Apr 3, 2018
Hulk (2003) (part 3 of 13)
Cut to a standard-issue military base, with the standard-issue generic name of “Desert Base”. Dr. Porno Moustache is talking to the guy in charge of the base, who’s a… well, at first glance he didn’t seem to be wearing any rank insignia, and I was going to rip on that, but then I realized it’s just poorly shot, and all but impossible to tell he’s a captain. An Army captain in charge of a base? I could see this maybe happening in Starfleet, but the Army “captain” is only the third highest rank. Granted, I’m not a military expert, but I have seen a lot of Stargate: SG-1. In any case, the actor looks way too old to be a Captain.
Dr. Porno Moustache (who we learn is named “Banner”, thus building up false hope that the Hulk will have a wicked ‘stache) is telling “Captain Ross” about how he wants to use various animal DNA to strengthen the immune systems of soldiers. Fair enough, I guess. But Ross shoots him down. “Manipulating the immune system is dangerous and stupid,” he says, and informs him that the President’s science flunky has shut down his project and called him a big fat doody-head.
Actually, Ross just says “no human subjects”. So I guess they’re fine with him torturing all the animals he likes indefinitely, just as long as he doesn’t try to find out how a medicine designed for humans works on humans.
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Cut to Dr. Banner experimenting on himself in his lab, and shooting himself up with a secret serum. Or, perhaps it’s hidden-camera footage of the actor mainlining the heroin he needed to show up on the set each day. There’s a grainy, blurry shot of… something. It’s a bunch of red lines with green splotches, like an anatomy book drawn by Jackson Pollock. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to be. Blood? DNA? My brain on drugs? Maybe it’s supposed to show that the basic building blocks of life are tinker toys.
Cut to his notes and… oh no, we’re still in the credits! Ang Lee even pops up on the commentary track to tell us this, and he even points out exactly how much time this is taking. He tells us this entire ten minute sequence is like the overture of an opera. I’m beginning to see his point. This already feels like it’s taking four days to perform.
This is where the movie really starts showing its chops. Apparently this “opera” is just too damn grand for normal editing, because they use more camera tricks and idiosyncratic wipes than your local PBS station after it finally raised enough pledge money to buy a professional grade console.
First, we wipe from the notes to Banner’s kitchen by following his body. It’s very Star Wars of them, but so far it’s not too obnoxious. But then two vertical wipes from opposite directions pull Banner (looking over his shoulder) and his wife (looking at something far away) into the same, poorly-composited shot. Alright, at least it’s somewhat innovative. Banner’s wife (who never gets a name) says that she’s pregnant, and then there’s a circle-wipe [!] to her giving birth. And not even a normal circle-wipe, either. It’s a wipe that starts out tiny, contracts as she takes a deep breath, and then expands as she screams. They’ve got to be kidding me.
Then we rapid zoom! out of the hospital room into the hall, where Banner’s sitting, and then we rapid zoom! down the hall, to Banner at home playing with his baby in a crib, and then rapid zoom! to… the same thing, only two inches closer. Twice. I timed all that, and that’s seven fancy edits in the space of 30 seconds. That’s more fancy transitions than an entire episode of Home Improvement, and sadly, not nearly as entertaining.
Dr. Banner takes away the baby’s pacifier, and studies his kid with the kind of serious, determined expression that suggests either he knows his baby will have an unusual reaction, or he really enjoys tormenting infants. Sure enough, as the baby cries, splotchy green things start forming on his legs.
“What has been passed on?” wonders Banner’s notepad aloud, before a bush grows in front of it. [?] This takes us to a garden, where we’re looking at trees and plants for a full minute. Ang Lee even comments on the lichen shots, which are symbolic because… they’re green… and the Hulk is green… and apparently he’s a plant.
Next it’s Christmas, and it’s the ’70s, going by the fact that Doc Banner’s hair has grown to a blond pageboy cut, and his moustache has bloomed to Hynemanian proportions. He looks like He-Man after coming further out of the closet. His kid is older now. He gets a stuffed monkey and dinosaur for Christmas, and the two toys re-enact King Kong vs. Godzilla for a few pointless seconds, before it goes into slow motion and everything but the kid goes out of focus. Symbolic! I think.
Doc Banner takes a blood sample from his surprisingly well-behaved son, which is followed by microscopic shots of purple and green neurons, because a person’s blood is just full of them. Ang Lee comes in again to admit that they didn’t even try to make this look realistic, so… good job? Banner presumably looks through a microscope, and we go from that to a literal wall of scenes.
Seriously. They took other scenes from this movie and made some kind of quilt out of them. It’s like Piet Mondrian edited this sequence. This film wasn’t cut together—they just piled shots on top of each other.
We wind up at more notes, and apparently something has CONFIRMED HIS WORST FEARS! HE MUST FIND A CURE! At least, I think that’s the case. It’s kind of hard to keep up with all the understated subtext here.
Lil’ Banner walks in through the notes, apparently having been hurt in some way. His mom tells another woman that Bruce (hooray, a name! That was worth sitting through all these home movies, wasn’t it?) never cries, and is just so “bottled up”. And then the scene ends. I’m sure that was neither pointless exposition, nor a horrendously lazy excuse for character development.
Ross (now a Lieutenant Colonel, so they’re getting better, at least) bursts into Doc Banner’s lab, telling him they found human blood in his samples. He says they’re kicking him off the project immediately. Banner shows some surprising and ill-advised balls by telling his bosses, the Army, that this isn’t any of their business. Ross knocks over what Ang Lee tells us was a real, and very expensive microscope, and Banner, who I guess really liked that microscope, looks at Ross like he’s about to drink his milkshake.
The movie abruptly cuts to Banner setting off the base’s self-destruct system. Yep, the military base has a self-destruct system. And Banner, a civilian scientist who was just fired, naturally has clearance for this. He even has both keys to the dual-key activation system [!]. An alarm sounds, and a sergeant gets on a loudspeaker to tell everyone to evacuate.
Nevertheless, Bruce and Momma Banner stay right where they are at home, and hide under a table. You know, if anyone should know the weaknesses of the “Duck and Cover” plan, I’d expect it to be the immediate family of a scientist working on a military base.
Doc Banner comes home and pulls his wife into another room, and closes the door behind them. And then all we get are shots of the closed door, and little Bruce staring at the closed door. Let’s listen to Ang Lee for a minute.
Ang Lee: I always thought it’s important that Bruce Banner’s dream is Hulk’s reality. You have to go to dreams to get to subconscious, and the Hulk is a representation of inner aggression, the survival instinct that’s animal-like. Without the aggression we wouldn’t be survival [sic] today. But it’s so ugly and monstrous and non-logical [sic] that we have to cover it up with our consciousness. With our logic and our ways and means of dealing with each other.
Yeesh… Ang—can I call you Ang?—Ang, look, pop psychology is all well and good. And there is a lot of it to explore when it comes to the Hulk. John Bryne and Peter David covered a lot of ground with the Hulk’s psyche, actually. But before you get to the psychoanalysis, we’d like to see the Hulk beating some stuff up, please. Anything else is just a bonus.
There’s shouting going on behind the door, and it opens up, revealing… nothing. Teenage Bruce’s mother wakes him up. Yes, it’s not just an overlong opening, it’s an overlong flashback dream sequence opening, involving stuff the dreamer wasn’t even there to see! In fact, he was dreaming about stuff that happened before he was born!
I’m going to assume Bruce got adopted somewhere along the line, since his mom is an entirely different actress. But then again, Li’l Bruce and Teen Bruce look almost nothing alike, so they could just as well be two different people, too.
It turns out Teen Bruce is going off to college soon, and his mom tells him that he has greatness in him, which he’s going to share with the whole world. Which is not foreshadowing, or anything crazy like that. The scene fades to white like an overexposed photograph.
So, other than the length and the editing and all the needless exposition, what’s really annoying about that last section is that it’s entirely extraneous to the movie. I’m dead serious. Everything that happened there is explained later, either by other characters or by other, more complete flashbacks. You could start the DVD at chapter 3 (yes, this took up two whole chapters on the DVD) and it probably wouldn’t make any difference to your enjoymen—I mean, to your apprecia—I mean, to your understand—I mean, to your… your… watching… of this movie.