What if Ang Lee's Hulk movie isn't as bad as everyone said it was?

Deleted scenes, commentary, and more.
June 17 2008 2:14 PM

In Defense of Hulk

Yes, the Ang Lee one.

(Continued from Page 1)

But Lee's movie also incorporated elements rarely seen in a comic-book adaptation, and this is where he really lost viewers. The script presents a series of relationships—between Banner and his ex-girlfriend Betty, between Betty and her estranged father, and between Banner and his own murderous father—that are all strained and ultimately doomed. There are no benevolent nuggets of wisdom from the likes of Spider-Man's saintly Aunt May or Batman's martyred father. In Hulk, family ties are the alpha and omega of emotional trauma.

In Banner's father, Lee conjures an arch-villain who's just pathetic enough to feel real, a man prone to anti-establishment rants and poor hygiene. When Banner's father eventually develops his own powers, he doesn't give himself a weird nickname or devise some overwrought scheme for world domination. Like Banner, he's just trying to save himself, hoping to stabilize his own restructured DNA by absorbing his son's powers. The fact that Banner won't survive that process is an afterthought.


Even the much-maligned finale of Lee's movie, criticized for featuring one CGI guy beating up another CGI guy, is a surprisingly complex scene. Lee tries to avoid the kind of WWE Smackdown style that's an apparent selling point for the new movie, giving us instead a supremely weird confrontation. In the climax, the Hulk's father has merged with a lake and is simultaneously drowning the Hulk and draining his power. Everything about a superhero movie's final, cathartic punching match is subverted in the scene, with the Hulk left slapping helplessly at the water. The bizarre father-lake is eventually destroyed, but not through guile or cunning or heroic determination—Betty's dad, an Army general, has run out of ideas, and fires a nuke at the both of them.

Elsewhere in the movie, Lee uses visual effects not to blow up city blocks or show off a spectacular feat of acrobatic fisticuffs, but to find moments of unsettling, alien beauty. Banner dreams of luminescent jelly fish hovering in desert mesas as desolate as the surface of Mars. In the movie's most surreal scene, the Hulk passes out in midair after falling off of an F-16. Lee cuts to a completely domestic moment, a daydream in which Banner is shaving in the bathroom. The Hulk then shows up in the mirror, wrenching Banner back into the present. More polished superhero movies like Iron Man or Spider-Man don't waste frames on scenes so full of raw, haunting emotion, and ones that don't advance the plot.

None of this is to say that Lee's movie is perfect—far from it. Some of his decisions were confusing, some just plain bad. The attempt at comic-book editing, where the screen is routinely sectioned off into panels, is the worst kind of gimmick. It seems tacked on in the editing suite, and worse, it works against the whole tone of the film. This is a story of domestic abuse, psychological damage, and the futility of rage. Campy visuals are just out of place. (Imagine if Lee had replaced the subtitles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with zany, dubbed English.) Ultimately, Hulk is a messy effort, but it's also intricate, beautiful at times, and undeniably ambitious. Whether or not those are attributes audiences want to see in a comic-book adaptation is up for debate, but one thing is certain. For better or worse, there won't be another movie like Ang Lee's Hulk for a very long time.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.