Hulk (2003) (part 2 of 13)
I’m now more than 1,500 words into this recap, and I’m finally talking about the movie. Sort of. I’d like to transition from off-topic bitching to on-topic bitching, by complaining about the fact that this movie has unskippable previews. I’ve always hated previews on home video, because eventually, they all end up being out of date by several years and completely pointless.
And on DVD, it’s doubly annoying, because the previews are always included in the bonus materials. So if you’re the kind of person that actually likes knowing what was soon to be coming to video five years ago, you can just go right there, and the rest of us can get on with our lives. Oh, but no. On the Hulk DVD, you can’t even hit “menu” or use chapter skip. You have to fast forward through them the old-fashioned way.
So to all companies who release DVDs: If we want to see the previews, we’ll go and find them in the bonus features. If we don’t want to see the previews, chances are we’re not going to rent whatever crappy movie you’re advertising anyway. Just make everyone happy and let the home video preview die a merciful death.
Okay, now I can talk about the movie. Finally. It starts out with… well, something akin to Dave Bowman’s last voyage. There’s a drop of water that causes a multicolored explosion that turns into a nebula, only it’s… some kind of colored liquid… and then everything’s exploding… and then there’s a… weird… space thing that for some reason becomes a cell undergoing mitosis, and then… weird green chromosomes and… green flubber DNA and… and… dear lord, they’re already screwing with my head.
Just take all the other pseudo-symbolic, pseudo-scientific credit sequences from all the other Marvel Comics movies, jam them into a blender, set it on “liquefy”, and you’ll end up with the Credits Smoothie that is the opening titles to Hulk. On his commentary track, Ang Lee explains that the drop of water is the same drop of water that kicked off the Big Bang, and how we’re going from “macro-look to micro-look”, to contrast that small things are small and the Hulk is big. Seriously, that’s what he says.
I should also mention that the opening credits are all in a “comic book” style font. Because this is a comic book movie. Don’t you get that? Believe me, that’s the sweetest nail this movie will be pounding into its own coffin. The names of people are always in BOLD CAPS. So it’s not “An Ang Lee film”, it’s “An ANG LEE film”. That sums up the theme of the movie right there. Are comics STILL in the HABIT of bolding EACH and EVERY important WORD in a SENTENCE? I thought THAT they HAD gotten OUT OF that habit when THE Ultimate Universe CAME around. It all just Comes acRoss As something ParTiculArly idiotiC, bUt I’Ll be dAmned if I can remembeR the word.
And here comes the title. It’s big and boxy, and reads “HULK”, which is the title of this movie. Not “The Hulk“, as is his name, or “The Incredible Hulk“, as he prefers to be called, thank you very much, just “Hulk“. Like the movie could be about any hulk. After less than a second on-screen, the logo changes to letter-shaped blobs of flubber, presumably because otherwise the whole damn movie just wouldn’t make any sense at all.
There’s a peaceful, happy, beautiful blue jellyfish, floating peacefully past the words “Eric Bana”. Hello, mister jellyfish! How are you doing today? Isn’t it such a lovely day here in the aqua—Jump cut! …well, that wa—Jump cut! Oh, that’s not Jump cut! Jump cut! It hurts! Jump cut jump cut needle needle needle! Somebody jabs at the jellyfish with a giant syringe, and all the rapid-fire editing makes it seem like a tragedy befalling the aquatic version of Janet Leigh. And as far as I can tell, this shot was achieved through the amazing special effect technique known as stabbing an actual living jellyfish with a giant needle. It sinks to the bottom of the tank, twitching and flashing green, which I’m pretty sure is how jellyfish scream in horrible agony.
Then there’s a long shot of the needle extracting jellyfish fluid. I don’t really know what kind of fluid jellyfish have in there, but I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be violently extracted and then splattered all over a Petri dish positioned right above the camera. I know jellyfish aren’t too high on the Animals Cute Enough For Us To Care About Scale, but I do find something charming about a rubbery little sea creature that doesn’t even have a brain, so to me, doing all this stuff to a jellyfish is like beating up a one-legged duckling.
Following this, the camera zooms in on a scientist’s notes, which has “GREEN BIOLUMINESCENCE” written in ALL CAPS and surrounded by a rectangle. And that’s how this film does its expository technobabble: There’s footage of animals being tortured, then a pan over a notebook of science-y gibberish with one line WRITTEN LIKE THIS. It suggests that the scientist is either the most easily excited biochemist in history, or that he’s working on Cliff’s Notes of his own research.
Amusingly enough, if you’re as tremendous of a nerd as I am, the scientist’s notes show the date as 1965, which is four years after bioluminescence from jellyfish was first used in genetics. Apparently, he’s just now finding out about this. There’s also the phrase EXTREMELY RAPID RESPONSE, written exactly that way.
We finally see the guy, staring down at us through water like some tormenting, hateful god. A hateful god with a giant porno moustache. Oh, no, now he’s got a starfish… Run, Patrick! Oh god, he’s cutting an arm off! And pulling out bits of flesh!
There’s a monkey watching from a cage, in much the same way lobsters in a seafood restaurant tank might look warily at the entrees. And then there are technobabble notes about DNA, nicely contrasted with the words “I intend to achieve human regeneration” scribbled down, almost as if he needed to remind himself.
Next, the starfish regenerates an arm, and the arm regenerates into a starfish. Both of these events take the same amount of time, and I’d just like to point out for the record that Starfish Do Not Work That Way.
Now the scientist reaches into another tank and pulls out… well, it’s apparently a sea cucumber, but I won’t say what it really looks like. Only that the word rhymes with “Bilbo”. He grabs it by both ends and twists it like he’s trying to break it in half.
According to the guy’s notes, sea cucumbers can harden their skin as a defense mechanism. That’s interesting, but I’m far more familiar with their defense mechanism that lets them vomit out their internal organs. I hope this movie’s Hulk eventually gets that superpower.
Next up is primate testing, and thankfully, we only see a report of how all the apes and monkeys died horribly.
Cut to the scientist feeding a lizard poison, from a jar labeled “Poison”. How scientific. The lizard dies in a jar, and the scientist cuts it open, writing that he’s looking for the animal with the highest toxin resistance. Which I guess means that he went around and poisoned and dissected every single species on the planet just so he could steal genes from the winner. According to Ang Lee’s commentary, what the scientist is trying to do is explore the myth of an “imperfect creation”, like being thrown out of paradise, and he’s trying to “trace back to the originality of when cells have feelings.” Again, Ang is totally serious when he says this.
Now there’s further primate testing, which makes me wonder why Dr. Porno Moustache tested the monkeys before he gave them the poison resistance genes. This time they show some of the primate testing, and it’s frankly pretty sick. The scientist injects a cute little Capuchin monkey with something, and then puts it in one of those premie chambers with the built-in rubber gloves. The scientist holds the monkey’s hand and strokes it, right up until the point when the poison gas is vented in, and the monkey freaks out.
Okay… okay, it’s over. I realize that that was a lot to put into a description of the opening credits, but obviously the filmmakers didn’t think I’d mind sitting through their infodump punctuated with clips of animal torture. And if I have to suffer through it, so do you.
And I know starfish and lizards don’t have lots of personality, but that doesn’t mean we need graphic depictions of them being dissected. I don’t think this movie is trying to make a point about the use of animals for scientific testing, which means this is all just for kicks. That’s right, it’s animal torture porn!