Ang Lee has taken on such a variety of films, it's hard to imagine what else is left for him to take on. Coming off the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he's taken on another action film - seemingly an odd choice for someone better known for such films as The Ice Storm and Sense And Sensibility.
In this adaptation of the Marvel comic, Lee embraces a highly stylized approach, mimicking the form of comic books through overlapping images, split screens, and just generally pumping up the action through parallel visuals. As if to balance this hyperactivity, the quiet moments of the film are presented in a dry reality, like a more serious film. The entrance of the somewhat otherworldly Hulk threatens to disturb the balance.
The story is, naturally, the genesis of the Hulk, dealing with genetic research, a mad scientist, and the military. It's familiar territory, for sure, but the psychological aspects lend more weight to these events.
Why did this film do so poorly in the theaters? I never read any reviews for Hulk, but I remember a general sense of disappointment. When I look at the other recent Marvel adaptations of Spider-Man and X-Men, I find them more weighted toward action and mild comic relief. I like the themes better in Hulk, but I imagine the main problem is that we simply know the Hulk is, more or less, indistructible, and the filmmakers may have ludicrously pushed the violence to make the threat seem real. I would personally have preferred less action in favor of story, but I can live with what's here. Action fans may be disappointed, but I liked Hulk for its creativity, and despite its minor flaws.
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