Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2003. Universal Pictures, Marvel Enterprises, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Good Machine. Story by James Schamus, Screenplay by John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus, based on the Marvel comic book character by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby. Cinematography by Frederick Elmes. Produced by Avi Arad, Larry J. Franco, Gale Anne Hurd, James Schamus. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Rick Heinrichs. Costume Design by Marit Allen. Film Editing by Tim Squyres.
Thanks to continual efforts to bring comic book characters to the big screen with as much fidelity to their original source materials as is possible, the superhero genre has ended up being the only area of action films that can reliably present deep character study to go with the eye-popping special effects that make them so popular (naturally, I’m pretending not to remember Daredevil). In this gorgeously shot adventure, a research scientist (Eric Bana) accidentally gets in the way of a nuclear power malfunction during a lab test on his latest project, jump-starting a genetic oddity passed on to him by his ruthlessly experimental scientist father (Nick Nolte). Now his frustrations and feelings of rage, mostly caused by his lack of knowledge of his dangerous past, manifest themselves by turning him into the Mean Green Mother from Inner Space, a tower of repressed desires and unexpressed anger that is dangerous to anyone close enough to his fists. The closest person to him emotionally is his lab partner and ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), a woman who understands his complications and will do anything to help him. In fact, her constant calm, patience and willingness to understand kills a bit of the intensity from the story, since where’s the conflict in a woman who fails to even break a sweat when her boyfriend is bashing skyscrapers with his bare hands? This King Kong meets Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde features intense, intelligent direction by Ang Lee (which, quite frankly, it never seems to need) and terrific production design by Academy Award winner Rick Heinrichs (Sleepy Hollow). What really propels the excellent screenplay along are the marvelous visual effects that bring the Hulk to life without ever making him campy or ridiculous (unless you pay attention to the fact that his shorts magically expand and contract with each transformation). Bana never manages to make an impression as the un-Hulked Bruce Banner, but he doesn’t try too hard either, so it doesn’t kill the movie’s chances of being great.