Film discussion

In Defence of… Hulk (2003)

Are you one of those people who overlooked Ang Lee's Hulk? You may want to rethink your opinion...

What I enjoy most when it comes to superhero comic book movies are ones that focus on a central human protagonist that struggle and come to terms with their superhuman alter egos. In this case, it’s The Incredible Hulk. Having grown up watching the 70s TV show starring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as his mean, green, muscular humanoid counterpart respectively, I just loved the idea of an intelligent scientist being forced to go on the run from government operatives while desperately trying to find a cure for his ‘condition’ and only transforming into the Hulk when losing control due to being subjected to emotional stress.

Ang Lee’s Hulk, which was released in the summer of 2003 after Marvel’s success with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man a year before, is a film that I’ve always had such a soft spot for. Unlike the misguided 2008 reboot and how the character of Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk had been treated within the MCU, this version takes a much more darker, depressing and sinister approach to one of Marvel Comic’s most popular superheroes. It really does not get near enough the love and appreciation that it deserves and kudos to Ang Lee for putting his own stamp on this.

What follows below are the five main reasons why Hulk is so criminally underrated, demanding Marvel fans give this film a second chance…

Danny Elfman’s Music

Whenever Danny Elfman’s name gets mentioned people often immediately recognise him for his close film collaboration with director Tim Burton. It’s no surprise then that it often gets forgotten or overlooked that Elfman has composed music for so many other films outside of Burton’s massive filmography. The music he produces and composes here is among my absolute favourites.

Really tender during its emotional human moments but really dramatic sounding when it needs to be during the heavy action set-pieces. It’s a superb score that really compliments the film.

A Unique Style of Editing

In terms of the editing process, what sets this film differently to the rest of the Marvel films thus far was mainly due to the film crew wanting to really give the Hulk an in-depth comic book feel via a split screen based on the multiple image sequences from the comics.

With Ang Lee as a film-maker feeling inspired to translate the pages of this comic book world into a motion picture, he felt the best decision was to take the comic book layouts and come up with cinematic devices inspired by them that would work on screen.

Gamma Radiation Exposure

Originally, Bruce Banner is involved in a freak gamma radiation incident that contaminates his cells which turns him into the Hulk in the first place. In this film, the rules are rewritten a little where the accident caused on Bruce, played here by Eric Bana, unlocks the Hulk within him, thanks to his father, David, played with sinister relish by Nick Nolte after he experimented on himself with cell regeneration and passed it on to Bruce through genetic inheritance.

This works effectively well when it comes to creating fiction and conflict between father and son whom don’t see eye to eye with each other.

The First Transformation into Hulk

In the later films, we’re not really treated so much to an origin story of what it was like for Bruce when he first transforms into the big, mean, green machine nor did I feel was there enough danger or turmoil for him to completely lose control and radically change into his superior alter ego. But here, not only do we have his father coming back into his life years after believing he was dead but also becoming increasingly aware that General Thaddeus Ross is growing suspicious of what he’s up to in his lab and having another business rival snooping around his workplace.

These are all perfect reasons that justify why Bruce would get angry and let his darker side take over.

Ang Lee’s dedication to the Hulk

Ang Lee’s main interest that lies within this movie is discovering what it is that really drives Bruce Banner and how to really bring the Hulk to life. He didn’t want to make the film campy in any way so instead wanted to make the film play out as a really serious drama and bringing in a lot of realism which he felt was important when drawing the audience into this world and truly believing it. He was also able to communicate to the actors who the Hulk was, what he was doing, the emotion, the drama and the power in every scene where there was interaction between the cast and the digital creation.

His intention was for the Hulk to act out as another human actor rather than a cartoon character, and much like the rest of film, he achieves that with consummate skill. Hulk really is a film you would do well to revisit, re-appreciate and hopefully enjoy.

Are you a fan of Ang Lee’s Hulk? Let us know!

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