Hulk (2003) (part 9 of 13)
The next morning, Betty calls her father, and totally sells Bruce out. She tells General Ross exactly where to find him, for reasons that will never be explained. Cut to her fixing Bruce a nice plate of psychobabble.
Bruce: How could it? We designed them to react to physical damage.
Betty: Emotional damage can manifest physically.
So, now all the pieces are in place. The Hulk is the Hulk because his daddy injected all kinds of animal genes into himself to improve his immune system. These genes somehow got passed onto his son, who later inhaled some magical healing nanites that are powered by gamma radiation, and which make everything explode.
However, because of his increased immune system, the nanites don’t make him explode—they just heal him very quickly, except whenever he gets upset. In that situation, they activate some kind of Matrix-like “your mind makes it real” bullcrap and cause him to turn all green and giant, because emotional damage can manifest itself physically, except he doesn’t transform when he experiences actual physical trauma. This is so much simpler than just having him be mutated by radiation, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
There’s more exposition, but I’m way over my quota and I don’t feel like transcribing it. And then Bruce hears a noise and steps outside, where he gets shot by a tranquilizer dart. Despite having the immune system of a T-1000, and turning into a monster whenever anything bad happens to him, the tranquilizer works instantly. The military guys load him into a giant beer can, which gets helicoptered back to the abandoned Desert Base, which has now been renamed Technicolor Akira Base.
Seriously, the interior looks exactly like the base they were keeping Akira in, with lots of domed rooms, and one of those big slanty elevators, only there’s all kinds of bright red pipes, blue support beams, and yellow handrails. I know it’s a comic book movie and all, but come on! It’s a military installation, not a Chuck. E. Cheese.
Betty and her father have a discussion about whether or not they should help Bruce, or keep him permanently sedated. This is another scene between them that works well. Both of them make pretty good points. On the one hand, Bruce is a human being, and needs help. On the other hand, the Hulk is a monster, and needs to be locked up. Considering that the best and brightest of the comic superhero community decided to up and shoot him into space, the fact that both parties have reasonable arguments and are generally worried about Bruce’s well-being is actually refreshing.
Betty thinks the military wants to use the Hulk as a weapon. Makes sense to me. Surely, there’s no better soldier than a mindless creature that can only see pure blind rage and destroy everything in its path.
Betty asks what “David Banner” did to Bruce. Hooray! Daddy Banner finally has a name! And it’s a pointless reference to a vastly superior TV series, but I’ll take any little bit of goodness they throw at me.
In the same vein, we’re spared another dunk in the flashback pool, because the movie cuts right to a SWAT team raiding David Banner’s shack. It feels good to actually say his name now. David Banner! David Banner, David Banner, David Banner! David Banner (David Banner!) is not in his shack, however. Somehow, he’s made it into his son’s lab, where he sets up a makeshift gammasphere, inhales a bunch of nanites, and then zaps himself with gamma radiation.
As he stumbles around in a gamma hangover, he cuts his hand on a piece of metal, and his blood starts to coagulate into some kind of gelatin-like substance. He concentrates, and the blood gets sucked back into his hand, and his skin goes all craggy and orange. Not sure what that’s all about. Next, he touches some metal, and his hand turns into metal, miraculously gaining the same bright blue paint job.
Fans of comic books will tell you that he’s gained the powers of Carl “Crusher” Creel, the Absorbing Man, whose powers do just what the name implies: He can absorb the properties of anything he touches. So, despite having had the same treatment as his son, and also presumably the Hulk Dogs, David Banner manages to get an entirely different set of powers. Sure. Fine. Whatever.
The thing is, those same comic fans could also tell you that Absorbing Man is not even a Hulk bad guy. He’s more of a Thor villain. To complete the trifecta of stupidity here, there’s already a Hulk villain that did get his powers in exactly the same way as the Hulk: the Abomination, who of course goes completely unused here.
This also means that they waited until an hour and 20 minutes into the movie to give the bad guy superpowers. But if you’re expecting an Absorbing Man Screen Time Counter, don’t hold your breath; Even I can think of better things to do with my time.
A guard comes into the room, and asks David Banner to put his hands up. And here we get the crowning triumph of idiocy, the summit of stupidity, the single worst line to come out of David Banner’s mouth, out of an entire movie of stupid lines coming out of David Banner’s mouth.
He “merges” with the floor and lifts his leg, causing the guard to fly up in the air. And then he hits the guard with a several-hundred-pound computer thing that “merged” with his hand. I guess that makes it instantly weightless or something. I don’t know. And I’d just like to point out for the record that the Absorbing Man’s Powers Do Not Work That Way.
On the commentary, Ang Lee says they didn’t want to call this character the Absorbing Man, because he recognized that the character was too different from the comics. Which I can… respect, actually. He also says that they started calling him “Partaking Man”, based on that stupid line he just said. Thanks, but I’ll be sticking with “David Banner”.
The guard, by the way, is the sole black character in the movie. I’m not kidding at all. Not to be overly PC, but you’d think one of the few Asian directors with a successful Hollywood career would at least attempt to make his movies a bit more diverse.
So Bruce finally wakes up from the tranquilizer dart. Previously, we saw a montage of Bruce’s beer can as it was sent hundreds of feet underground. And now, Bruce is lying on a bed in a room with reinforced steel walls. So, who’s the person they send in to wake him up? Why, Betty, of course! Sure, why not put her in a small, confined space with a guy who can turn into a rampaging monster at a moment’s notice?
And then I’m completely stunned by what happens next. The two of them are suddenly above ground [!] in the next shot, just so Bruce can go on a nostalgia tour of Craphole Base. They show military guys shadowing Bruce and Betty with guns at the ready, but what… the… hell? What was the point of sedating him, putting him in a beer can, sending him hundreds of feet below ground, and then locking him up in a steel room if they were just going to let him roam around outside all of ten minutes later? No wonder military spending is out of control! These guys can waste time like nobody’s business.
They go back to Bruce’s old house, and he wanders around, making confused faces at things. He walks around some more, having meaningless flashbacks for a full two or three minutes (no exaggeration) until he sees the closed door from earlier flashbacks. He starts to panic. Betty asks what happened behind that door. When he doesn’t answer, she goes to open it, causing him to rip his shirt off and hulk out, because WHATCHU GONNA DO WHEN THE HULKINATOR RUNS WILD ON—oh, sorry, that doesn’t actually happen. Instead, he just starts shaking and crying.
When she opens the door, all they find inside is an empty room. Bruce says, “See? There’s nothing. It’s empty.” Of course it’s empty, dipshit. It’s been thirty years!