After the slew of cookie-cutter Marvel films over the last decade-and-a-half (even though the best have their charms), this one really stands out as being a uniquely intelligent and human work from a superior director, similar to Del Toro’s Hellboy. Like Hellboy, Hulk is superior because it relies less on CGI and action spectacle and more on its well-drawn and developed characters, its visual imagination, and its comic-book/literary touches. Both Bruce Banner and his love interest, Betty, are characters with Oedipal/Elektra complexes, and the screenplay draws deeply on the themes of Hulk’s literary and cinematic predecessors: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, Whale’s Frankenstein films, and King Kong.
While Lee incorporates the distinctive “paneling” of comic books with a variety of split-screens, leading to a fascinating aesthetic where, eg, we often get to see multiple simultaneous perspectives of the same moment.The film is perhaps over-patient to start, but this pays off in two big ways: it pays off dramatically as it makes the distinctive action sequences stand out by contrast, and it pays off emotionally during the climaxes between the characters. For the former, Hulk turning army tanks into a game of baseball and dodging attack helicopters around Arches National Park is imaginatively staged and unforgettable. For the latter, the scene in which Betty coaxes Hulk back into Bruce once he reaches San Francisco is surprisingly poignant, as is the confrontation between Bruce and his father.
It may seem an odd project for Ang Lee, but his unique background is well-fitted to the material: the combination of character-driven dramas (The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman), literary adaptations (Sense and Sensibility), and balletic action films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) are all on display here; just observe how much room to breathe he gives to his actors, which skillfully walk the line between comic-book caricatures and real-life characters.
The film certainly isn’t perfect: It runs a bit too long, takes a bit too long to get going, and the CGI Hulk looks terribly dated (perhaps even for when it was made). However these flaws seem insignificant given the ambition and sensitivity on display throughout the film, especially after over a decade of films failing to accomplish what Ang Lee did here.
My rating: 8.5/10
Written by - Eva_Yojimbo - 15/10/2016