16 years ago, we were graced with the first (theatrical) live-action Hulk movie. I’m not talking about the TV movies starring Lou Ferrigno, but rather Eric Bana as the brilliant Bruce Banner. A lot of people hate this movie with a passion, but I specifically remember enjoying it. Then again, I was a high school sophomore when this movie came out, and I hadn’t begun breaking things down, yet. Did you know it took them 12 years to make this movie? They needed to wait until CGI was good enough to make Hulk passable. That’s an insane amount of dedication and patience. Yet, no one really cares. That being said, let’s break it down!
Bruce Banner is different from everyone else. While working on a new technology to accelerate the healing process in animals, he is exposed to gamma radiation. Instead of killing him, the radiation turns him into the Hulk, a nearly mindless green behemoth. General Ross is tasked to contain the monster before it can endanger San Francisco, California.IMDb
There were undoubtedly things that I liked about this movie, as well as things I didn’t, both in glaringly obvious ways. Honestly, I feel like everybody knows what the negatives are, so I’ll go ahead and get those out of the way.
THE HULK HIMSELF – he is so green that he can literally glow in the dark. I’m not kidding. The darkness of certain scenes mixed with the vibrancy of his skin is overtly conflicting. He’s just too colorful at night when everything else isn’t. Look, I get that it’s radiation and everything, but I think we can all agree that even though we know the Hulk is green, he doesn’t defy the laws of lighting and saturation, or at least he shouldn’t. Remarkably, everything about how the Hulk looks in this movie is a distraction from any good the film actually achieves. Which granted, isn’t much, but such a massive distraction does a disservice to the film as a whole.
THE MUTANT POODLES – This one is kind of self-explanatory. Mutant dogs is kind of silly to watch, in general, and when you break it down, it gets worse. The scene feels a little forced, like they needed the Hulk to fight something while they worked on building the climax, otherwise he’d just be walking around like his big bad green self. It just felt like it came out of nowhere and served very little purpose in the long run.
THE STORY – I remember one of the core complaints people had about this movie when it first came out was “too much story”. In a way, I’d say they’re right, but not just because it has more story than hulking out. I’d say instead that it’s a highly-convoluted film with some really bad pacing. It feels like one story after the next and it was never really going anywhere specific. When movies do this, they get the overall sensation that it’ll never end, and when the mutant poodle sequence occurred in the middle of the movie, I thought that WAS the end. Nope, another hour and sixteen minutes remained!
BRUCE BANNER HIMSELF – There are a few things that I didn’t like about Eric Bana’s interpretation of Bruce Banner. As most people would point out, there is a massive lack of contrast between the two personas – he already seems angry enough, like a transition into the Hulk isn’t that necessary. Apart from that, he lacked any kind of motivation as the protagonist, specifically. He is a “be-er”, a character that adapts to his situation, which is definitely not what Banner should be. He should see this transition as an imbalance, and something he needs to work to resolve – something Norton’s character did a great job with. This Banner’s like, well SHUCKS, PAW, I turn GREEN! AH WELL, GUESS I BETTER WATCH MA TUDE!
TRANSITIONS/EDITING – You can bash this movie as much as you want, but the way it is edited together is extremely well done. There’s so much juxtaposition shots mixed together with edits mimicking the panels seen in comic books that it set the movie apart from anything like it, and that’s not a bad thing. There was so much masking work done in post that I imagine took a LOT of patience and concentration. I could watch it all day. Even on mute.
MUSIC/SOUND-EDITING – More stuff done in post was both the musical score done by Danny Elfman as well as very subtle sound effects and editing that improved on those comic book panel-like-editing I mentioned above. Like a quick swoop or swish, the sound made those transitions come alive. When it came to Danny Elfman, he was currently famous for his score of Spider-Man, and the score in this film also kind of replicated that superhero feeling that really helped Spider-Man feel nostalgic. I love this movie’s score almost as much as I love The Incredible Hulk’s score.
CASTING – No, I’m not the biggest fan of Eric Bana as the Hulk, but I do really like the casting choices for nearly everybody else. Jennifer Connelly as Betsy Ross works really well. Sam Elliot as General Ross works amazingly and I actually think he’s a better General Ross than William Hurt in the MCU. Nick Nolte played the craziest and weirdest villain in a superhero movie, and he’s the only actor who could’ve pulled it off, and he did. The casting in this movie works really well.
In general, I’m not going to sit here and say the entire movie is terrible just because it has some glowingly bad negatives, because it also has some glowingly great positives, but I understand where some people would disagree. In the end, though, the positives don’t quite outweigh the negatives, and this movie officially ended up being “bad” on my radar.
TOTAL SCORE – 48%
Current 2003 Rankings:
Overall: 27th Place out of 37 Movies
Action: In Last Place out of 13 Movies
Science Fiction: In Last Place out of 7 Movies
The following films are closely-related to this film when it comes to the bare bones – how the movie was technically made on a cinematic level. This is based off on how categories and subcategories are scored exactly the same.
The Weird Sibling
(Closest-resemblance by both category and subcategory with identical scoring)
The Immediate Family
(Closest resemblance in only scoring the same in the category total, but the subcategories can be scored differently; minimum of 3 matching category scores; must be the same genre)
2 Fast 2 Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious came out two years before Hulk, and is considered immediate family because it scored the same totals in the PEOPLE, WRITING, & ENTERTAINMENT categories while also being in the same genre as Hulk (action). Note that 2 Fast 2 Furious is scored 12% better than this.
The Distant Cousins
(Same rules as immediate family, but it can be any genre)
PEOPLE SCORE (10/20)
Acting (1/4) | Characters (3/4) | Casting (3/4) | Importance (1/4) | Chemistry (2/4)
WRITING SCORE (5/10)
Dialogue (1/2) | Balance (0/2) | Story Depth (1/2) | Originality (2/2) | Interesting (1/2)
BEHIND-THE-SCENES SCORE (8/10)
Visuals (1/2) | Cinematography (1/2) | Editing (2/2) | Advertising (2/2) | Music & Sound (2/2)
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE (7/10)
Introduction (2/2) | Inciting Incident (2/2) | Obstacles (0/2) | Climax (2/2) | Falling Action (1/2)
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE (3/10)
Rewatchability (0/2) | Fun Experience (1/2) | Impulse to Buy or Own (0/2) | Impulse to Talk About or Recommend (1/2) | Engaging & Riveting (1/2)
SPECIALTY SCORE (15/40)
Hulk (5/10) | Bruce Banner (0/10) | Action (5/10) | Halfway Decent (5/10)