So, last evening, AndreZero, AZ's Not-a-Mad-Scientist GF, her friend that she's known for 96% of her life, Sweet Enemy and I went to see The Hulk. Here's what I thought about it. Those who know me know that I'm usually VERY harsh on films, so be warned. I'm stealing Swinebread's review format because it works really well. It is VERY long because I am not a good writer. Oh, yeah: HERE BE SPOILERS (not that it matters. I'm the last person in the US to see The Hulk).
What I liked:
-The opening sequence. I thought it was nearly perfect. It was a bit like the opening to a TV show, but it did it's job perfectly: it summed up the origin story that we don't need to hear again. SE was wondering about the lack of gamma bomb. She's too young to really remember the Bill Bixby show and only got the origin in my (priceless) copy of Origins of Marvel Comics. My thought is that we don't do nuclear bomb testing anymore, so it made sense to have a more sedate origin experiment. Also on the plus side: no Rick Jones!
- Casting: Perfect. I mean everybody looked as though Kriby had drawn them.
- The subtle 'comic book frame' moments: I don't mean the obvious ones like the shot of Betty and the Hulk sitting in the cave entrance, but ones that evoked a comic book frame for me.
The nicest was the shot of the initial Banner takedown team. It could be considered a throw-away shot, it technically didn't need to be there. But, there they were: The Team. There were no names given, but each member had a 'look' that tagged them as individuals. I could image the artist having fun creating them for that shot before making them anonymous for the assault. The individuality of them hinted at the vague potential that they had names and personalities and that made it more powerful when the Hulk killed them all (except for the guy who broke both his legs falling two stories in the chase).
- The Hulk as a Force of Nature: Holy crap did they make the hulk scary. This was something that could not be done in the TV show, but this film pulled directly from the comics. His power and invulnerability and his complete lack of remorse or understanding or control. It truly gave me the shivers and made me very, very happy not to live in the Marvel Universe .
- The way the movie dealt with death: This was an almost astoundingly violent film, but when it came to death, for me it was downright Hitchcock-ian in that the camera never hung lovingly on death and pain; it made our imagination work the horror. We never really see anyone killed (only five corpses visible by my count). But the implication of death is even more powerful and moments of this terrifying implication are all through the film. When the Hulk pushes the soda pop tank down the factory floor taking out much of the team, the last one in line almost makes it and was swept away. We don't see him die. He just disappears in a way that reminded me a great deal of Jaws. We know what happened to him, but in a way we don't and that's much scarier.
Another moment was the second or two the camera dwelled on the soldiers and cop in the HMMWV just before the Abomination crushed them with the taxi. We had a moment of their fragile humanity before they died unseen.
- The transformations: Nicely done. Not the effects themselves, but how they were handled. Banner transforms four times. The first is mysterious and we never actually see it and that allowed me to get caught up in the surprise that the assault team felt. The second was a bit clearer, but still not totally visible. The third, we see the whole thing in it's glory (which I thought was pretty spectacular). The fourth was off-camera because we'd already seen it.
- Adding Betty Ross at the beginning. It allowed the film to give Thunderbolt Ross a reason for his obsession nice and quick.
- Nice, but not- unsubtle nods to us nerds. Doc Samson, The Leader, Bill Bixby, the 'in the rain' theme song, Lou Ferrigno, Mr. McGee. All nice
- Helo crash: I don't know if this is intentional, but the MH-53 looked like a model rather than CGI. I liked that. A lot. Robert Rodriguez said when directing Spy Kids 2 that he deliberately had the effects artists make the CGI creatures move a bit like stop-motion to give them more life. I agree. Even though the helo looked like a model, it looked more 'real'. I think that even if it is a fake thing, it is still a thing more than CGI
- Time setting: I don't know if this is intentional, but I think it was. When they showed the military operations at the campus and NYC, all of the soldiers wore woodland camo rather than digital and used M-16A2s rather than the now-standard M4s This gave it a sort of ten-years-ago feel. I wish I'd remembered if the Twin Towers were shown in the NYC waterfront shot. I also thought it was funny that the soldiers wore their helmets even when removing files form Betty's house.
- Liv Tyler. Oh, I have a giant crush on her. That's okay, because Sweet Enemy thinks Edward Norton is cute.
What I didn't like:
These are mostly nitpicks, but that's what I'm like:
-The blood part 1: Not-a-Mad-Scientist brought this up. If Mr. Blue could replicate Banner's blood like that, there would be no need for the Red Cross blood drives.
-The blood part 2: Banner's 'curse' can be transmitted by blood? Holy crap! What about his other bodily fluids? Even if it's just blood, it appears that the cells can survive in a non-sterile fluid (soda pop) for weeks and still have effects. Makes me wonder if bleach would even work to clean up. If he cut himself shaving and it went down the drain, would it infect people. It was just a badly conceived way for Banner to get caught. And what happened to Stan Lee when he drank the soda anyhoo?
-Speaking of that: No more Stan Lee cameos, please. We know what he looks like and it totally breaks the fourth wall for me. He is The Man, but I am tired of seeing him.
- The helicopter crash part 1: Man, did that have Named Character Syndrome. The only survivors are the only ones either not strapped into a crash-worthy seat or wearing helmets? C'mon.
- The helicopter crash part 2: there is nothing near the rotorhead of a Sikorsky helicopter that would spark like that. Nothing. The batteries are located in the nose. and the generators are just forward of the rotorhead, but they are engine-driven.
-The helicopter crash part 3: Jet fuel will not ignite like that. It has a very high flash pint and you need vapors or atomized fuel (we once dropped a cigarette and then a match in a puddle of JP-4 and it just went out). If it were to catch on fire, it would have done so on impact. The whole fire thing was stupid. It was just a way to allow the Hulk to get blindsided and the fight could have ben choreographed without it.
- Mr Blue/Mr Green: How do these clandestine meetings get set up anyway? Somebody MUST know somebody else to get this going! There has to be a middleman. I know it's a general movie convention, and it might work with the internets, but it still bugs me.
- Was Banner planning on wrecking his cabin in the end? Why not go outside? Even if he could now control The Hulk, he's still nine feet tall and weights a ton or two.
Things that bugged other people but didn't bug me:
- the CGI: People seemed to gripe al ot about how fake The Hulk looked. Jeezum! Are we that jaded? It looked quite nice. How real do we need them to look? I'm not saying there can't be terrible CGI (I'm looking at you added-in Jabba the Hutt), but this was not even close. We have to relax on effects a bit. It's this kind of effects nitpicking that led to the added-in Jabba, the new CGI for Star Trek: TOS, and other abominations. It wasn't a guy in a rubber suit, so give it a break.
- Tony Stark: People seemed to have an issue with this. A reviewer for the (otherwise really good) local weekly griped that they were just trying to introduce a super team in the fashion of Fantastic Four. I pause here so we comic readers can say "Well, Duh, they're called The Avengers"............................................. Ok, good. I liked that. It gave a sort of a TV feel to it. I wonder if they will do a Thor movie in addition to the Captain America...
Conclusion: I have not had this much fun at a movie in a LONG time. I will say, having not yet seen Iron Man, that this was the best comic adaptation. Ever. I felt pretty jazzed and satisfied leaving the theater and I have no serious complaints about how the characters were handled (I'm looking at you organic web shooters). I'm not generally a movie collector, but this may go on the shelf.
Also: They probably won't ever do a comic-to-film adaptation of Strangers in Paradise, but nobody can play Francine but Liv Tyler:
After the film, we went to AndreZero's condo and watched the premiere of the new comic-to-TV adaptation, The Middleman and then drank margaritas and played Zombie Fluxx. I'll review the Middleman later. As you might guess, I have Opinions and Thoughts about it.
Listening to while posting: "Nothing Better" by The Postal Service