Hulk (2003) (part 12 of 13)
In San Francisco, the street starts to buckle and split from below. A cable car is knocked over, sending people flying through the windows. (But I’m sure they’re all completely unhurt.) And then the Hulk pops out from under the street, having failed to make that left turn at Albuquerque. The Hulk sees helicopters approaching. He’s about to pitch a hunk of street at one of them, until he sees Betty is inside.
SWAT teams and soldiers show up, literally filling the streets and lining the rooftops like Jake and Elwood are in town. Then Betty appears, and she heads down some stairs to the sidewalk. She momentarily goes off-screen, and then, I swear, she magically materializes about twenty feet closer. This ends up being just another cocktease. I mean, I figured that her ability to do this must mean she’s really Jason Voorhees, and I’ve wanted to see Jason vs. the Incredible Hulk since I was eight. But, alas, it’s just another stupid editing trick.
The Hulk begins to calm down the instant she shows up. He slowly starts to shrink back down into Bruce, and for some reason, there’s all this steam coming off him, and a puddle forms around his feet. Initially, I thought perhaps Bruce was wetting himself at the sight of Betty, but then I realized this makes some sense. The Hulk was soaking wet, so if he suddenly loses a lot of mass, all that water has to go somewhere. But as far as the steam goes, you’re on your own.
Bruce falls into Betty’s arms, and this tense, gun-filled stand-off is resolved by… a weepy hug. Great. Just like everyone hoped, I’m sure. This bit, transformation to de-transformation, finally puts the Hulk’s screen time over the double digits, with a total of 16 minutes and 10 seconds. We’re now reaching the 1 hour and 55-minute mark, so that’s a ratio of just under 7:1. This is ridiculous.
I know people gave Transformers a lot of flak for having too many human characters, but at least they showed the Transformers. They didn’t have seven minutes of Shia LaBeouf gabbing off for each minute of robot footage. It felt that way, but that was just an optical illusion. This movie, on the other hand, actually is like that.
This isn’t the end of the movie, however, because even the makers of Hulk have enough sense not to end on a whimper. But once you see the actual ending they came up, you’ll reconsider whimpers.
David Banner is montageported by the military from his prison cell to an empty warehouse. Bruce is here, sitting shackled to a chair. General Ross, for some reason, is letting the person he trusts least in the world, and the monster he trusts least in the world, actually meet face-to-face, with nothing in the same room with them besides a camera. Well, there are also two giant electric dynamo thingies behind and in front of Bruce, which will supposedly kill Bruce if he transforms, but I think we all know how that’ll work out. (Hilariously, on the commentary, Ang can’t even identify these devices, and he refers to them as “this high voltage looking thing, god knows what”. Um, he was there when this scene was filmed, wasn’t he?)
The two Banners start talking, beginning with a friendly exchange where they tell each other, “I should have killed you.” Well, in at least one of their cases, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Then begins a tedious discussion where Bruce talks about what he remembers about his mother. He sobs, “I don’t even know her name!” It if helps any, we’re all in the same boat with you, Bruce.
David hugs him [?], which Bruce rejects, saying he’s not his father and never will be. David counters by saying the Hulk is his real son. His master plan, as he so helpfully explains to Bruce and all the soldiers watching via closed-circuit, is to use his powers to absorb the Hulk. And I honestly don’t know if I can go on.
For one thing, this plan is just lame. It means that he has no motivations of his own, no desires, and nothing else in his mind but envy for the Hulk. He’s a sad, pathetic waste of life that inspires as much fear and respect as Waylon Smithers.
Next, David Banner must have failed to notice that the Hulk is an unstoppable, animalistic monster whose very existence is like a wide-awake nightmare and could destroy everything he holds dear in an instant. Is that kind of life really all that appealing?
Thirdly, if he’s that determined to be the Hulk, he already has the ability to do it to himself. He already transformed a rat, and his dogs into Hulk-like creatures. So why does he even need Bruce?
And finally, I think everyone will agree that his “absorbing” powers are already incredibly bad-ass, and far more useful in everyday life than being able to turn into a hulking green monster. Think about it. Need to get a big project done? Touch your computer and turn into a super-intelligent cyborg, able to transfer your thoughts directly into finished PDF files in nanoseconds. Cooking a big dinner? Strap a knife and a toaster to your body and become a bladed, heat-coiled chefstrosity that would make Emeril Lagasse cower in fear. Trouble in the bedroom? Um, sorry, you’ll just have to insert your own joke here.
Somebody flips Nick Nolte’s Oscar Moment Switch, and he starts chewing as much scenery as one can in an entirely empty warehouse. “Think about all those men out there in their uniforms,” he posits, gesticulating with all the subtlety of a Punch and Judy show. “Barking and swallowing orders! Inflicting their petty rule over the entire globe! Think of all the harm they’ve done! To you! To me! To humanity!” I know it’s a comic book movie, but good gracious. It’s like he’s a villain from the Captain Planet rogues gallery.
Bruce says he’d rather die than help his father. He randomly yells and cries like a big baby, and David Banner returns to his seat, where he imitates Bruce’s tantrum. I have to admit, that was hilarious.
Then David picks up the cord running to the electromajig, bites through it [!], and shouts out, “I’ll go! You just watch me go!” General Ross turns on the electricity—yeah, what the hell, right?—and Banner absorbs it, turning into some kind of giant electromonster. This, by the way, is after Ross heard David Banner say that he can absorb energy. Sure, it was probably a safe bet that he’s just crazy. In a sane world. In a world where people can’t spontaneously grow a ton and a half of solid green muscle because of radioactive microbots feeding off their gene therapy.
Or maybe it’s because the guy working the electrical thing is Johnny Kastl, who plays Doug Murphy on Scrubs. I think that’s a safer bet.
Incidentally, the Hulk in the comics actually has an electricity-based nemesis named, and I’m not making a single word of this up, Zzzax. Zzzzax was created when terrorists tried to blow up a nuclear power plant, and caused the dynamos to overload, releasing some kind of sentient energy mind that absorbed three engineers, all of whom then decided to turn evil, and all of whom thought Zzzzzax was a great name. At one point, General Ross put his mind in Zzzzzzax, to battle Rick Jones in the Hulk’s body, and at another point, Zzzzzzzax teamed up with a gravity guy and two radiation guys to form a fundamental force-themed superteam.
And this is who they used to kick off their Hulk franchise. Zzzzzzzzax. That’s like starting off the Superman movies with Mxyzptlk.