Drug Media: Hulk Smashed
posted by Chad on 6/27/03
My exposure to comic book superheroes is fairly limited. Outside of the GI Joe comic series, and the Archies that plague every household, comics weren’t a staple of my childhood. My superhero fix was filled through cartoon and live-action TV series, but I never had the opportunity to know the characters thoroughly. I knew who flew and who not to piss off, but their specific histories were all rather sketchy to me. I had no idea why each character was the way they were. I enjoyed them, but never understood them.
Perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying the latest transformation from geek’s comic pleasures into summer blockbusters. I’m not tainted by nostalgia nor hampered with “the real facts” of the character’s past. Instead, I can get toasted, kick back, and allow myself to be absorbed in the story as Hollywood is retelling it. Fortunately for all of us movie goers, the recent round of comic book-based movies has started with a strong script that introduces the most casual of fans to our modern mythology. CGI allows the superpowers to be conveyed on the silver screen in a flashy and convincing fashion. X-Men surpassed everybody’s expectations with its snowballing popularity and mainstream success. Spiderman capitalized on the opportunity and captured the imaginations of audiences by balancing solid storytelling and the latest CGI-effects. Modern technology has given new life to these classic comic book creations and brought them from geek to kliq.
But with great success comes great expectations. Spiderman wove his web of magic over audiences and swung through box office records, leaving a huge shadow for other geeklore to rise out of. X-2 built on its original success, but left the question if another classic character could be recreated. And how far could CGI be pushed? To this point it had provided the razzle and dazzle, but how convincing would it be in conveying emotion and pathos? The Hulk had a hard bill to fill.
Hulk had a good core supporting his recreation. Stan Lee had his hands all over this reshaping of his own green monster. Ang Lee’s emotional storytelling mixed with high action kung fu floated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from obscurity to Oscar nominations, and was looking to apply the same formula to turn Hulk into an epic. Casting fit the roles well: Sam Elliot played a top ranking military official once again, Nick Nolte brought back his DUI mug shot look to play Bruce Banner’s nutcase Dad, and Jennifer Connelly provided the beauty that could tame the beast.
Hulk like your big eyes.
The first thing I noticed when I saw Hulk smash it up in the theatre on Tuesday was the authentic comic motif. From the opening credits running on top of a backdrop of Hulk pictures being flipped like pages in a comic book, to the closing credits being written in comic bubbles, beginning to end and all in between, the form of the film fit the content. The cuts were quick, using similar imagery to move from one scene to the next. When Bruce looks back into his repressed memory, or transforms into the Hulk, often the screen conveyed this mental switch by blurring large coloured circles together to form the picture, much like how comic books used small coloured dots to create its images. Frequently the screen was cut into panels like the pages of a comic book, giving a genuine feel and creating a collage which had a greater effect than the sum of the individual pieces. One scene was cut up with Nick Nolte’s eyes filling the top of the screen, portraying his ability to mastermind what went on below, haunting the scene and my imagination well after the film ended. The split screen effect also forced you, the viewer, to pull back and realize that you’re simply watching this big time movie, so let it take you on its trip. This is why I love smoking up before going into the theatre: it clears the mind of the earlier bullshit of the day, and allows you to be swept up and absorbed into the movie’s madness.
Help Hulk. Buy Hulk products.
Another piece of the movie I enjoyed is how Bruce unlocks his personal history. The movie begins with snapshots of Bruce’s childhood, but the story of the movie is really Bruce putting the pieces of his life together. This allowed the Hulk action scenes, while being the most visually stunning and impressive, to complement the story rather than consume it. The true war in this movie isn’t the American military blasting Hulk with missiles nor the battle between Hulk and his power hungry/absorbing father, but rather Bruce’s fight with his inner demons. His tragic character is soft spoken and reclusive, and the greatest triumphs of the film occur when we, the viewer, are allowed to look into Bruce’s deep dark psyche. The Hulk is the release of Bruce’s inner turmoil, but beneath his monstrous shell lies a fragile man who hurt long before he first turned green. And not to spoil the movie, but that’s why the final fight scene fit so well - Bruce’s burden is more than anyone else could bear.
Hulk has hard knock life.
For me, the Hulk also touched on modern issues of genetic research. With science beginning to allow us to customize ourselves and our children, the Hulk provides an exaggerated but none-the-less interesting portrayal of possible side effects from “improvements.” Nick Nolte’s character mutters the words, in justifying his son’s affliction due to his experimentation, “I was just trying to improve myself. I meant no harm to him.” But that’s the danger in tampering with our genetic codes. Is taking away our flaws, in essence, taking away what makes us human?
Not that this movie will leave one walking out asking the big questions. If you try to take it too seriously, you’ll find plot weaknesses that will roll your eyes so far into the back of your head that you’ll leak ooze and explode like the frogs from the beginning of the movie. But if you can go in with the simplicity of a child and an appreciation for style, you’ll be hard pressed to not feel that Hulk was a smash. To those that bitch about how “fake” he looks, be thankful he looks better than Hulk Hogan’s remake.
Hulk happy to see you. So go see him.