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The Unwatchable Hulk
Saturday, June 28, 2003
An interesting aspect of humans is that we are, to some extent, able to subjugate our own instinct and common sense to the will of a group. I found myself in that position today, when I went with a group of friends to see the new movie, "The Hulk". Two hours later, I found myself out $9.50 and 2 hours and 17 minutes of my life.
The purpose of this review, then, is to convince the reader that their time is too valuable to waste watching "The Hulk". I'm not bothering with spoiler protection (coming soon), as I want to eliminate any motivation one may have to see it.
The first hour of this movie makes the opening of 2001 look fast-paced by comparison. Over an hour passes laying out the backstory in an excruciatingly slow manner. If one was to watch the movie despite my warnings, I recommend showing up an hour late. Skipping the first hour of the movie won't lead to the missing of any important plot element, as the most important bit is repeated throughout the movie in the form of a progressively lengthening flashback.
What you will miss, should you skip the first hour, is the repeated use of strange transitions between scenes. The movie looks like the editors got hold of a software package that had over a hundred different transitions, and they decided to undertake the challenge of using all of them. They slide the picture around, zoom, morph, wipe... there's even one time where it looks like the frame is mapped on the side of a box, which is rotate ninety degrees.
They used a sort of windowed effect, in which the movie screen was divided into multiple sections, each of which showed a different portion of a shot. This was horrible when they used it in "The Andromeda Strain" in 1971, and it's just as horrible in 2003. It makes it hard to pay attention to what's going on. Thankfully, there's nothing worth paying attention to.
After an hour, the movie gets slightly more interesting, as the Hulk finally makes an appearance. What follows is a series of battles intermixed with a confused plot that seems to center on Bruce Banner's relationship with his crazy hippie scientist father, and his (occasionally ex-)girlfriend's relationship with her father, a cavalry general.
The first battle scene pits the Hulk against a crazed poodle and other dogs that had been enhanced by his father. It's hard to know what happened in this fight, as it was far too dark to tell what was going on. I guess the idea was to heighten the mystery, but I don't think that a blurry indistinct fight is the way to do that. When that ends, the Hulk turns back into Bruce, we're subjected to a (unfortunately, far too distinct) male butt shot, Bruce is betrayed by the girl, and we're off to the secret underground base.
The underground base is actually kinda interesting looking. The Hulk is handed over from General Ross to the random evil corporation, even though his daughter can kinda control the beast. The evil corporate type attack Bruce with a cattle prod, then sticks him into a sensory deprivation chamber, and subjects him to bad memories. Hulk's back, and after a rampage through the base, he returns to the surface.
There, the best battle of the movie begins, one which would actually be quite decent if the rest of the movie were to simply be ignored. The Hulk duels with Abrams tanks, Comanche helicopters, and an F-22. This is actually a quite good battle, well-lit and easy to follow. While every shot of a helicopter crashing is followed by a radio message with the pilots reporting that they're ok (reminding one of the way GI-JOE always bailed out after their planes/cars a second before they exploded), that's easy to forgive since it's easy to root for the US Army.
If you decide to watch this movie on DVD, I recommend skipping forward to the point where you see a tank, watching this battle, and then (after the Hulk fell into the water) stopping the movie and going out side to enjoy a nice day and/or to be rained upon, weather permitting.
The Hulk is captured again, and surrounded by a Hulk-killing machine. (He also goes back to Bruce.) Here is where the movie gets strange. The general decides to put the crazy reptile-loving hippie father in to talk to him. (The father has managed to get his own superpowers by this point.) I'm not sure what this was supposed to accomplish, as the father then spends his time yelling at Bruce, as well as admitting to having tried to kill him. This was the big progressive flashback, a revelation one could see a mile away. People were laughing during the supposedly important moments, that's how over the top it was. The father powers up using the Hulk-killing machine, and the final battle is on.
This is another somewhat confusing fight, taking place mostly underwater. It isn't worth understanding, as an F-22 decides to end it by nuking both of them. One year later, Bruce is in the Amazon, with a CG-looking frog that is utterly unimportant to the story. The End.
I've heard the criticism that the story of the movie serves only to frame the CG shots. That's somewhat true, and somewhat not. The problem is, the story is far too long (over an hour of boring exposition before any action), compared to a few short action scenes, none of which is good enough to carry a modern movie.
In short, there are far better places to spend your time and entertainment dollars.
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