Hulk (2003) (part 7 of 13)
A laser beam suddenly cuts across the shot, taking us to… more laser beams! Bruce, teasingly green-lit by green lasers, is in the lab examining something green inside his blood. Or his spleen, or his soul, or whatever this purple fluid is supposed to represent. I’m not sure why he needs a bunch of lasers for this, and I have no idea why the lasers are gone by the next shot, but that’s probably why I’m not a geneticist or a nanoroboticist or a nuclear frog explosionist or whatever discipline he studies.
Bruce is superimposed over a shot of the technobabble on his computer screen. And then he’s covered up by… Okay, I have to admit, it’s really difficult to describe these editing tricks. What do you call it when another element physically moves onto the screen with a visible blur effect? Because that’s what happens here. Bruce is on the screen, and then another shot of Bruce from the same angle [?] flies onto the screen and covers him up. This movie is to filmmaking what the city of R’lyeh is to architecture.
Daddy Banner starts speaking in voiceover, while we see his younger self, as if he’s being shot from down a mirrored tube (that’s the best description I’ve got, sorry). And then his older self is tinted green, and then there are shots of the computer and the phone ringing, and Bruce is starting to visibly shake and have headaches. He starts panning over shots of his own DNA and angry dogs, and flashbacks to traumatic experiences. Betty comes on the answering machine to say that her dad and Glenn Talbot are planning something with the lab.
In his memories, the door in Bruce’s old house is starting to be broken down by something. And this door motif is probably the movie’s biggest tease. Because they keep showing this door, and coming back to this door. They’re strongly implying something monstrous and horrifying came out from behind this door, something so traumatic that Bruce can’t even remember it. Needless to say, when we actually do see what’s behind that door, it’ll be a total letdown.
Speaking of total letdowns, here comes the part where Bruce finally transforms into the Hulk.
In the comics and the TV series, Bruce Banner was a calm guy who never let his emotions come to the surface. He only got angry enough to transform when something really bad was going on, like an ice cream truck full of puppies was about to crash into a kindergarten. He’d get pissed, transform, and save the day, because Hulk love kids, Hulk love puppies, and Hulk love rocky road. [Editor’s note: Well, there was an occasion on the TV show where he got so pissed off at a pay phone for stealing his dime that he turned into the Hulk, but that’s a whole other story. —Albert]
Basically, changing into the Hulk was always a response to danger and bad things. Here, his transformation is being triggered by angst. He’s not getting angry, he’s just turning emo. They should have just called this movie Sulk and had him listen to old Cure albums.
There’s the tiniest little squeak, and he goes out and sees the janitor’s cart, which he heard from down the hall, and with his door closed. Alright. Whatever. Then little green amoeba things eat the scene, and when they go away, he’s already bright green. Just like that. We don’t even get to see his skin change color.
He roars, his watch breaks off, and his clothes start to tear (causing his wallet to fall to the ground. Plot point! …Er, I think). It’s actually pretty scary, watching him stumble around, ripping huge chunks out of the wall and smashing things. It would be a lot more effective, except for two things: One, nothing in the scene is really triggering the transformation, and two, this is all happening forty-two minutes into the movie.
He destroys the lab, smashing up his office, and now we see the Hulk for the first time. Unless you were living in a remote jungle at the time this movie came out, you probably know that the Hulk is a fully CGI character in this movie. And the CGI looks really good in this scene, most likely because it’s dark and really dusty and we can’t see the Hulk fully. If the rest of the movie had him fighting dust-men at midnight, we’d be on solid ground. Hell, if the rest of the movie had him fighting, we’d be on solid ground.
He bursts through a wall and enters the Gammasphere Room. He also enters the Uncanny Valley Room, because now we see how cartoonish and unreal he looks. He’s about on par with a character from a last-generation video game cutscene. And his pants are so poorly blended that it looks like they used wires to move around an empty pair of slacks, and filled in the Hulk later.
He picks up the gammasphere and throws it out of the building, where it lands right on top of an arriving cop car. Then he walks out of the lab, and the film jumps right off the slippery slope from boring to laughable, because the first clear shot we get of Hulk’s face makes him look like a fat, sad, green baby Eric Bana. The rest of him isn’t any better, because he’s so squat and disproportionate that he doesn’t look muscled—he just looks like somebody’s been messing with his aspect ratio.
The Hulk sees his dad poking his head in through a door, and approaches. The Hulk looks totally calm during this, yet doesn’t show a single sign of transforming back. Daddy Banner starts stroking Hulk’s face, and this part looks far too much like Eddie Valiant choking Roger. Hulk remembers the happy moments with his dad and calms down further. Then he suddenly remembers the massive childhood trauma also caused by his dad and freaks out, jumping around and throwing a tantrum, again, like an angry baby.
He jumps straight up through the ceiling and onto the roof, and roars at the city stretched out before him. He then leaps several hundred feet off into the distance, surely heading for an amazing action sequence that we are definitely not going to be seeing. Cut to Daddy Banner lying in the rubble crying, “My Bruce!”
So, just to prove a point, I’ll be keeping track of the Hulk’s total screen time. So far, from the first bit of green, and not counting reaction shots (and there are a lot of reaction shots in this movie), he’s been on screen a total of 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Out of 45 minutes. That’s a Random Non-Hulk Crap to Hulk ratio of 17:1. Granted, it’ll get better before the movie ends, but not by much.
Betty comes to Bruce’s house the next morning, and sees the back door open. Eventually, she finds him lying face down on his bed wearing nothing but a shredded pair of pants. Betty fixes him a plate of various loose meat, and mentions that there was an “explosion” at the lab last night. Bruce barely reacts to this news, and says that last night, he had a dream about being born, and that’s all he can remember.
Now, the last time we saw the Hulk, he was big enough to turn doorways into Hulk-shaped cut-outs, so that means that Banner had to come home, de-Hulkinate enough to fit through the back door, realize where he was and that he had no idea how he got there, and that he was half-naked with no shoes, no watch, and his wallet was ripped clean out of his pants. Seeing nothing unusual or memorable about this, he promptly went right to sleep.
Also, his bike is out front, so at some point, he must have walked back to the lab to pick up his bike and bring it home, all without putting on shoes or a shirt. It’s either that, or the Hulk rode the bike home. If so, not putting that scene in the movie is a crime against humanity.
Bruce reveals that the janitor said he was his father. Before Betty has time to process this information, there’s a knock on the door. Betty answers it, and sees that it’s her father, wearing a suit and a silver tie, being backed up by what appear to be Secret Service agents.
This is just bordering on a total non sequitur here. It seems military personnel are the exact same thing as Shady Guvmint Sp00ks in whatever moon-logic universe this film takes place in. This scene would have been just as effective if they’d all been wearing military uniforms.
Ross shows off Bruce’s wallet, which was found in the lab, and Bruce has no explanation for what happened last night. Ross then asks one of his men to escort Betty to her car. Weirdly, he then decides to follow her out, telling her that Bruce may be involved in some “bad business”, and that they’re going to keep him isolated for a few days.
There’s a pointless scene of Betty calling up… somebody, to find out where the janitor lives. Cut to Betty driving up to his shack.
In another case of weird, unnecessary transitions, there’s a shot of a house, looking up at it from street level, and suddenly, Betty is superimposed over the shot, looking out her car’s green-screen window at the same exterior shot, which doesn’t change. So, basically, we’re looking up at the house, and down at Betty in her car at the same time. It was probably meant to be “artsy” and “comic-book-y”, but it just looks like they green-screened in the wrong footage. Either that, or they were trying to translate into film Rob Liefeld‘s inability to draw things with proper perspective.
Daddy Banner lets Betty in and moves some crap off the couch for her, and she implies that she knows he’s Bruce’s dad. This scene is mostly Betty asking questions about what’s been happening to Bruce, and Daddy Banner (no, still no first name yet) giving vague, meaningless answers and generally acting creepy on a Torgo level. Here’s an example.
Daddy Banner: Mmm… Your father… Ross… You brought your father down upon his head… How little you understand, Miss Ross… And how dangerous your ignorance has become.
Betty: ………I’m sorry?
It’s like sitting in on Hannibal Lecter‘s AA meetings. At some point, Betty takes off her nice blue scarf we’ve never seen before, which she wore to come see the hairy drunk janitor that lives in a shack. More gold pours forth from his mouth.
Ick… ick ick ick… And that’s not even counting the fact that the girl he’s hitting on presumably had sex with his son. And he moves over to sit next to Betty on the couch, and practically whispers this in her ear. He does everything short of pawing her hair. And at the same time, he steals her scarf, and she notices him stealing her scarf, and she doesn’t react at all. Hell, she doesn’t react to anything he does. Is she just used to guys being Close Talkers and snatching articles of her clothing?