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HULK (2 + 3 disc set): DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is a brilliant researcher working with cutting edge genetic technology – with a nearly forgotten and traumatic childhood. His ex-girlfriend and colleague Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) resigns herself to remaining an interested onlooker. During an early trial in his ground-breaking research, Bruce heroically saves a life but in the process, his body absorbs an abnormal dose of gamma radiation. He begins to feel some kind of strange presence within, and to suffer from blackouts. Meanwhile a massive creature leaves a path of destruction in Bruce’s lab and home. Only Betty and Bruce’s long-missing father David (Nick Nolte), realise that Bruce is involved. Until Betty’s dad, General Ross (Sam Elliott) discovers the link between young Bruce and the man Ross put away 30 years earlier.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Appropriately enough, there are two editions out on DVD: a ‘Bruce’ version with two discs, and a ‘Hulk’ version with three. Just as in the film, the two personalities are deeply at odds, and I’m not talking about Banner/Hulk. Ang Lee’s film of the Marvel comic character (via a popular tv series) tries to fuse a valid human drama onto the comic book escapade, but instead of making it gel he makes it long. In the first act, we learn about Bruce Banner’s scientist father, David, and gather that his genetic experiments on himself impacted on his then unborn child, Bruce. This lengthy establishment section drags the film out beyond its natural length, which for a comic book-inspired science fiction/creature feature fantasy is probably 95 minutes. 

The comic book genesis is carried through in the credits and the frequent multi-frame imaging. So nothing the writers can do alters the fact that we are in comic book territory, and we should probably have stayed there in thematic terms, too. The serious grown up issues are simply incompatible with the effect-laden hulking concept; we start noticing the falsifying that is employed for cinematic purposes. Such as how Bruce Banner’s clothes get ripped apart as he expands – except for some tight fitting blue shorts. 

The hulk effects themselves are uneven, and admittedly, it is a huge challenge, especially when the hulk has to jump huge distances. As for the film’s messages, the only moral for the subject matter is ‘don’t mess with nature’ which is a little worn by now. There is perhaps an additional message (possibly inadvertent but maybe not) about the thick-headed stupidity of the US military which wants to solve everything by shooting it. But of course this has a solid tradition in all B sci-fi movies. Although Bruce/Hulk is no superhero al la Bruce/Batman, there is a nasty, greedy baddie who is after the special genetic powers of the hulk for commercial reasons. This element provides a second level of conflict – the first level is with the military who try to kill the hulk. Eric Bana is as good as the role allows, clearly capable of leading man material; Jennifer Connelly’s character and performance is reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind; Nick Nolte is gritty as the mad scientist with a guilty conscience about his son; and Sam Elliott is steely as Betty’s father and the symbol of the military. (Hulk co-creator Stan Lee and TV’s Hulk Lou Ferrigno play small cameos as security guards, just for a giggle.) 

Danny Elfman’s hulk-size score and the vocalisations here and there, suggest the filmmakers were really reaching for an epic scope and feel, escalating the intra-family tensions as the dramatic device on which the story is built. I can’t help feeling the film would have worked better as a smaller scale drama, with that basic idea worked up, to the exclusion of the big shoot outs and special effects. It’s infected with the current Hollywood virus; studios just can’t make decent B pictures anymore. Every pic has to be an A picture, even it’s only got B picture elements. So they add A list stars – but that doesn’t elevate the material. A good B picture is a worthy thing and there should be more of them. 

This A syndrome has also infected the DVD releases: I’m not whingeing that there is too much material on the DVDs, but the sense of occasion elevates the film’s importance beyond its tolerance levels. I speak for myself, of course, and there are no doubt hundreds, thousands, even millions of fans who can’t be over-Hulked, as it were. So for them, nothing but the three disc version will do. 

Here is to be found a comprehensive, dedicated documentary of almost 45 minutes, put together with a great sense of pace and style. It’s called the Low Down, and for once, the title is modest; it’s the full bottle, not just the low down. It’s like a guided tour – with Josh Lucas and Sam Elliott as guides - through the production, meeting the key cast and crew (as well as creator Stan Lee from Marvel), getting close up on the effects and stunts. Excellent work, and interesting even if you’re only luke-warm about the film itself, like me.

There’s also novel work on Disc two, with Hulkification, in which four famed comic book artists - Kubert, Ohtsuka, Larroca and Terada – re-draw the ‘you’re making me angry’ scene from the film. In one panel we see the scene, in two others we see the artist’s frame by frame work. You can also elect to see the comic book frame on its own, either finished or in progress – as black and white linework. 

There’s heaps of historical/evolutionary material, too, and for the true aficianado, Anatomy of The Hulk will give you every statistic you could dream of, for Bruce, and for various stages of angry for Hulk… there’s nothing this exhaustive on my DVD of Casablanca. 

If you still don’t believe me about the depth of material, consider this: the chapter on the dog fight scene runs for 10 minutes. That’s longer than the special effects and stunts segment within the Making of feature!

Get this Collector’s Edition home and soon you’ll be saying, ‘you’re making me … tired’.

Published November 6, 2003

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HULK, THE (2 + 3 disc set): DVD (M)
(US)

CAST: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Paul Kersey, Cara Buono, Todd Tesen, Kevin O. Rankin

DIRECTOR: Ang Lee

SCRIPT: John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus (Story by James Schamus; based on the Marvel comic book character created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee)

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD 5.1 surround/5.1 DTS (disc 1); Dolby Surround (disc 2)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Feature Commentary with director Ang Lee; Hulk Cam: Inside the Ring; Thunderbirds Teaser Trailer; Disc Two: Making of The Hulk; Superhero Revealed; Deleted Scenes; Hulkification – ‘you’re making me angry’ scene; evolution of The Hulk; The Incredible Ang Lee Story; The Dog fight Scene; The Unique Style of Editing Hulk; DVD Rom Feature (Limited Edition Collector’s Edition) Disc Three: Hulk: The Lowdown – in depth look behind the scenes; Limited edition prints of unique storyboard artwork; 34 page booklet with limited edition artwork of the ‘hulkified’ scene; The incredible Hulk Marvel comics # 2 reprint; production notes booklet

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

DVD RELEASE: November 5, 2003







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