stars as the quiet, sensitive research scientist, Bruce Banner, who absorbs a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation during an explosive lab accident, in which he selflessly saves the life of a colleague.

As a result of his courage, Banner begins to experience side effects, developing a super-human anger, that sees him transformed into a giant green man-beast, known as The Hulk, who courts the attention of the military, led by the father (Sam Elliott) of Banner’s ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly).

Yet while the Army seeks to harness this temper for its own ends, Banner struggles to understand and contain it, drawing on the support of his former lover, and his estranged father (Nick Nolte), in a bid to end his personal torment.

The ensuing battle of wits makes for engrossing viewing, and it is credit to Lee that the special effects - when they arrive - merely serve to enhance, and not detract, from the human emotion involved.

Though more serious than the likes of Spider-Man, and rivalling Tim Burton’s Batman in the darkness stakes, The Hulk still retains a sense of fun, and provides a visual feast, courtesy of a number of different filming techniques (from slow-mo, to split screen, etc).

It looks beautiful throughout, and contains a nice line in humour (more ironic, than outright funny, although TV Hulk, Lou Ferrigno’s cameo, is very well-observed).

And while several of the support players may feel under-used (most notably, Josh Lucas’ love-rival), the four-way tussle between its central protagonists plays up to the strengths of its cast, with Nolte, especially, revelling in his role as The Hulk’s mad father/creator.

The romance between Bana and Connelly is another strong-point, carrying with it an impending sense of tragedy throughout - and just as Spider-Man’s kiss with his sweetheart provided that movie with one of its highpoints, so too does Bana’s reunion with Connelly, following The Hulk’s San Francisco rampage.

The Hulk, himself, also turns out to be a far more impressive creation than the early trailers suggested - not as expressive as CGI’s finest, Gollum, but suitably fun to be around.

Audiences should delight in his anger, particularly later on, as he is chased across the desert by the military and sets about the tanks and helicopters with relative glee.

There are failings, of course, most notably in the film’s overblown running time, and it’s weird finale, while early sightings of The Hulk seem deliberately designed to mask the CGI shortcomings - being set at night, or at great pace, so as not to allow the eyes to focus.

Yet the lasting impression is one of quality, for in terms of ambition alone, this should leave the majority of this year’s blockbusters green with envy, while whetting the appetite for the inevitable sequel.

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