Hulk (2003) (part 8 of 13)
Back at Bruce’s house, General Ross is interrogating Bruce, and constantly flipping his personality setting back and forth from “concerned for the well-being of others” to “standard movie military dickhead”.
He starts out asking Bruce, politely, if not nicely, where his father is. Then he threatens him, and implies that they’re working together. Then he teases Bruce about what happened when he was a kid, and gets sarcastic when Bruce says he doesn’t remember. Suddenly, Ross is genuinely sympathetic to Bruce’s situation, and says that the lab is off-limits until the situation is resolved. Then he leans in really close and threatens to arrest Bruce if he comes within 3,000 feet of Betty. It’s like they wrote a Good Cop/Bad Cop scene, and then gave both parts to the same guy. It’s really infuriating, because otherwise, he’s the film’s most likable character.
Back at the shack, Betty’s gone and Daddy Banner walks out into his backyard. There’s a double-whammy of a long, slow-motion shot of the dangling scarf, followed by a half-assed Star Wars wipe. He goes up to… some sort of tent behind his shack, and throws the scarf to his dogs, who now cast giant shadows and sound like they’ve all eaten whole subwoofers.
Meanwhile, Betty drives up to a cabin at the lake. In fact, it’s the same cabin from the photo-flashback where she was leaning up against a redwood. So, this is where she lives, I guess. At the same time, over at Bruce’s house, he looks out the window and sees Talbot pull up (in a convertible, because that’s how much of a tool he is).
The phone rings and Bruce picks up, only to discover that the line has been disconnected. He continues to hear a phone ringing, so he searches around until he finds a cell phone, buried in the sofa cushions. So, the government/military/Law & Order extras disconnected his phone, but didn’t even bother to check if he had a cell phone in his house? His father’s on the line, and Bruce doesn’t even ask how he got this number. (In retrospect, it’s entirely possible that Bruce’s dad planted this phone. But since we never saw him in Bruce’s house at any time before this, that’s a pretty big logical leap to make.)
Bruce wants to know what’s wrong with him, which is a perfectly rational question, but Daddy Banner is just his usual asshole self, making vaguely threatening statements, and saying that even he doesn’t know. Somehow, Bruce figures out that Daddy Banner must’ve experimented on himself, and that he passed everything on to Bruce. Okay, then. I’m assuming another one of the lesser-known powers of the Incredible Hulk is telepathy.
Daddy Banner says that he intends to “harvest” the Hulk’s DNA, but Bruce says that he’s going to find the DNA and remove it, because apparently it’s possible to just pluck out huge chunks of every strand of a person’s DNA. His dad asks him if he “can really destroy part of” himself, and then he says that he sent his dogs after Betty… for some reason.
Seriously, I’ve got nothing. I haven’t got the slightest idea why he’s going after Betty. If he just wanted to kill her, he could have easily done that when she, you know, came to his house. I considered the possibility that he just wanted to draw the Hulk into a trap, where he would then be able to steal the Hulk’s DNA, but when his dogs attack Betty, Daddy Banner is nowhere to be found. So, ultimately, it’s a flimsy excuse for an (even flimsier) action sequence.
Talbot comes into Bruce’s house, and Bruce tells him that Betty is in danger. In response, Talbot starts beating the ever-loving crap out of Bruce. Okay, what? Did I black out again and miss a scene or two? I have no clue why he’s doing this. He says something about Bruce going to Ross behind his back, in order to cut Talbot out of the deal (what deal?). But whatever his beef is, I really don’t think beating up a guy under Ross’ protection is going to improve the situation. Also, what the hell happened to the Sp00ks? Aren’t they stationed right outside in case something like this happens?
Talbot chokes Bruce on the floor, and one of this movie’s few good scenes begins. Bruce says, “Talbot… you’re making me angry.” Talbot just laughs this off, until Bruce throws him across the room. Bruce’s whole body starts to shake and turn green, and he grows huge and rips out of his clothes, and he stares at his own hands like he’s never seen them before.
Fully hulked-out, he bursts out of the house and punts Talbot across the street. When the Sp00ks shoot at him, the bullets just bounce off and he grows even bigger. The Hulk grabs Talbot again, picks him up, and throws him at another guy and onto a car. It’s extremely brutal, and also pretty awesome.
Even so, it’s still a hilariously silly scene. For one thing, when we first saw the Hulk he was a darker shade of green, probably because of the lighting, but here he’s just a bright shade of lime green, like Shrek on Ogre Growth Hormone. Secondly, when he gets shot, his flesh deforms and ripples where the bullets hit. It makes him look like a big bowl of lime Jell-O.
Finally, while I can agree that having him grow bigger when he gets angrier is very much in keeping with the comics, it just makes certain aspects of the concept even more ridiculous. When he grows bigger, there’s a close-up of his sock splitting apart… but his shorts stay on, even though his waist is at least twice as big around now!
This scene brings the Hulk Screen Time Counter up to 3 minutes and 33 seconds. Since we’re at a full hour of movie time, that brings the ratio down a bit, to 16:1, which is much like having your prison sentence reduced from 17 consecutive life sentences to 16 life sentences. It’s a lot like that, actually.
Betty is drawing something in her log cabin, which I guess really is her home, because even the Hulk knows that she lives there. He’s hiding outside her cabin next to what appears to be a wooden sculpture of a Shoggoth, but is really… hell, I actually don’t know. I’m guessing that it’s the roots of a giant uprooted tree, but it looks like nothing so much as swirling wooden chaos.
Betty comes out and finds the Hulk behind the Tree-Niggurauth. Not only is she not the least bit frightened to find a giant green monster in her backyard, but she immediately recognizes him as Bruce. What the hell? And this is as good a time as any to bring up another huge problem with this film: The Hulk doesn’t look like the Hulk.
In the comics, the cartoons, and the old TV show, the Hulk and Bruce Banner looked really different. Nobody would ever confuse Bill Bixby for Lou Ferrigno, even if one wasn’t a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier.
The Hulk is supposed to look like a caveman. A giant, square-faced caveman with twice as much eyebrow, half as much nose, and a phenomenally stupid haircut. In this movie, his face looks exactly like Eric Bana’s, only twice as wide, painted green, and always looking like a sad puppy, even though the Hulk’s very existence is centered around rage.
But for a brief moment, this scene is actually pretty good. The Hulk picks up Betty and puts her on the roof of her car, and it works. He looks real, and his misunderstood Frankenstein’s monster thing actually generates some genuine pathos. And then… the Hulk Dogs show up.
Ah, yes, the Hulk Dogs. Hulkified versions of Daddy Banner’s dogs. These, I should point out, are the adversaries they’re giving us for the Hulk’s very first fight in this film. I’m actually going to have to watch the Hulk fight a giant poodle. (Although, what I’d really like to know is how the dogs got here after the Hulk, despite having a head start and twice as many legs.)
This leads us into our first real action sequence, which we’re getting a full hour into the movie. The fight scene is actually pretty good, if you don’t mind that he’s beating up on innocent, mutated dogs, punching them in the face, slamming them into trees and beating them with entire tree trunks. The fight is brutal and violent, and even manages to briefly go up into the treetops like Crouching Tiger. Still, it tries way too hard.
At one point, the poodle bites the Hulk in his Giant-Sized Man-Thing, and pulls away with an audible tearing noise. Yep, it’s a crotch bite joke. Then, apparently in order to get even, Hulk picks up another dog by its hind leg and punches it in its visibly un-neutered area.
At another point, the Hulk punches one of the dogs in the face so hard his fist goes down its throat, and he slams it down on the ground, and stomps on it hard enough to make it explode. And then he throws another one so far off into the woods that all we see is a cloud of green, and the last one gets ripped in half. Who exactly thought it was a good thing to have the movie’s superhero brutalize dogs? I know they’re vicious evil mutant dogs and everything, but it’s not like they asked to be mutated.
The Hulk calms down, and staggers over to a nearby lake, and on the way, his Hulk-shorts fall off. Yeaaaaaaahh. He transforms back, and Bruce walks over to Betty, still naked but thankfully obscured. I’d just like to say that this scene would be so much better in a She-Hulk movie.
On the commentary, Ang Lee says that it was freezing cold on the shoot, and that Eric Bana was “very brave,” nudge nudge, wink wink, if you know what I mean, penis.
This scene brings us up to 6 minutes and 52 seconds of Hulk Screen Time, out of 1 hour and 6 minutes. And surprisingly, that knocks the ratio down to about 8:1, which is a vast improvement. But this still means that a full 90% of what we’ve seen so far is just filler in a very thin Hulk Sandwich.
Naked Bruce starts angsting over having to kill the dogs, and it looks like he’s going to transform again. He even starts to strangle Betty. [?] He calms down, for exactly the same non-reason as he had for choking her in the first place.
They run into the cabin, where Betty always keeps her emergency exposition.
Bruce: No… Deeper… The gamma just unleashed what was already there.
Betty: Unleashed what?
Bruce: Me… It.
Bruce says that his father must’ve wanted him to “change into that mindless… hulk!” And thus we have a title. Also, it’s the only time in the whole movie we hear that word. This would be like making an entire film about the afterlife and heaven and hell without ever once saying the word “god”. Oh, right.