In the early 2000s, director Ang Lee was approached to direct a Hulk movie for a 2003 release date. The film starred Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte and Josh Lucas. People were more than curious about this movie’s director as Lee before Hulk, was known for introspective and thought-provoking movies, which is an unusual choice for a blockbuster let alone a superhero movie back then. However, when the film released in 2003, it was hated by the fans and the audience gave the film a cold shoulder. The critical consensus was mixed to positive, with some giving indirect complements. Overall, today it is regarded amongst worst superhero movies. But does it deserve that title? Is the movie really that bad?
Well, the title card accompanied by Danny Elfman’s haunting score shows animals being cut up for an experiment. It isn’t until the end of the title card that we find out that scientist David Banner was experimenting for a super-soldier programme. However, the programme faces a hurdle when the president orders them not to test it on humans. Regardless, Banner experiments on himself. He appears to be normal, but after some years, he discovers that he has passed on the mutated genes to his son Bruce Banner. After getting fired, he comes home and tries to kill the young Bruce but accidentally kills his wife, causing the child to suppress this disturbing memory. He is sent to foster care and is told that his parents are dead and later grows up to become an expert in gamma radiation. A laboratory accident exposes Bruce to gamma radiations, causing him to transform into an enormous green rage monster. Desperate to cure himself of this affliction (not powers, but affliction) and hunted by the government, Bruce tries to escape from Gen. Thunderbolt Ross, who is his ex-girlfriend Betty Ross’s father and also imprisoned David Banner. Between all these chaos, Bruce gets to know the truth about his past and simultaneously tries to stop his insane father. From this description, one might consider the film overplotted, but this is Ang Lee we are talking about, the man sprinkles the dramatic story with a few action scenes. instead of being a superhero movie with some drama, it is a drama with some action.
Regardless, people hated this movie. They walked into the theater expecting to watch the Hulk smash like a mindless beast and instead they got a Freudian drama that starred a comic book character. Are there problems with this movie? Yes, the Hulk Dogs were pretty stupid. Plus, the CGI has aged, but the pros outweigh the cons. In the aforementioned Hulk Dogs scene, the Hulk kills the dogs, but it is followed by this introspective moment:
Also, the comic book style editing was ingenious:
The only problem was that it released two years before Batman Begins proved that superhero movies can be smart and thought-provoking. It has several problems but, yeah Nolan polished and perfected Ang Lee’s blueprints.
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In conclusion, a unique editing choice and a dark storyline make Ang Lee’s Hulk a must-watch.