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Bruce Banner, a genetics researcher with a tragic past, suffers an accident that causes him to transform into a raging green monster when he gets angry.
For more about Hulk and the Hulk Blu-ray release, see Hulk Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 30, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Stan Lee
» See full cast & crew
Hulk Blu-ray Review
He's so mean his skin is green, so very very green!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 30, 2008
We're going to have to watch that temper of yours.
Fans of the Hulk are in for a Blu-ray overload, with this Ang Lee-directed release already on the shelves at the time of this review, and the new film, The Incredible Hulk, due to hit the streets in about three weeks. Why we've been blessed with two Hulk movies at the local cineplex in five years, and now on Blu-ray within a month of one another, is a matter that has generated much discussion and it just seems redundant to go into any of that dialogue here. Certainly, a great number of films have enjoyed repeat performances, but in most instances we have not seen remakes, or re-imaginings of the story, spaced so closely together. The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and War of the Worlds, all films from the 1950s, each have had their updated versions released in the past few decades, and a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still will soon rotate into cellphone-infested local theaters. Certainly, some remakes and re-imaginings unequivocally succeed (The Thing), others fail miserably (The Omen), and yet others still fall somewhere in the middle (Dawn of the Dead). Still, most audiences are more than eager to embrace films featuring stories that have been taken out of the proverbial mothballs and updated with plenty of pomp, circumstance, and, in many cases, an influx of computer-generated effects (all of which begs the question of whether we will ever see a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space, or possibly an entire series of Plan films that answers the perennial conundrum -- what were the first eight plans to originate beyond our terrestrial confines?). Nevertheless, here we have two films, replete with the same primary characters, released within a mere five years of one another, but with no other cinematic connection. The two Hulk films, both big budget products of 21st century cinema, offer a rare opportunity to compare and contrast two closely-related films that nevertheless find themselves far apart one from the other in a myriad of areas. Here, however, we consider Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk, a film that barely missed recouping its $137,000,000 budget domestically. With a few minor exceptions, this release of Hulk is nothing short of technically stunning.
Scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana, Troy) and his associate Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly, Dark City) are on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that has caught the interest of the military, specifically Major Talbot (Josh Lucas, Glory Road). When the genetic abnormalities passed onto Bruce by his father (Nick Nolte, The Spiderwick Chronicles), who experimented in the field of improved human DNA, are brought to shocking life when Bruce becomes subjected to a large dose of gamma radiation, his life becomes quite a bit greener. Whenever his temper flares, his chaotic cellular structure transforms him into a larger-than-life, menacing green creature with incredible strength and agility. Deemed a threat to society at large, Banner and his alter ego, The Hulk, are tracked down by Betty's father, General Ross (Sam Elliott, We Were Soliders), resulting in a series of devastating encounters between beast and military hardware.
Hulk has the feel of a comic book practically come to life, off the page and onto the big screen, evident from the opening credits forward. The film has a unique visual flair thanks to some intuitive, if not a bit gimmicky, direction from Ang Lee. Hulk's opening credit sequence is reminiscent of, but not wholly similar to, David Fincher's Panic Room, a film released a year prior. The credits are sometimes worked into the frame rather than simply appearing on-screen in a conventional manner we've seen thousands of times before. They are effected by the visuals; for example, a credit becomes hazy and slightly distorted as it is seen through a clear beaker, or the credit may be tilted at an angle, mimicking the direction of the camera. Later, the film's comic book scheme becomes plainly obvious as frames overlap one another or two or more individual windows appear on screen, mimicking a typical page from a comic book and recalling various scenes in Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth, released less than two months prior to Hulk. Viewers will note odd dissolves and frame movements all around the screen. Frames zoom in and out, adding to the surreal experience. It's experimental at best, and works rather well given the tone of the film, but this style is not something that would translate well to every comic book-based film in the future. Director Ang Lee also revels in extreme close-ups in an attempt to emphasize the emotion in a character's eyes or vocal inflection. No doubt about it, Hulk offers a unique slice of cinematic innovation.
The most obvious weakness of Hulk is in its pacing. Slow to develop and featuring plenty of exposition, the first three-quarters of the film generally drag. Fortunately, the film's emotional payoff is worth the wait. Hulk features a fine denouement, one that takes on a live theater-style look and feel. Nolte offers an incredibly powerful and effective performance near film's end, and Bana's primal reaction is equally captivating. It is a raw, wonderful scene that makes the movie and gives it a desperately needed dramatic flair after a mostly tedious two hours of exposition, semi-entertaining-at-best action, and various other minor flaws. Nolte, not only in the aforementioned climactic scene, but throughout, lends some heft and credibility to a project otherwise full of mediocre performances, including that of the otherwise reliable Sam Elliott. The Hulk effects aren't perfect, as the creature often appears a bit fake, pastel, and cartoonish, but it fits in well with the comic-book-come-alive look of the film. A more serious, menacing Hulk would not have worked as well in the context of the thematic and visual flair Ang Lee runs with throughout the picture. In the film's defense, one of the later action sequences in the desert between the Hulk and a number of tanks is well-done and enjoyable, with Lee (in conjunction with the effects team) capturing some surreal footage that drives home the impressive power of the Hulk. However, the later action sequences become dull and tedious as the film crawls towards its worthwhile climax as a helicopter attack sequence features reference sonic material on Blu-ray, but it becomes repetitious and, unfortunately, dull.
Hulk Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hulk bursts onto Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Please note that the packaging erroneously reports the film's aspect ratio as 2.35:1. Glossy and bright, nearly every frame features an abundance of bright colors that translate very well to Blu-ray. Close-frame detail is superb throughout the movie. Human faces reveal every pore and line; Nick Nolte's and Sam Elliott's thick facial hair stand out clearly and distinctly in every frame. Viewers will also be privy to every splotch of ink and ridge on paper or the textures of a straw hat worn by a character early in the film. The film is colorful without being overblown. No one color is emphasized over any other, which comes as somewhat of a surprise. In this kind of film, one might expect green to be prominent in every frame, but it's not. In fact, the color is not to be seen in abundance at all in many sequences. Ang Lee instead chose to move away from this distinctive look, one employed by the filmmakers of Daredevil, for example, who chose to add many red highlights to the film. Depth is fine and the image often exhibits that desired "popping" effect, the result of crisp imagery, solid use of color, and excellent detail and clarity. Black levels are true and deep, with a good deal of shadow detail. Some of the later scenes in the film in the abandoned military housing area look pale and slightly washed out, likely a result of the bright desert sky and nearly monochromatic desert floor. Detail remains strong nevertheless. The cracks in the desert floor, the abandoned buildings, and various, aged objects scattered outside have a realistic look about them. The print does exhibits the occasional black speckle. Hulk is another fine transfer from Universal.
Hulk Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hulk features a wonderful, high quality, loud, and aggressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack sure to please audiences with its attention to the finer nuances of the experience. An outdoor dialogue scene between Banner and Betty Ross in chapter 6 offers a very realistic environment with birds chirping all around and additional ambient noises working in harmony to make for a very good low key, yet impressive, sequence. The soundstage is immersive when need be, reserved when called for, and each scene is audibly impressive. Bass is sometimes subtle, sometimes powerful, but always clean and precise in its power. Dialogue reproduction is excellent. Nick Nolte's scruffy voice shines as his lines flow from the center channel. The soundtrack is fairly reserved -- until the Hulk finally breaks free form the inner confines of friendly scientist Bruce Banner. The track explodes in a symphony of Earth- and ear-shattering effects, as the soundstage becomes immersed in heart pounding thuds, crashes, and bangs in chapter 11. Not only does the subwoofer sound out every step the Hulk takes, but the surrounds come alive with a myriad of activity that all seamlessly integrates with the visuals we see on display. Every scene featuring the Hulk as he destroys property is an amazing sonic feat. Chapter 15 features plenty of broken structures, shattering glass, machine gun fire, and a car alarm, all making for another impressive sequence. As expected, the film's later action sequences in the desert are reference-quality, audibly. The Hulk never misses a beat thanks to this fine lossless soundtrack.
Hulk Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray presents Hulk with a nice selection of supplemental materials. A feature commentary track with director Ang Lee highlights the package. Lee delves straight into his ideas for the film, offering viewers further insight into his unique vision. He discusses the film's special effects, character development and themes, shooting locations, logistics, and other films that inspired and aided him in the making of Hulk. Despite a series of brief gaps in the track, Lee remains interesting and enthusiastic and his commentary should please fans. Like most other Universal discs to date, Hulk is U-Control enabled. As always, a picture-in-picture window will appear over the film, providing various areas of insight into the world of Hulk. The window appears sporadically, but users may jump directly to each segment through the U-Control tab in the main menu.
The Making of 'Hulk' (480p, 23:43) is a four-part feature that delves into the strengths the cast and crew brought to the film, a look at some of the stunts and physical effects scattered throughout the film, the contributions of Industrial Light and Magic in creating the film's impressive special effects, and Danny Elfman's (Beetlejuice) score. Evolution of the Hulk (480p, 16:17) looks at the history of this popular character. The piece begins by examining the character's origin in depression-era America, glossing over the history of Marvel comics, and further examining the development of the character in the comics, the animated series, the CBS television series, "The Incredible Hulk," which featured famed bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk and Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner, and finally, this 2003 film adaptation. The Incredible Ang Lee (480p, 14:28) examines the contributions of the director not only behind the camera, but his work in numerous other aspects of the filmmaking process to make Hulk as successful as can be. The Dog Fight Scene (480p, 10:09) takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the process in making this crucial scene. Finally, The Unique Style of Editing 'Hulk' (480p, 5:34) takes a closer look at the editing process to make Hulk as cohesive, well-paced, and exciting as possible, while creating for the film a unique look with differing transitions and split screens.
Hulk Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hulk is a film filled with wonderful potential. Featuring fantastic visuals, a unique style of filmmaking, and a classic climax that is acted to perfection, the film ought to be a surefire winner. Unfortunately, a needlessly complex plot, a longer-than-necessary runtime that is further bogged down by slow pacing, and decent action sequences that become repetitious though visually impressive, Hulk is more of a letdown than it ought to be. Still, the film is worth watching for all the things it does right; just don't expect to be completely enthralled for every second. Universal Picture's Blu-ray release of Hulk is spectacular. The disc features excellent picture and sound quality that teeters on reference material, and offers fans a nice spread of extra materials. For fans, a purchase is a no-brainer; others may want to rent this film first.
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