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Movie Review: "Hulk" (2003)

Updated on September 10, 2014
1 star for Hulk

DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.

"Hulk" is a film project that was in development hell for nearly an entire decade before it was finalized and released in Summer of 2003. Based on the popular Marvel comic book character of the same name, "Hulk" is the story of Bruce Banner, a scientific researcher who becomes accidentally exposed to nanomeds and gamma radiation that transforms him into a humongous green creature with immense strength.

"Hulk" presents with the origins story of the titular character, beginning with his father, David Banner, who was also a scientist attempting to screw around with human DNA in an attempt to improve it. When Lt. Colonel 'Thunderbolt' Ross learns of these experiments, he shuts it down, resulting in David's backlash that causes the rupture of the gamma reactor. However, the testing he did on himself passed on to his son, aiding in his transformation.

Ross pursues Bruce, fueled the hatred for his father, and doesn't like the fact that his daughter Betty happens to be one of his scientific colleagues. Aiding him is Major Talbot, who happens to be interested in the nanomeds which Bruce was working on before his transformation. What follows is a mish-mash of cartoony action. Was I watching a live action film adaptation of the Hulk or was this just another 'Toy Story' sequel?

The one good thing I can say about "Hulk" is that the performances are done very well. Ang Lee really had a great cast to work with. There's Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Josh Lucas, heck even Nick Nolte was there (and he ate up every scene he was in). It seemed as if Ang Lee had all the right ingredients to work with, including a big budget and over ten plus years of anticipation. Oh, what could have been...

Schmaucher's Disease

Paging Dr. Christopher Nolan, please report to the Hollywood Emergency Room. Patient is a green male, very large build, suffering from a sudden onset of Schmaucher's Disease.

The big problem with Ang Lee's "Hulk" is that it's overly flashy, over-the-top, and the editing just plain out sucks. I could have sworn Joel Schmaucher made this movie because when I went to visit "Hulk" at the address I was given, the movie was having dinner with another turd called "Batman & Robin."

What they tried to do here in the editing room is something I like to refer to as 'comic book editing'. For instance, in some scenes, the screen is split into four shots displaying all-at-once, giving us multiple points of view within that one scene. The end result is just distracting. It may work in a comic book where you would have time to read and examine what's taking place, but in a movie, it's a different story.

The action alone is done in absurd fast-paced fashion. I can easily picture some nerdy guy with glasses editing this on his computer at home, his palms sweaty and ten empty cans of Red Bull are littered about on his desk. That's the impression I got from the editing of "Hulk."

These two guys should team up, they seem to have a lot in common.
These two guys should team up, they seem to have a lot in common. | Source

The Dark Side of Shrek

You would think Hollywood would have learned their lesson after Jar Jar Binks, but no...

"Hulk" lives on an overuse of CGI graphics, from the action scenes right down to the character himself. Just by looking at the film's poster alone, it's not that far-fetched to assume that this movie just may be an animated film. Was it really necessary to CGI-up the Hulk character? It's not like the Hulk is some giant monster like Godzilla or King Kong. The TV show from the '70s/'80s, "The Incredible Hulk", and the TV movies that followed featured a real actor in the title role.

The Hulk from the TV show was a hundred times more believable to look at than anything in Ang Lee's "Hulk" or the 2008 remake combined. In fact, speaking of "Batman & Robin", the physique of Bane from that movie could have easily passed for a visually realistic film version of the Hulk.

When looking at the Hulk in this film, the only impression that I get is that Shrek beat up his wife, got divorced, then beefed himself up at the gym. He's basically the darker side of Shrek here when you think about it. With all the state of the art special effects we have now, they decided to simply animate the freaken Hulk character. Laziness is just as bad as crack itself.

Remedies for "Hulk"

  • Hiring someone who's had a little less caffeine to handle the editing job.
  • Making the Hulk look as realistic as possible and not like a cartoon freak.


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    • Ironman1992 profile image

      Ironman1992 5 years ago

      They did not capture the essence of the Hulk at all. And I agree about the bad editing. The parts where the screen would split up into diffrent parts was distracting and pointless.

    • Ironman1992 profile image

      Ironman1992 5 years ago

      this was the worst hulk. I like the way the hulk in the avengers trailer looks the best.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 5 years ago

      Well everyone has their own opinion. I think the main reason why this film failed was because it didn't incorporate elements of the old TV series into it, as it just drew most of it's inspiration from the comics; while taking a few liberties here and there.

      The sad reality is that Ang Lee was right when he said during interviews that it seems most people that remember the Hulk always know him off the TV show rather than the actual comic book itself. In the original comics, Hulk would literally grow into a freaking giant if he got royally pissed off enough. Unfortunately, since most people that are fans of Hulk aren't necessarily comic book readers, then it's easy to see why most people didn't understand why Hulk grew into as big as he did.

      This is also the main reason why I firmly believe most people like the "Incredible Hulk" version a lot more because it not only took elements from the comic book, but it incorporated many themes from the TV show as well.

      Personally, I don't know if I would call their attempt to use a CGI hulk as being lazy, as I think they were just trying to make Hulk more faithful to the original comic book series. Although, I will agree with you that the CGI is horrible in this movie, but it was vastly improved upon in "Incredible Hulk."

      As far as the split screens go that make the movie like a comic book, I thought it was a nice touch to try to emulate a comic book movie feel to it. However, you're right in that it doesn't work, and only makes the movie come off as a cartoon. But on the bright side, that same split screen effect was used later on in a great documentary called "Tyson", where it was used display the psyche of controversial boxer, Mike Tyson, in a rather ingenuous way. I won't say how for those that haven't seen the movie, but you should definitely rent it if you're into documentaries, as the split screen that "Hulk" invented works perfectly for "Tyson."

      Anyway, keep up the good work. By the way, did you know that Marvel Studios is making another live action tv show of Hulk on ABC? Yeah, supposedly since "Incredible Hulk" wasn't the blockbuster they were hoping for either, it looks like Marvel is going to try to reboot him on tv now. There's no word yet if the show will follow the same continuity as the film version that's going to be in the upcoming "Avengers", but it'll be interesting to see what happens.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

      As an avid reader of The Hulk in it's comic book form, I have been sorely disappointed at its cellular morphing. Just make it a cartoon and be done with it. Love your take on the venue. Voted up, marked interesting.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 5 years ago from The Garden State

      Ugh. What a mess this flick was. Great idea Marvel, give an $80 million summer popcorn movie to an art-house director from Hong Kong who's apparently never read a comic book in his life. What could possibly go wrong??

      I knew this movie was going to be a train wreck long before it came to theatres. I had seen Nick Nolte on either "Access Hollywood" or "Entertainment Tonight" (I forget which) talking about the film and he said that Ang Lee (director) told him flat out "I don't know how to make a comic book movie. But I do know how to make a Greek tragedy, so that's the film I'm going to make."

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 5 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      The hulk was not one of my favorites.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 5 years ago

      I'll admit this is an EXTREME guilty pleasure of mine. It's a very shitty film I agree, but I just really love the Danny Elfman music, some of the cinematography is alright, and I found myself actually liking the edits that were made to try to look like a comic book style (even if it was a little bat shit bonkers at times) but yeah I agree with you that the CGI was bad, the story made no sense, Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly have the same amount of romantic chemistry as two bricks, and Josh Lucas was just too over the top for me.

      The newer one is better, but I don't know, I don't really "The Incredible Hulk" character all too seriously, so I don't judge. Great Hub, well written, keep up the great work. Voted Up and Everything Else. :)

    • SPomposello profile image

      SPomposello 5 years ago from NY

      I see your point, but it felt as if they were being lazy about it. Oh let's just make him CGI and call it a day.

      They could have just taken someone like Robert Swenson (who played Bane in "Batman & Robin"), a real person, and manipulate CGI along with another effect to make him look bigger. The guy is already 6 foot 4. Or maybe they could have used Pat Roach (if he were still alive). You know, they made Bolo Yeung look taller in "Bloodsport" simply with clever camera placement, and you wouldn't believe how short that guy is in real life.

      My point is that the Hulk from TV looked far more believable and he's not even 7-8 feet tall.

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      I agree that they just can't seem to get the Hulk right on screen. As for the CGI, I think it's necessary, because the Hulk is...well...what the name suggests...A Hulk...a huge beast. You're right, he's not huge like King Kong, but he's overly buff and stands at 7' or 8' tall, and the angrier he gets, the stronger he gets.

      I don't think it's a CGI problem. I think the problem is that Hulk, even in the comics, really didn't have much of a story to him...except for destroying things and causing a lot of mayhem. Banner's problem of controlling The Hulk was always the central point of the story. Like Dr. Jeckle Mr. Hyde.

      Hulk's a hard one to translate to screen, especially trying to find a story for him that isn't paper thin.