Hulk (2003) (part 10 of 13)
And, just like that, Bruce is locked up in the steel room again. Betty, who’s now outside the room for some reason, touches a thumbprint scanner to be let in to see him, but it turns out she no longer has access.
She confronts General Ross about this, who reveals that the NSA has turned over the study of the Hulk to Talbot’s company. Sorry, but the NSA wouldn’t be in a position to do anything of the sort. All the NSA does is cryptology and signal intelligence, which I found out in two seconds on Wikipedia. Why couldn’t the writers take five minutes to look things up using their analog dead-paper research things? Stupid, lazy writers make D. R. ANGRY! D. R. SMASH! CRUSH PUNY MICHAEL FRANCE, JOHN TURMAN AND JAMES SCHAMUS! SMASH!
WAIT. D. R. CAN’T SMASH. D. R. LIKES HIS STUFF TOO MUCH. WELL, AT LEAST D. R. HAVE HEALTHY, WRITTEN-WORD OUTLET FOR RAGE.
The rest of the scene is pretty good. Again, General Ross is one of the few military characters to not be a total jerkass. He’s clearly torn between his orders, his daughter, and Bruce’s well-being, and Sam Elliott plays the part well. Not nearly enough to save the film, but he tries. So, recognizing the situation is hopeless, Betty leaves, and takes the next helicopter off of Craphole Base.
Meanwhile, Bruce is washing up in the sink in the Steel Room. Talbot comes in, looking like he just took boxing lessons from Boothby. He has on a neck brace, a back brace, his arm is in a sling, etc.
Talbot says that he’s here to make Bruce turn into the Hulk so that they can get a sample, and then he zaps Bruce with a tazer.
Now, let’s examine Talbot’s actions here. The dude’s locked in a small, metal room with a guy who can turn into the strongest being in the universe. He’s already in a sling, a neck brace, and what looks to be an ass-cast, and he’s trying to perturb the Incredible Hulk with a cattle prod. Say what you will about Talbot, but he does have balls. Personally, if about 30 bones in my body were broken, I might just let someone else handle this.
Talbot keeps tormenting Bruce and tazering him, talking about how Betty dumped him, and how the guards will kill him if he turns into the Hulk. Bruce manages to consciously resist transforming. I didn’t know he could do that, but then again, I didn’t know he could turn into the Hulk simply by being pissed off at life.
So Talbot punches Bruce, knocking him unconscious. The next thing we see is Bruce suspended in a giant tank of water, still out cold, with scuba gear on. There are wires attached to his head, and we literally zoom down the wires to a control room where Talbot sits. He orders a guy to “jump-start the brain waves”, so I guess this is some kind of… memory stimulation device, or something? I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.
Meanwhile, Betty is escorted back to her home by Sp00ks. So, I guess she doesn’t actually live in the cabin now, but fine, whatever. Oddly, the guys don’t follow her inside. Lucky thing, too, because David Banner is there waiting for her.
He immediately absorbs everything in the house, turning into a giant colossus made of brick and wood and debris, and kidnaps her in his giant amalgamation fist and stomps off to the desert base where he… he… oh, who am I trying to kid? You’re not falling for any of this, are you?
Instead, David Banner takes about three minutes to explain in his roundabout, drunken, hobo-esque way that he wants to see Bruce one last time, and then he’ll turn himself in. Then… well, to be honest, trying to follow the thread of this conversation is like trying to solve the labyrinth of Knossos after it’s been shrunken down to the size of a postage stamp. Suffice to say that something happens that prompts David Banner to flashback to the day he blew up the base.
It’s actually cut together fairly nicely, with scenes of the flashback appearing between shots of David Banner telling the story, and Bruce still submerged in the tank. This would’ve been a good scene if it wasn’t for all the profoundly stupid editing techniques, and Nick Nolte reading off authentic frontier gibberish like it was St. Crispin’s Day. The whole thing is so utterly, utterly ridiculous that I can’t even describe it all, but this bit is the money shot:
The scary door finally opens, and out comes Young David Banner. He yells at his son, and then screams. Having got that out of his system, he grabs a knife from the kitchen and goes for Bruce. His wife tries to stop him, and he falls on top of her, stabbing her in the shoulder. And then everything on screen goes out of focus, except for her face. “It was as if she and the knife had become one,” says David Banner. Then she pushes him off, and staggers away. He stares at the knife, crying. Having been struck in her Achilles Shoulder, his wife wanders outside, collapsing on the ground and reaching out into the distance. And then a nuclear bomb goes off.
Yep, that was it. That was the big secret hiding in Bruce’s past. Isn’t it shocking, the way that Bruce’s parents went inside a room, and then… came out of that room? No? This movie seems to think it’s the most stunning twist ever. I mean, when all is said and done, David didn’t even kill his wife in that room. So what was the significance of the whole door motif?
And it’s not like it takes massive brain power to figure out David killed his wife. At the beginning of the movie, David was in a blind rage, and arguing with his wife. The next thing we know, Bruce has a new mom. And then later, we find out David went to prison for 30 years. So was this supposed to be some sort of big twist ending? Because it’s really not.
Well, I will say this: The film actually becomes a lot better from this point on, because it abandons all pretense of serious psychological introspection. We’re about to get to the Hulk Smash portion of this film. Which, like the rest of the film, is muddled, nonsensical, and completely over-edited. But at least stuff gets blowed up real good.
Bruce wakes up in the tank, and Talbot tells the lab guys to start extracting enzymes, a procedure that apparently involves drills attached to the small of his back. This, as you might expect, agitates Bruce more than a little bit.
He transforms into the Hulk, and bursts out of the tank in a manner that I would describe less as “rage unchecked” and more like “a temper tantrum”. On the plus side, his Government Issue magical stretchy pants are purple, so we know it’s on.
The military guys flood the room with sleeping gas, but all it does is make Hulk sneeze a bit, and then he breaks out into the hallways.
At this point, the editing machine gets set to frappé, and nearly every single shot in this sequence is composited with another shot. At one point, a little box of Talbot scrolls right-to-left across the bottom of the screen, and the Hulk almost seems to be running away from it. A profile shot of General Ross appears to physically be in front of a shot of the back of his own head.
Little windows appear on either side of the screen, showing Talbot or Ross whenever they say something, which doesn’t suggest “exciting action” so much as “1930s-era phone conversation”. Talbot actually points and yells at a frame and scares it off the screen.
Obviously, these techniques were used to make the movie look comic book-y, but the reasons these tricks work in comic books is because they’re comic books. The visual information has to be arranged spatially, because it can’t be arranged linearly, the way film can. Read Scott McCloud (no relation). It’s all there. Trying to mix the two conventions together is like creating artistic synesthesia. It’s like if you woke up one morning and you could taste words and see the colors of sound. This film is probably the closest you’ll ever come to experiencing parts of your brain trading jobs.
And hey, look! The editing is all so exciting and dramatic that it’s completely distracting me from what’s actually going on. I didn’t even notice that while they were busy montaging, the base guards started covering the Hulk in some kind of industrial hardening foam.
Talbot immediately shows up. He still needs his sample, so he goes to the foam-bound Hulk, and he’s got some kind of… power drill syringe thing. For when they need to perform a blood test on an Ent, I presume. And again, you have to wonder why Talbot can’t let an un-hobbled flunkie take care of this. In the end, I guess Talbot’s tragic downfall is his extreme inability to delegate.
Talbot points his power syringe at the Hulk’s eye, and the audience gets yet another good lesson on the Uncanny Valley principle. Talbot looks, on his own, fairly human (or rather, about as human as something that’s 70% oil), and the Hulk, on his own, looks believable enough as a giant green monster. But when you actually have them in the same frame, face to face, they look about as natural a couple as Timothy Dalton and Mae West.
Hulk starts to grow larger, breaking free of the foam. So Talbot grabs a grenade launcher from a fleeing guard, and loads it with what’s apparently an armor piercing shell with a timed fuse. I won’t even question the practicality of this weapon, because it leads to the miracle that is The Single Most Gloriously Stupid Image Ever Captured on Film. The capitalization is mandatory.
Talbot shoots the Hulk, and the grenade bounces clean off like his skin was made of trampolines. The grenade embeds itself in the wall behind Talbot, and despite presumably setting it with enough time to get away, he only has enough time to yell before it goes off.
He’s blown forwards by the explosion, and then he freeze-frames, in mid-leap, with his arms spread out, almost like he’s a figure skater. There’s a thick white outline around him, as if to say “yes, this wouldn’t even make sense in a Saturday morning cartoon. What of it?”
Then to top it all off, the explosion keeps moving the whole time, making it look like Talbot spontaneously transformed into a cardboard cut-out of Brian Boitano. And it’s all played so beautifully straight. Neither the Monty Pythons at their best, nor Michael Bay at his worst could produce such glorious idiocy. It’s as if the Gods of Stupidity themselves bestowed this shot upon us.
Behold, my friends, The Single Most Gloriously Stupid Image Ever Captured on Film.