Lou Ferrigno, come out, come out wherever you are!
The muscles bulge, the pants split open and voila—the big monster is set free. But, sadly, this Hulk goes limp.
In some ways, you want to really like Ang Lee’s ambitious outing. It looks and feels like a big screen comic book and, overall, the FX are impressive, but after two hours and 18 minutes of misadventures, you’d be more apt to just toss this Hulk a bottle of zanax and call it a day. (Talk about annoying mood swings!) Screenwriters James Schamus, John Turman and Michael France have penned characters audiences should care about: a mad scientist horrified over his own mishap (Nick Nolte, who steals the show), a man uncertain of the molecular manipulation he’s been put through (newcomer Eric Bana as eager scientist Bruce Banner), a caring woman falling for an emotionally unavailable man (Jennifer Connelly). Yet the acting—save Nolte—and the way Lee executes the tale don’t satisfy. What we get, ultimately, is a depressing yarn filled with the pockets of intense action and too many painful-to-sit through moments of non-action. Even Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) can’t manage to register enough screen presence here and frankly, once you’ve seen that little, teardrop spill from her eyelids and roll down her cheek the first time, it’s enough. (Grab a tissue, Jen and get over it—we’re bored, honey!) Speaking of crybabies, there’s newcomer Eric Bana. Overall, he delivers an adequate performance but too often, his constipated-cool vibe makes him overly uncomfortable as the lead. Too many of his scenes make him appear as if he’s just an actor feigning fright than actually acting as if he is afraid, sad, bewildered. Maybe he’s afraid of Lee—I can act Ang Lee, honest, I can!
The plot traces a scientific mishap by Pop Banner at a Military base long ago. After purposely using himself to experiment on human regeneration, Banner’s wife becomes pregnant. When their little David is born, the elder Banner suspects something lurking within the boy and, in an attempt to divert unleashing what he suspects will be “the monster within,” he drugs the boy. Daddy Rebel goes manic in a power-stuggle, things explode, people die—or so we think—and little Davey is pawned off to a nice lady who raises him, and all the while, nobody knows that the emotionally withdrawn kid is that way because of the drugs. (Take note, Ridilinites!) The regeneration cells within the adult David eventually gets a massive reawakening in a lab experiment gone bad and suddenly, it’s anger management time. Suddenly, when his temper tilts, this green-eyed gumshoe comes to life and it’s, “Hello 15-foot, 3,000-pound puff daddy!” The military doesn’t like the surprising presence of this post-modern Bigfoot by way of the Six Million Dollar Man with shades of King Kong—and, believe it or not, Shrek—thrown in for good measure. Are you surprised? Expect a heated desert battle and plot peaks in San Francisco.
Things to enjoy: the first time the Hulk saves Connelly’s Betty in the forest; the technical feats used when the Hulk dodges the ammo of military helicopters; Nolte spewing “Stop your bawling you weak little spec of human flesh.” Other than that … it’s ho ho ho, green giant without the vitamin-rich veggies. Sort of makes you miss the scowling puss of Lou Ferrigno all over again. Rated PG-13, 138 minutes. (*1/2)