Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Hulk" (2003)

The Hulk is not really a superhero, he is a metaphor. Ok, so he is a Marvel Comics character, and therefore he is a superhero of sorts, but he was nearly as often a villain as he is a hero. He is a representation of the worst, base instincts of mankind, our anger and fear. What a believer would call “sin nature.” Bruce Banner, the scientist who is the Hulk, created the monster within him and fights it as a true enemy.

For those of us who are children of the late seventies/early eighties, the quintessential Hulk was the TV version portrayed by Lou Ferrigno (and Bill Bixby.) That show presented us with a terribly problematic tension every week. Banner spent every episode trying to avoid his uncontrollable alter ego, but he was always put into situations where the viewer rooted for the monster to emerge and save the day.

In 2006, the Hulk finally made his way to the big screen following the popularity of “Spiderman” a year earlier. At the helm was art-house director Ang Lee following his own success in “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” Expectations were pretty huge.

Instead what audiences got was an incredibly ambitious, beautiful, thought provoking, mess that failed to engage or entertain. The problem was the Lee saw all of the potential and metaphor, but he failed to provide the sort of story that would connect the audience with the ideas he was trying to communicate. Some try to lay blame at the feet of the special effects and the unconvincing look of the Hulk. Others say that the way the movie stayed true to the over-the-top comic book vision instead of the smaller, more dramatic TV representation is what lost it. The fact is that this film is far too dark and introspective for the expectations one brings to a “superhero” tale. A case of failure to communicate due to cultural inappropriateness.

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