R4 . COLOR . 131 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Whilst glued to the screen watching Hulk for the second time in as many days, I was struck with a curious revelation. Geeks like totally rule! No, forget all that geek-chic bullshit that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment (whatever the hell that all means), if comic-books are to be believed, inside every geek, yes every single one of us, is either a reluctant superhero or an evil genius just waiting to bust out. When one rises to threaten, another rises to challenge. We are both the ultimate evil and the ultimate good in the world. Bwaaaaahahahaaaa!
"Hi. My name's Bruce Banner and I'm a psycopath..."
You know, don't you, that it all rings perfectly true? In more comics than I care to mention, (OK, take Hulk and Spiderman for starters), it's a case of geek versus geek: evil scientific genius versus reluctant, gangly bookworm. To be an evil genius, of course, you need - well - genius. Enough said. A fair grasp of physics and or biological chemistry certainly doesn't go astray either. You think Johnny football-hero is going to stop brushing his hair and rubbing himself up against the A-list girls long enough to be bothered with all that? Yes about the only thing, say, your former high school captains have lurking inside, is a car salesman or a real estate agent just waiting to break out. Now as evil as that may sound, it just isn't the kind of evil that spells world domination - just a Land Rover, fake tan and a cheesy moustache (and that's just the ladies).
As for the reluctant superhero, well who else but a true-blue, confidence-starved, D&D-loving geek could possibly prefix superhero with reluctant? How do you think Johnny would react if he suddenly found out he had a super power? He'd go straight out on the pull, that's how. And nothing impresses the ladies more than a bendable this, a super-strong that, or lightning fast whatever. No, for a reluctant superhero we need someone with more hang-ups than their anorak-filled wardrobe. Someone who doesn't want all the attention. Someone who doesn't think the majority of the population deserves a second chance…
You talkin to me?
Hmm… it's here, you see, that my theory faces its biggest hurdle. For most geek-boy comic book superheroes - despite being despised by their peers - seem to retain a modicum of chirpy optimism for the fate of the human race. Now, you and I both know that this is the point where most comic books enter the realm of fantasy. For overflowing with repressed anger and spitting venom at the world, most of the other geeks I've met wouldn't give a flying f*ck whether the majority of the population lived or died. Well, except maybe their mums. Let the evil geniuses take the rest and be damned!
"We’re going to have to watch that temper of yours…"
And that is what's so goddamn cool about the Hulk. Juiced up on gamma radiation, nanomeds and a little genetic concoction of his dear old dad's, Hulk doesn't give a toss about anyone except his current schoolyard crush. He's a ball of screaming rage, filled with bitterness, repressed anger and the desire to beat the living piss out of anyone that gives him the shits. It's so true-to-life it brings a tear to the eye. But it doesn't end there, no sir. Because, in the finest tradition, Hulk doesn't shy away from the classic Revenge of the Nerds narrative that most comic book heroes try desperately to avoid. Of course there's a little paternal conflict thrown in for good measure - every super hero needs a super villain, an evil genius as it were - but basically Hulk is a classic geek versus the jocks storyline; the jocks in this instance manifested in their ultimate adult guise - the military. And how does Hulk beat them? Well not, thankfully, in a classic Revenge of the Nerds scenario. No, not with his superior intellect or penchant for technology. Instead, Hulk lives out every geek-boy fantasy. He beats them at their own game; jumping on the metaphorical 'roids, bulking up and beating three shades of shit out of 'em. Yes, when he becomes the Hulk, introverted geek-boy Bruce Banner feels the liberation of physical superiority. And he likes it.
But I like's a pounding ya'll.
Well would you look at that. 600 words and all I've done is babble like a madman. I had intended to relate how Ang Lee's Hulk is easily the best and most entertaining comic book adaptation thus brought to the silver screen. How Ang has seamlessly combined campy Summer-blockbuster with serious, human drama. How totally hot Jennifer Connolly looks. How Ang's focus on the tragedy and humanity of the story has paid dividends in the believability of the fully artificial central character. But I guess now there just isn't time. Just go out and watch it. Hulk is the most enjoyable, most powerful of all Marvel's films to date and represents essential viewing.
It has been said that it isn't easy being green, but Hulk manages it with aplomb. He's a product of the CGI age, and one of the best examples of the craft yet brought to the screen. His physical prowess, captured perfectly from motion capture supplied by Ang Lee himself, is absolutely brilliant. About the only criticism you could level at this totally artificial protagonist is that one or two of his facial expressions remain a little blank, but I believe that this has been a deliberate artistic choice by the director. When he's not on the rampage, Hulk is like a thoughtless giant.
The paparatzi was Hulk's constant companion.
But if you thought this CG Hulk would ultimately disappoint in his small screen incarnation, think again. This is no gangly, physics-defying Spiderman we have on our hands here. Yes, the realism of the angry green one brought to life that so impressed on the big screen looks just as convincing here on DVD; thanks largely to a stellar anamorphic transfer from Universal. Taken from a flawless print and with nothing added in the way of film-to-video or compression artefacts, this is one reference quality presentation from start to finish. Razor sharp and with perfect contrast, the depth of detail is mind-blowing - and in Nick Nolte's case rather unflattering. And from the film's dark, claustrophobic interiors to its expansive outdoor vistas, this detail continues into every corner of every frame. As you might expect, colour plays a large part in the look and feel of the film, and in addition to our burly protagonist, many scenes are awash with sickly greens, earthy browns or cold sterile blues. Vivid and perfectly balanced, these colours literally leap from the screen while flesh tones remain perfectly natural.
Continuing the attention to detail, the layer change is also perfectly placed, coming at a quiet, fading scene change with only a momentary pause alerting us to its presence.
There is one aspect of the transfer, however, with which I must take umbrage - the continual removal of mid-film titles (such as place names) from the image in preference of the often woeful looking player-generated subtitle facility. Now I realise that this is a product of internationalisation - distributors wanting to utilise the same transfer for release in multiple countries - but the presentation of multiple language titles in their original form could easily be provided by branching. The motivation to reproduce the original theatrical presentation just has to be there on the part of the distributors. It's disappointing to say the least.
When your leading man has the size and temperament of a bull elephant, chances are there's going to be a lot of pounding, stomping, and general carnage being wreaked. And for a film soundtrack that means only one thing: low frequency activity, and plenty of it! Yes, with nearly every scene awash with glorious, window-shaking subwoofer, Hulk is a home theatre dream come true. Both of the soundtracks supplied by Universal - superb English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes - are wonderful examples of how good DVD can sound. While the DTS mix is a little better than the Dolby in terms of fidelity and channel separation, both soundtracks provide beautifully immersive, at times aggressive mixes that utilise all six channels for the entire duration of the film. While the obligatory Danny Elfman score is mixed beautifully between the front and rear channels throughout, the surrounds are often filled with the splintering and crashing of debris, the crack of automatic gunfire, exploding missiles and the screams of the disaffected. During the quieter moments, the mix just as effectively supports the unfolding drama. Supporting this activity is wonderful channel separation, with subtle details of the soundtrack, layer upon layer of foley and other effects, discernable from all corners of the room. Directional effects also abound with helicopter gunships and jet fighters streaming across and down the room. And all the while that glorious subwoofer pounds…
While there's also a three-disc Collector's Edition release of Hulk available in our region, this two-disc Special Edition release from Universal provides a high quality collection of goodies for fans to savour. While both discs provide subtly animated, yet highly effective anamorphic menus (that only those with anamorphic display devices will truly appreciate), I did find the introduction to the menus on the first disc just a tad too spoiler-intensive for my liking. Why do distributors assume that the viewer has seen the film before? Is this a penance for not catching the film during its cinema run?
The most important addition to the first disc is an enjoyable commentary from director Ang Lee. Although he pauses for long periods to let the action play out, Ang provides a huge amount of information on all aspects of the film's development including casting, the overall dramatic tone, as well as scene by scene, shot-by shot technical information and a summary of what he was trying to achieve. While some of the same information can be gleamed from the featurettes on disc 2, Ang's delivery is amiable and very easy to listen to. Fans of the film and/or the director are sure to get something worthwhile out of it.
I know there's a transformer in here somewhere...
The commentary is joined on disc 1 by a Follow the White Rabbit-style feature entitled Hulk Cam: Inside the Rage. As the film plays, a selectable nuclear symbol periodically provides access to behind the scenes footage (often at the chapter boundaries) which shows Ang and his cast members shooting the key scenes in the film. Averaging between one and two minutes in duration, these give a great insight into how the movie was put together and what the atmosphere was like on set.
The remaining additions on the first disc are much less weighty. The first is a teaser trailer for Universal's exceedingly dodgy, live-action Thunderbirds movie, and the second is a set of DVD-ROM features that I refused to look at given the requirement to install Interactual Player from the disc onto my computer. When will distributors learn to supply the original HTML in an easily consumable form? We aren't all morons.
Continuing the quality inclusions from the first disc, the second dual-layer disc presents a plethora of featurettes on the making of the film, as well as a number of more standard inclusions. While there's a bit of overlap in the material presented, it's all interesting stuff and never once does it dip into the E! Entertainment drivel that all-too-often infects these kinds of releases:
First up is one of my favourite inclusions. Hulkification presents four unique interpretations from four world-renowned comic book artists of a pivotal scene from the film - the one in which Hulk beats the living piss out of Talbot and escapes (it's approximately two minutes in duration). With the option to view each in comparison to the scene as it appears in the film or as a full-screen presentation in both inked and non-inked forms, this is a great addition and fans of comic-book art will lap this up. A small amount of bio information is also provided on each of the featured artists, and also available is a complete set of storyboards for the scene that provide a good contrast to the more artistic interpretations.
Evolution of the Hulk is a great 16 minute featurette that charts the genesis of Marvel Comics, the birth of The Hulk as a character in 1962, and his evolution through comic books, cartoon series', the classic live-action series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. And finally the feature film. Drawing on interviews with Stan Lee, Marvel president Avi Arad and Ang Lee himself, this is a great featurette about the previous Hulk incarnations and Ang Lee's vision for his feature film debut.
Lasting just under 15 minutes, The Incredible Ang Lee presents a bunch of interviews with cast and crew as they talk about how it was working with Ang, as well as the humble auteur talking about his debut Hollywood experience. There's tonnes of footage from on set - most interestingly Ang in the Hulk motion capture suit at ILM - that gives a great insight into how Ang extracted such a great performance from his giant lead. There's also information on the sound design for the film, as well as scoring from Danny Elfman.
The Dog Fight Scene presents a ten minute discussion of how Ang's original vision for the scene was cut down to something affordable, and how the combination of wires, cardboard and Ang motion-capture lead to the final scene as we see it today. Interviews with the geeks at ILM give you some idea of the work that went into just this relatively short sequence in the final film.
The Unique Style of Editing Hulk is another interesting five-minute featurette in which editor Tim Squyres and Ang Lee discuss the visual style of the film, and the creation of a credible comic book look and feel. Some of the cinematic devices inspired by comic books including the moving split-screens, amazing transitions and the contribution if the ILM composition team.
In the The Making of Hulk, four separate featurettes totally 23 minutes, discuss distinct elements of bringing the Hulk to the screen. First up is Cast and Crew in which the crew discuss the talents of the lead cast members, and the lead cast members discuss the talents of the lead cast members. Second is Stunts and Physical Effects which discusses, scene-by-scene, the problems encountered with creating the on-set physical effects that had to simulate the Hulk's devastation pre CG compositing. Next up is ILM in which the steps involved in creating of the CG character and making him credible are discussed. Lastly the Music of Danny Elfman and his collaboration with Ang is presented. Although containing a lot of footage already seen in previous featurettes, these four mini presentations allow you to cut away superfluous facts to concentrate on topics of interest.
Deleted Scenes encompasses six scenes that, while providing a second cameo from the original Hulk Lou Ferrigno, would have only slowed the pacing of the final film.
Anatomy of the Hulk is an animated, set of text screens that provide a few trivia facts on his greenness. A lot of effort has gone into this feature in terms of animation for very little pay off. The kids might get a kick out of it, but there's little here of real interest.
Even without the second disc of extras promised by Universal's Collector's Edition, this Special Edition release of Hulk easily qualifies for membership in the covetted DVDnet gold collection. With reference quality audio and video, this little tale of a geek on the edge, a loopy father, and an impossibly cute female scientist, is cinematic entertainment at it's purest. Satisfying on so many levels, Hulk is absolutely required viewing. Stay tuned for our review of the Collector's Edition...