Hulk (2003) (part 11 of 13)
With that, we pull back, and our old friend the Wall O’ Scenes has returned. Only this time, it’s at an angle, almost as if there’s an actual building somewhere made entirely out of shots from this film.
General Ross locks down the base, leading to a split-screen shot with no less than five different images of doors sliding shut. He then orders his men to evacuate the main hall. About two seconds after this, the Hulk bursts through the floor of the main hall. Nice alert system they have there.
The Hulk runs around, roaring at people, and making odd gestures at them like he’s trying to shoo away a puppy. Ross sends out more guards, despite the fact that he just saw the Hulk get hit by an anti-tank grenade and not even notice. Sure enough, the guards are quickly defeated, and the Hulk hurls a giant manhole cover into Ross’ control room. Finally, Ross decides to just open the door and let him out.
The Hulkster finds his way up and out of the base and bursts through a wooden barrier. We transition to another shot of the Hulk, and the transition is accomplished via him bursting through the screen in exactly the same way he burst through the barrier. That was actually pretty bad-ass. And the Hulk manages to keep up this level of bad-assery for the entire next sequence. He even manages to look realistic, and sufficiently pissed off for a change.
He starts running away from the base at top speed, taking a few short bounds, and then he leaps about a mile in a single shot. Apparently, it’s not just DC superheroes that only have two speeds.
He lands back near Bruce’s old house, doing no noticeable damage to the ground. The Hulk sees the abandoned house, and has a sad, weepy flashback about the day his dad was taken away. Bruce, dude. He killed your mom, sent his monsters after your girlfriend, and by the end of the movie he’s going to try and eat your brain. Let it go, already.
Fortunately, we’re soon brought out of this flashback with a massive explosion. It’s actually very well done, in fact. There’s only a tiny bit of fire and smoke; most of the damage is done by the shockwave, which is enough to knock the wind out of the Hulk. It’s entirely the opposite of the way that explosions are typically shown in films, otherwise known as the wrong way. Of course, if I had to choose between stuff going boom accurately, and coherent, entertaining storytelling, I’d probably choose the latter. But I never won an Oscar, so what do I know?
The Hulk, now bright lime green again, and back to looking like a sad baby, stares off in the distance as a cluster bomb approaches. He leaps away just as everything around him is obliterated. He leaps farther this time, despite not even having a running start, and lands in the middle of Death Goddamn Valley. And there are already four tanks here, waiting for him.
The fight we get would actually be pretty cool, if it wasn’t the third act of the film, and we hadn’t already been lulled into sleep by over 100 minutes of talking. The Hulk picks one tank up, spins around on his heels, and caber-tosses it off into the distance. He rips the turret clean off of the second tank (clearly showing that it’s a model, but whatever), uses it as a shield, and then beats the third tank to shit with it. He follows this up by going up to the fourth tank, grabbing the barrel, and bending it backwards to point it directly at the gunner.
All of this is awesome as hell, but it really shows the holes in the movie. The whole scene takes less than two minutes. Couldn’t they have afforded the CGI to add in like, 20 or so tanks? Or did they run out of time after editing down thirty hours of flashback footage?
This is also where Commentary Ang Lee discloses the fact that he personally did motion-capture for the Hulk. And I can’t tell you how much this film is enhanced by the mental image of a short, stout, 50-something man in a skintight suit dotted with little white balls tossing an imaginary tank. Ahhh…
Oh, and remember the tank that the Hulk flung a few miles through the air? Despite the fact that the impact should have turned the soldiers inside into chunky salsa, it turns out they’re all okay. We see one of them standing outside the tank, just fine and dandy, watching the fight from afar. And that’s just impossible. No one could have survived that. This was obviously thrown in, just like the shot of the prison guards crawling away from the wreckage in Superman IV, to make absolutely 100% sure this film would get a lucrative PG-13 rating. Because killing never-seen humans off-screen is bad. Showing extreme close-ups of frogs and dogs blowing up is a-okay!
Meanwhile, General Ross starts a split-screen videoconference with the President and his advisors, getting permission to use any means necessary to take out the Hulk. And then we cut to the Hulk leaping over absolutely gorgeous shots of canyons and natural rock formations, with vaguely Native American music behind it all. It works well, in a sort of Lord of the Rings “bask in the glory of nature” way, up until the point when the screen is split up into what looks like three overlapping photographs, and then the Hulk leaps across all three photographs. The whole thing breaks through my suspension of disbelief like a bowling ball fired from a rail gun.
Then, right in the middle of this ostensibly exciting action scene, there are more shots of plants, if you can believe it. There’s another nigh-microscopic shot of lichen on rocks, and this time it’s not even green lichen. The film’s own metaphors have undergone memetic mutation. It’s like putting Nigel Tufnel in leather shorts and a cape and having him shout out “This… is… Spinal Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!“
Hulk gets a Radar moment, and runs up a rock face just in time to see four Comanche helicopters show up. Ross, call-signed “T-Bolt” (har har har nerd reference), orders the helicopters to attack.
Hulk jumps on the first helicopter, rides it down the cliff, destroys its rotors, and then punches the helicopter in the head. Helicopters don’t even have heads, but somehow he managed to punch it. He rips a missile off the copter and chucks it at one of the other three, which starts spinning out of control, and even manages to bump General Ross’ chopper. (Oddly, neither chopper experiences any significant damage. [?])
The three copters attack, and the Hulk manages to run along the canyon wall fast enough to evade their fire, as well as casually backhand their missiles away. At one point, he catches one missile in midair, bites the warhead off, and spits it back out at one of the copters. It really is an awesome moment. To tell you the truth, I can’t fault the film for its action scenes, other than the fact that it barely has any of them.
Well, there’s that, and the fact that every time the Hulk destroys a helicopter, there’s a dubbed-in radio message from the pilot saying that everyone inside is entirely unharmed. That I can fault them for. It’s like watching an episode of G.I. Joe.
The Hulk jumps into a large rock formation, and Ross orders his men to make it into “a parking lot”. The helicopters proceed to blow the crap out of the formation. Now, wait a minute. If they have missiles that can turn giant rocks into dust, why didn’t they use them sooner?
With the rocks completely obliterated, and with the Hulk buried beneath the rubble, the Comanche pilots do the only sensible thing, which is to immediately return to base. All of 15 seconds later, the Hulk pops out of the rubble, without so much as a scratch on him. So, did they think that rockslide killed the Hulk? And why wouldn’t they stick around for more than, say, 10 seconds, just to make sure?
Sure enough, in the very next shot, General Ross gets word on the radio that the Hulk is still alive, and on the move. He figures the Hulk must be heading back to Berkeley, and he calls Betty to warn her. He tells her to get to a nearby military base, and it turns out she’s already on her way there. She’s part of a big caravan that includes a police van containing David Banner.
Meanwhile, the Hulk lands on a remote highway, near a road sign. This cracks the road, because apparently his landings do that now. The sign says that San Francisco is 61 miles away, and Berkeley 65. So the Hulk jumps out of shot, and in the next shot he lands dead center on the south pillar of the Golden Gate Bridge. Okay. 61 miles, 3 miles, road signs are usually just rough estimates, anyway.
Two F-22s show up and open fire, and one of them barely misses colliding with a civilian helicopter. The jet takes evasive action, causing it to lose control and head right for the bridge. And naturally, the bridge is just full of traffic. Far be it for the military to do something crazy like evacuate the town where’s it’s fighting radioactive monsters.
The Hulk, who deep down is a good guy, jumps down and lands on the jet, pushing it underneath the bridge so it can avoid taking out all those civilians. Ross spots the Hulk on top of the jet and sees an opportunity. He orders the pilot to fly straight up into the motherfucking mesosphere. Well, actually, the pilot calls out “Flight level 950”, which means that he’s at 95,000 feet, but the atmosphere gets thin enough that he can see stars in the daytime, and that doesn’t happen until you get to at least 160,000 feet. And I don’t think the F-22 can even go that high, but whatever.
Eventually, the thin air causes the Hulk to pass out and fall off the jet. As he plummets down to the bay, he closes his eyes and there’s another acid trip scene. This one takes us back to Banner’s introduction, when he was shaving. He wipes the fog off the mirror, and instead of his reflection, it’s the Hulk. We see the Hulk from the other side of the mirror, mimicking Bruce’s actions like he’s Harpo Marx.
Suddenly, the Hulk punches through the mirror, grabs Banner in one fist and says, “Puny human.” It’s the only time he speaks in the entire film, and his voice makes me really wish he spoke more. Then the vision is over, and it’s back to the Hulk falling out of the sky. I’m guessing that was supposed to symbolize the battle between the two personalities, or something. It would’ve made more sense if he wasn’t already the Hulk. This particular battle already has a clear winner, I think.
To make matters worse, when the Hulk hits the water, he barely makes a splash. It’s even less of a splash than Godzilla ’98 diving into the Hudson. The Hulk is easily the size of a small truck, and weighs 3,500 pounds, according to behind the scenes material. So if he was really up high enough to see stars in the daytime, he’d have a terminal velocity between 2,800 and 3,100 miles per hour by the time he hit the water. He should’ve hit like the fist of an angry god. The San Francisco Bay should have been drained. Granted, showing that was probably well beyond this film’s already insane budget, but if they couldn’t afford the effect, they shouldn’t have had him fall from outer goddamn space.
The Hulk lands with the aforementioned no-splash, and the planes fire missiles into the water. Betty watches from a nearby military base with more of her trademark non-emoting. She calls up her dad, telling him that if the Hulk is coming for her, then she should just simplify things and go to him instead. I’m all for this, if it knocks a few minutes off this movie’s running time.