During my seminary days, I was required to take pastoral care, where the professor explained that all of us are messed up, and that our parents are the ones who did it to us. "Hulk" is a movie that attempts to deal with the ways that family messes us up.
Director Ang Lee's decision to turn "Hulk" into a psychodrama makes the move a disappointment, reviewer Mike Parnell says. (Universal)
"Hulk" presents us with two main characters: Bruce and Betty. Both are genetic researchers and from what are popularly called dysfunctional families. What's more, Bruce's father worked for the military in genetic research, and Betty's father is the officer who supervised him.
Bruce's father is the typical mad scientist, while Betty's father is the typical megalomaniac military man. But both fathers affect their children; Betty is affected more psychologically, while Bruce is affected more physically.
Bruce and Betty work on using gamma radiation in combination with genetic manipulation as a means of healing people. But Bruce has a serious problem: his father used his infant son as a guinea pig for his research, and Bruce got infected by gamma radiation. The father's actions thus created a monster—a hulk that terrorizes and destroys much of the countryside.
"Hulk," based on a comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, combines Lee and Kirby's take on the story with those of many who have worked on the comic through the years. But director Ang Lee's decision to base the movie in psychodrama sadly does not work well.
There is also a problem with lighting and scene structure. One of the fight scenes is so murky it is impossible to see what is taking place. Also, Lee uses multiple frames to make the scenes look like a comic book. Frames sweep onto the screen and allow us to see different angles of the action—but this effect looks more like a bad TV movie from the '70s and adds little to the movie.
Too much of the movie is over the top. The cast is wonderful, but directed in a fashion that does not allow their talents to shine. Nick Nolte, Bruce's father, does nothing but chew up the scenery. Eric Bana is so strained in his line delivery that you just want to scream. Jennifer Connelly repeats the same role she played in "A Beautiful Mind." The computer-generated Hulk actually turns in the best performance.
Having read the comic for years, I was truly excited to see the Hulk up on the screen. The effects were the best part of the movie, and watching the creature run like a locomotive and take three-mile leaps will make a fan jump for joy. But the omission of the Hulk's tagline—"Hulk smash!"—is yet another disappointment.
With Ang Lee's body of work, one would think that this movie would be better. Sadly it is not, because of Lee's decisions. "Hulk" needed more Hulk and less family.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some disturbing images and brief partial nudity
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: John Turman, Michael France and James Schamus
Cast: Bruce Banner: Eric Bana; Betty Ross: Jennifer Connelly; Father: Nick Nolte; Ross: Sam Elliott; Talbot: Josh Lucas.