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The Hulk - He's a bear in the wilderness trying to survive from poachers

Feature by: Jack Foley

COMIC book superheroes seem to be all the rage at the moment, thanks to the overwhelming success of movies such as Spider-Man and X-Men.

Already this year, we have had Daredevil, and the X-Men sequel, and there are plans for both a Superman and Batman revival, among others, in the near future.

The Hulk, however, marks a different sort of comic book to movie translation, and cinema-goers expecting a typical Summer blockbuster may be in for a big surprise.

Directed by Ang Lee, of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, the movie represents a bold departure from the typical big-budget format, in that it functions on a far more human level, while also presenting a different sort of central character.

"If anything, it's a monster movie," explains Lee, at a recent London press conference, held at the Dorchester Hotel. "Hulk doesn't have a good cause, or come out and save the world, he's not a superhero; he's a monster who comes out and makes a mess.

"If I was to borrow from any movie genre, it would be a horror one, such as Frankenstein," he explained. "When I was proposed to this project, I thought I had a chance to do a psychodrama, based on how the original story was made."

For Lee, the challenge lay not so much in creating an awe-inspiring spectacle, but in tapping into the psychology of the piece; turning Bruce Banner into a sympathetic character, who is forced to wrestle with his inner beast (as personified by The Hulk).

"That's the kind of Hulk I wanted to touch," he told me. "But, unfortunately, I had to use CGI methods to visualise a specific being. But to me, the whole movie explores whether he has a taste of The Hulk as part of his subconscious. And I believe that he does."

It is little wonder, then, to find that Lee believes that everyone has a Hulk inside of them, just waiting to burst out.

"My definition is that it is a survival instinct, or an alter-ego, as the comic book calls it," he continued. "It's so scary that we have to cover it up. It doesn't have a logic.

"I also believe that under unusual stress - usually anger, or some sort of paranoia about something - it could expose itself.

"I only get to experience that through making movies," he confesses.

"I'm a naturally shy, nice person; I don't push anybody. But as a director I will turn nasty if I want to get some results.

"When I was nervous about the outcome, I would go as far as kicking the set. I lost it a couple of times."

Contrary to what sort of image this throws up, however, Lee has the respect and admiration of everyone who works with him, as one of the film’s stars, Josh Lucas, who plays Bana’s love rival and chief tormentor in the film, was keen to point out.

Indeed, the desire to make a different sort of comic book movie was one of the main reasons he was so keen to sign up to the project.

"None of us were making a Hollywood movie, or a big Summer action movie, we were making an Ang Lee movie... For all of us, it was genuinely about working with Ang and seeing how he was going to take this genre, that is so completely different from the movies that he makes, and mesh the two."

The result, according to Lucas, makes for a truly remarkable viewing experience - not least because of the emotion generated by The Hulk himself, which caught the actor by surprise once he saw it.

"For me, the character I have the most compassion for in this movie is The Hulk, which I was astonished by, because as an actor, you definitely have this sort of competitive sense, you know, in the fact that you're playing with a CGI element…

"But when I saw it, I was honestly completely stunned by the level of everything that Ang talked to me about. Seeing the blood in his eyes, seeing the texture of his fingernails... This is so awesomely, tremendously evolved from anything that's been done before," he explained.

"For me, the moment when I became completely overwhelmed by how beautiful and sad I thought the character was, was when he was falling from the airplane, and there was something about the flutter in his eyes, and the pain, that I realised he was the character I actually cared about the most - which is exactly what we were looking for.

"He isn't a hero, and he isn't an anti-hero, he's simply a monster; he's a bear in the wilderness trying to survive from poachers."

Audiences will have the opportunity to judge for themselves when the movie opens here on July 18.

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