May 29, 2018
Hulk (2003) (part 4 of 13)
The whiteness of the previous fade-out dissolves to somebody’s shaving water, and the camera pans around to a blurry shot of Eric Bana in an already foggy mirror. This is supposed to be our star reveal, I guess. The camera zooms in on adult Bruce’s eye, which turns slightly green.
And then he turns into a giant green monster and destroys the building and—oh, sorry. He actually just rides his bike to work. My mistake. As for the shot of his eye turning green, I’m sure that means something. To someone.
Bruce is now at, as a caption informs us, the “Berkeley Nuclear Biotechnology Institute”. He’s still wearing his bike helmet as he walks past two security guards, and oh, look! It’s Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee as the security guards! I have to admit that seeing them is actually a pretty cool and funny moment. In fact, I’m going to go back and watch it again. Ahhh. I’d call it pointless, but it’s a cameo, and I think pointlessness is the point of most cameos. And it kind of makes me wonder what schizophrenic hired both a bodybuilder and a frail 80 year old man to do security, but it’s still good stuff. This is the last good stuff we’ll be seeing for a while.
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Bruce walks into the lab, still wearing the helmet, and a character that’s most certainly not Rick Jones walks up to him. Nope, this character is most assuredly not Rick Jones. Despite the fact that he’s going to do the one thing that Rick Jones is most famous for doing in the comics. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Not-Rick Jones comments on how dorky Bruce’s bike helmet is. And this is basically the filmmakers telling us We know how dorky this is, hardy har har! (Or, as Ang Lee puts it on the commentary, they had to “crack a joke about something dorky, so people don’t have to say it’s dorky.”) As a college student that’s written a 20,000 word illustrated recap of a comic book movie and is working on a fantasy novel I’m not shameless enough to plug (coughwizdiaries.blogspot.comcough), I’m far, far dorkier than Bruce, and I’d never wear a bike helmet as a fashion accessory.
Not-Rick, apparently a lab tech named Harper, cracks dumb jokes about Bruce’s recent break-up with his girlfriend, thus distinguishing himself from Rick Jones by being an unlikable little snot. Bruce sends him off, and Betty Ross comes out of an office, which I guess is our next star reveal.
Now, Jennifer Connelly is a good actress, and she’s been in some great films, but here she seems to have regressed into the character of Sarah from the beginning of Labyrinth, back when she was doing random performance art and whining about her parents. I expect a snowy owl to show up in the background somewhere. She also seems to be acting with her teeth a bit. They follow you around the room…
Betty tells Bruce that they need to make a presentation to the board. This segues into Bruce and Betty talking about their aforementioned breakup. Oh, so their romantic relationship has already begun, run its course, and fizzled into a small pile of regrets and sadness before the movie even started? That should simplify things.
Betty proceeds to imply that Bruce is a total cold fish (“When you talk about microbes and nanobots, you sound almost passionate”), drags the memory of their relationship through the mud (“We were close?”) and gets passive-aggressive about why it failed (“It’s all part of my inexplicable obsession with emotionally distant men”). And all of this is played like light-hearted ribbing. Damn, girl, this is your first scene. Let the rage simmer a bit.
We rapid zoom! out from there to a toad’s eye, which I think means that this whole movie was just a St. Elsewhere-style delusion of an amphibian, and we can all go home. Oh, wait, the movie is still going on.
The toad is inside a glass dome, which another hypersonic zoom-out reveals is in a science lab, surrounded by what appear to be laser guns. [Note from the future: The commentary reveals this device to be a gammasphere, based on the actual device at UC Berkeley. Two seconds on Wikipedia reveals that a gammasphere actually detects gamma rays—it doesn’t emit them. Which leads me to assume that this movie takes place in a bizarre mirror universe, which makes things that much easier to understand.]
Betty pumps toxic gas into a plastic bag, in a scene edited to look like each shot is one side of a simultaneous 4-day film cube. She brings the plastic bag to a Whatever Device and sets something up that causes about fifty different TV screens to turn on, all showing this same toad. The toad is shown in normal vision, night vision [?], and something that looks like a Predator-cam. The camera zooms in on two monitors, showing two different angles of a cut on the toad’s back. It’s a huge, unnecessarily bloody gash. I’m guessing Harper hates toads as much as he does his co-workers.
Next, the movie stops and an episode of 24 plays instead, because the following technobabble sequence is cut together with big, box-outlined split screens. Sadly, they can’t even pull off this trick competently. At one point, the split-screen shows two shots of the same computer screen flashing information, and there’s a noticeable delay [?] between the two shots.
Ang was apparently trying to make the movie look like comic book panels, which is admirable, I guess. But imagine if they made Alone in the Dark, and they had a health meter and a mini-map up at the top of the screen for the whole thing. That would… probably have made that movie easier to understand, actually, but considering that it was an Uwe Boll film, it couldn’t have possibly made it worse.
My point is, you have to work with the tools of your medium, and you can’t just rip things off whole cloth from other media. That’d be like filming the Lord of the Rings, and having big prose sections constantly scrolling across the screen.
And as far as the whole split-screen technique goes, what makes this exciting on 24 is that they use it to heighten the action and suspense, giving us different viewpoints on gunfights, or bombs being disarmed, or Kim Bauer devouring helpless screen time. But all that’s happening in this scene is that a toad is getting some “nanomeds”. It’s about as tense and exciting as watching a White Wolf LARP.
Apropos of nothing, a computer screen fades in over the scene in progress, and just hovers there for a few moments before sliding over to cover half of Bruce’s face. Then the rest of the new shot fades in, but the old shot doesn’t fade out, and they just hover within each other like Schrödinger’s Cat.
Bruce says to “hit Freddy with the gamma rays”, and a shot of another computer monitor appears superimposed in the lower-right corner of the frame. And then, when Betty leans forward, she leans in front of the superimposed shot. This is the first time I’ve ever really wondered if a movie could be on hallucinogens.
The gamma whatsit turns on, and some part of it helpfully shifts to reveal radiation signs, and it’s back to Splitscreen Junction again. There’s more science-y nonsense, and a monitor shows soothing waves of relief making their way to the toad’s pain center. The whole point of this experiment, it seems, is that the gamma rays heal Freddy’s cut within seconds. Ah, at last, this movie does something nice to animals. Good thing they gave the toad a name, so that we could feel sympathy towards it and—
The toad blows up. Literally. It blows up like a balloon. There’s a huge lump growing out of its back and one of its eyes expands to the size of a grapefruit and there are… giant… fleshy sacs. I think I may be sick. It was an innocent frog. They could have just cut away with some sound effects. They didn’t need to actually show us it exploding, did they? It’s beginning to look like this movie hates animals and audiences equally.
On the commentary, Ang Lee thankfully says that it was a prop frog, because the real one was less lively than the prop. I’m assuming he means he tried exploding both, and liked the one he could stuff full of flesh-balloons better.
That night, Betty jokes about marketing their frog-exploder, in case there’s a plague. Don’t joke about Freddy! Freddy died for your sins! And why name your lab animals, anyway, if you’re just going to blow them up?
From here, Betty starts asking about Bruce’s birth parents, even though it’s obvious they’ve had this conversation before, and Bruce doesn’t remember anything about them. So, in just two scenes she’s gone from joking about their failed relationship, to joking about the death of a pet, to unnecessarily bringing up her ex’s dead parents. I can’t imagine why it didn’t work out between them.