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Hulk ***1/2
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Starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte
Directed by Ang Lee


     When Bruce Banner changes into the Hulk, actor Eric Bana is replaced by a completely CG (computer generated) Hulk.  This was made known more than a year before the release of the film, before the teaser trailer was attached to the theatrical release of blockbuster "Spiderman."  I am a comic fan.  I am a fan of Marvel comics, of the company's heroes ranging from Daredevil to the X-Men.  I am familiar with the character of the Hulk.  I never liked him.  To make matters worse, he has long stood in the back of my mind as the worst superhero to make a movie out of.  So, when I reluctantly agreed to see "Hulk" at my cousin Paul's behest, it was with the intention to see a cheap, lousy movie.  The act of seeing a cheap, lousy movie has become a joyful tradition whenever he comes into town.  Among the movies I saw and did not like one bit were "Ghost Ship," "Godzilla 2000," and "The 6th Day."  I had a blast enjoying the sheer awfulness of those films, don't get me wrong, but seeing "Hulk" meant giving up 2+ hours.  I was wary of such a sacrifice.
     I left "Hulk" thinking that I had just watched one of the best films of the genre ever.  I was a skeptic, but "Hulk" made a believer out of me by utilizing new techniques and some of the top talent in the business.
     The story is short and sweet, and just about everybody knows it.  Dr. Bruce Banner conducts an experiment during which he is exposed to toxic levels of gamma radiation.  As a direct effect, he turns into a green behemoth whenever he gets mad.  This is all tried and true.  That's why I admire director Ang Lee and screenwriter James Schamus: they went against the grain to deliver an actual art piece. 
     Pundit critics from whoever heard of it city were in the commercials saying "Ang Lee has reinvented the action movie."  I scoffed until I saw the movie.  It seems as though every new technique and style has already been applied to the now-crowded superhero movie genre, but Ang Lee had something up his sleeve. 
     He layered action over the foundation of dynamic characters rather than flat characters over the foundation of action and special effects that Tim Burton and Sam Raimi had shown before him.  He set the film up like a comic book, transitioning from one panel of action (sometimes literally) to the next.  Most superhero movies take the comic and make it a movie in the most cinematic sense.  "Hulk" takes a movie and makes it a comic in the most artistic sense.  That's probably why most people did not like it - they're not comic fans; they're movie fans. 
     The writing, acting, and directing in "Hulk" are all top-notch, save for the over-acting Nick Nolte. Whatever talent he once had seems to have disappeared and left behind a shell of trembling anger.  He's become a one-note actor, and there are few things about an actor that I can say that are meant more harshly.
     Eric Bana takes the character and actually makes him three-dimensional.  The "Hulk MAD!" days are gone.  This Hulk is primal, indeed, but the simpleton of yesteryear has been replaced with a tortured character, whether in human form or as the Hulk.  Bana adds to the promise he showed as the gung-ho soldier in "Black Hawk Down."  He should be placed on that A-list that lesser talent tends to occupy.  The lackluster audience response for "Hulk" makes me think he might be farther off than when he started.
     Jennifer Connelly again gives a heartfelt portrayal of a woman in love with someone she can't understand.  Her talent is more obvious than the others in the film, mainly because it is through her eyes that we see much of the Hulk's humanity.  She gets the long camera shots and tearful lines.  She doesn't disappoint and makes me jubilant about whatever her next project may be.
     But the true hero is Lee.  He has rejuvenated genres before (i.e.- "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), but never before with such little appreciation for it.  He took a tired superhero and brought life and energy to him.  He should be receiving praise, but few critics seem able to swallow their expectatins for the film  and give him his just-deserves.

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