He's big and green and looks amazing on the screen.
Unfortunately, that's about the best thing I can say about The Hulk, Ang Lee's plodding treatise on Marvel's Green Goliath. After years of arguing that comics are more than intellectual cotton candy, I find myself ' egads! ' condemning a comic-book movie for taking itself too seriously.
Emotional repression is the theme du jour in Hulk. Our hero, geeky geneticist Bruce Banner (Black Hawk Down's Eric Bana), has submerged his childhood traumas so deeply that his scientist girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), who has a few emotional issues with her own dad (Sam Elliott), can no longer relate.
Banner's not boring, just bottled up ' an emotional and genetic powder keg just waiting for a little gamma radiation to start the combustion popping. That and a little unbridled rage. His anger manifests, memorably, in his transformation into an anything-but-jolly green giant, a ripped-'n'-raging representation of Banner's id that's capable of using a Sherman tank as a nine-iron. Lee offers a weighty backstory involving Bruce's mad-scientist dad, played with grizzled, balls-to-the-wall energy by Nick Nolte.
The film represses things too. Lee doesn't show us the green until well into its grueling 2 1/2 hours. (The skin-popping transformation scenes are among the films' best.) Lee reportedly chose Bana because he didn't want the actor to overshadow the role ' as if any actor could seriously compete with 500 pounds of rage in tattered purple shorts. Bana is a blank, so that we never feel the bond we did with Tobey McGuire's Peter Parker in Spider-Man. We're left, like Connelly's Betty, unable to connect with Banner emotionally ' at least until his dark childhood secret is revealed, about two hours into the film. By then it's far too late.
Of all the recent comic-book films, this one is the most steeped in genre's visual motifs. Lee juggles multi-panel shots, zooms and wipes like a kid playing with a set of new toys, in a vain attempt to give us the sense that we're turning comic-book pages.
Having already been sold on Dobby the House Elf and Gollum, we're now able to accept CGI characters as perfectly natural, so there's a momentary thrill in seeing the big guy bounce around the desert like a gamma-charged superball, taking out choppers and chomping the heads off missiles. But even this becomes tiresome after five or 10 minutes ' there just isn't any fun in it. Without that essential missing ingredient, The Hulk is a scientific experiment that fizzles.
Note: Trix are for kids, but not The Hulk. There's no way young children ' and there were a ton of 'em at the showing I attended ' should be allowed anywhere near this film, unless parents want to see them end up emotionally scarred, Ã la Bruce Banner.