Green With Irony


I just watched Ang Lee’s Hulk, again.  And I seriously think I’m gonna buy the extended deluxe DVD, if there is one.  Because suddenly I am captured, virtually pinned to a metaphorical corkboard, by the irony:

They had every hope for the project.  Got the best technicians, the most creative scientists, got a GENIUS to run everything, and gave him his head.  And at every stage, everything looked like it was going perfectly.  So much money invested;  so much money would be generated.  Why the other movies had done INCREDIBLY well…!

And then…

The big boys got something, with Ang Lee’s Hulk, that they never anticipated, and din’t know how to deal with.  You know what his sin was?  HE LOVED IT TOO MUCH. He took it too seriously on its own merits.  He treated it for real on the one hand, treated it like a comic book on the other.  And he committed to both ways of seeing it.  This is the fourth time I’ve seen this movie.


He does everything right.  I’ve gushed before about his super-transgressive editing, his wish to capture what comics look like, the music he chooses, his informationally ultra-dense titles that made my friend Stella walk out of the theatre before Eric Bana’s face was ever seen…the lichens and the desert floor, the close sight turning to the long sight…I mean you guys, the only thing I never liked about this movie was the HULK!

On fourth viewing, that’s changed.  I think I like the Hulk best of all.  I like how his huge face signals emotions.  I like that he’s really Banner.  I think they did a terrific job on this.  My friend Ed told me, a few years ago:  “check out Sam Elliott in this, he is going to town on being Ross.”  I never really believed him, because I saw that fucking Roadhouse movie — I can’t stand Sam Elliott.

It’s taken me four viewings.  But I believe Sam Elliott read the comics.

And don’t get me started on perfection-girl Jennifer Connolly.  Just imagine this whole movie in subtitles.  No, wait, don’t imagine it:  because she delivers a FANTASTIC line.

“All I’m saying is:  frogs start raining from the sky…who’re they gonna come to?”

Get serious, I kind of believe she’s a scientist for about thirty seconds in this movie!  But more than that:  superhero stories are all about the costumes and the colours — the Hulk being a hero wearing green and purple was an innovation, I mean do I have to say it once again that the Hulk is the perfect Marvel Comics version of Superman?! — and Betty Ross has a costume too.  I don’t want to come off like a dick about it, y’know.  But what I think is so brilliant about her costume is that Jennifer Connolly probably wears it in real life as well.  Well, don’t we all remember how the people we used to go to school with had their habitual “costumes”?  And what’s better for a pretty blue-eyed brunette super-scientist than an appropriately-distressed vibrant jean-jacket?  Look at the confrontaions Betty has with her father in this movie:  there’s real acting there.  Ed was right about Sam.  I’m right about Jen.  I could’ve watched those two just sit in a room together and squirm for two hours alone.  But for her, she gets some range:  supergenius one second, angry daughter the next, then she SCREAMS (beautifully, I might add), then she has a scene where she’s frightened, then she has a scene where she’s angry, then one when she’s determined…I mean who knew a crap comics movie could give an actress so many things to do?


Look, I’m gonna go on about it for the next couple of days.  I’ve got lots of good things to say about it.  You really need to see it four times.  It’s a terrific movie.  Just for now, I’m concentrating on something.  But it really is good.

Oh, they thought they could control the outcome, didn’t they?

But they couldn’t.

So they had to wipe the project, start all over with another project.

Control, control, control.  I’m telling you, folks.

Some things can’t be controlled.  That’s what makes Ang Lee’s Hulk such an awesome movie.

So…I’ll just say it, shall I?

“Within Each Of Us, Oftimes, There Dwells A Mighty Raging Fury.”

Go ahead;  watch it again.  Dude from “Crouching Tiger”, right?


Can’t go wrong.


11 responses to “Green With Irony

  1. I really can’t tell when you’re being sarcastic.

    I like this Hulk movie. I own the two-disc special edition. It’s a damned sight better than the soulless Ed Norton version, that’s for sure. Hulk vs. the Army is one of the best action sequences I’ve seen on film.

  2. The Incredible Hulk was supposed to be the antidote to Ang Lee’s “boring” Hulk, but it basically copies it scene-for-scene – where the Hulk’s concerned anyway. You’ve got the low-lit, glimpsed-in-shadow indoor Hulk-out at the start (despite the fact that we’d all already SEEN a CG movie-Hulk 5 years previous, not to mention this particular CG movie-Hulk in all the trailers – so what are you hiding?). You’ve got Hulk vs. the Army, and then you’ve got Hulk vs. Hulk Baddie at the end. So… the main thing your super-visceral, “none of that talky shit” Hulk has to offer is swapping Hulk-dogs for Hulk in the rain from a Jeph Loeb comic? WHO’S BORING NOW?!

  3. Funny, James! I think there are a few things that could make a person complain about this movie, but they’re never the complaints I hear…every time I see it I like it more, and Ang Lee’s commentary is pretty goddamn interesting really — makes you wish it was a three-hour movie! The Ed Norton movie, where it succeeds, is a lot of the time doing the same things that Ang Lee did, I think…and sharing Lee’s success/failure ratio wherever it does, but where it isn’t doing that stuff it’s a tough slog for the moviemaking, and sometimes it just has no heart at all and that’s where it totally falls apart. You can see the seams in the final script, for sure…hey, more irony? It’s a Frankenstein script, maybe?

    Hmm, I think I did write something about the Ed Norton version, where is it…


    But looking at Ang Lee’s Hulk, you really do get struck by how unashamed he is of the comic-book source. Whereas we…still are, it seems.

  4. I often disagree with your opinions, Pillock (yet still can’t help reading them) … but I’m right there with you on Ang Lee’s Hulk. I saw it four times IN THE THEATER, and have watched it at least twice more on DVD. It’s fantastic.

    (There’s only one other movie I’ve seen that many times in theater. Coincidentally you just blogged about that one as well, and it also had Eric Bana in it …)

  5. I often disagree with my opinions too, Jason! And I can’t believe you’ve seen Troy that many times, that’s just crazy


    No doubt the Ed Norton Hulk is easy for comics fans to give a big ol’ pass to because it’s less “arty” and has a supervillain in it…but there’s a pretty crazy irony there too, in that all the parts that really worked in that one, might’ve fallen out of this one: the helicopter shots of the fahvela are just pictures of lichen and desert in different clothes, a lot of the “Lonely Man” stuff looks like Barry Windsor-Smith drew it…except it’s all swaddled in this great big apology for art, action-movie stuff out of the cookie-cutter. Of course the action-movie stuff plays pretty well when it’s not out of the cookie-cutter — where it looks like The Ultimates it’s actually quite interesting! — but I think it’s probably debatable which stripe of action-movie stuff appeals most to the Average Comics Fan who sat in the theatre. It seems almost that it’s the juxtaposition of comics with not-comics, and the dialogue that creates, that really makes the taste-based responses in both cases: I wonder, how many people actually bothered to watch either movie simply as a movie, instead of an essentially political conversation about geekery and nostalgia? Well, if it must be so then I definitely prefer the dialogue Lee creates…in my eyes, it’s far more positive about its source and inspiration.

    Hmm, there’s a “Star Trek Begins” thought in there too, isn’t there? “What is the judgement of the dialogue, and how and why is it favoured/not-favoured”…I think that may be a cleaner way of saying what I had to say about Star Trek, now that I think of it…

    • Among my many times seeing Hulk in the theater, one of them was with my Grandma, who definitely watched it more as a movie than as anything to do with nostalgia. It certainly had nothing to do with comic books as far as she was concerned. (I remember being a kid telling her about how the comic-book was so cool, there was a green version and a grey version, and in one issue they fight each other … and she responded, “Wow, who’d have thought they could spin so much out of that old Bill Bixby program …”)

      Anyway, she liked the movie quite a lot. I think we even re-watched it months later together on DVD. Both times she said the same thing, “I liked it more than Spider-Man.”

      I don’t know my point. I guess that comic-geeks seem unanimous that Spider-Man was a GREAT movie and that the Ang Lee movie just SUCKED. Whereas my Grandma, who has never read a comic-book but has seen thousands of movies and never missed the Oscars once in 70 years, she much preferred Hulk.

      So I think you’re onto something with the idea of judging it as a movie vs. a comic-book movie.

      And I think Sam Elliott might’ve read the comics too. I remember coming out of the theater thinking that he had somehow synthesized every comic-book appearance of Thunderbolt Ross into a single performance.

      I also remember hearing whisperings when “Incredible Hulk” came out that Ed Norton was really dissatisfied and had fought to make the movie more cerebral, more “arty” — it sounded, from between the lines, as if he wanted to make it MORE like Ang Lee’s Hulk, really. And now Norton’s been fired before he can bring that kind of crazy-talk into the upcoming shiny new Avengers movie. Kind of interesting …

  6. It does seem as though Norton had a lot of stuff in there that was yanked out — though probably notthing quite as interesting as what was left out of Lee’s, “Hulk as Cancer” e.g…

    The Ross thing is interesting: my friend Ed was applauding Sam Elliott’s Ross almost right away, but it’s only on my last viewing that I really thought he was accomplishing something. Of course I might as easily say that I didn’t think it before, because of how he accomplished it: you can feel real stuff going between Sam and Jennifer (who, did I mention, I really did believe was a scientist for a few minutes there?), and interestingly it really isn’t what their comic-book counterparts have going on, at all. In fact I’d suggest this is where the necessities of adaptation really make themselves felt, in refusing the “classic” Ross/Betty stuff that Ed Norton’s picture so wholehgeartedly embraces, homages, whatever. Sam’s Ross is a good guy at heart, conflicted but not compromised; like any father, you can trust him to do what he thinks is right. William Hurt’s Ross, on the other hand, can’t be trusted with much of anything at all: he’s cold and scary, and much more dangerous. And in a way, of course, that makes him absolutely perfect: and perfect casting too. You’ve got your blustering ethical cowboy in Sam; Bill gives you Ross the moral coward with the iron shell of repression welded around his heart. Both work, and both get good counterparts: the “classic” Betty, the doe-eyed emotionally-gifted classic-movie-type Betty whose father barely thinks of her, like some Atom Age Titus Andronicus…that would be, as I suggested to Harvey Jerkwater, the “Ahab” version of Ross…and the “updated” Betty, the frustrated scientist who’s a little bad at relationships, whose father thinks about her all the time…and so that would be the “Prospero” Ross I already told Harvey I would prefer to see. Although, I was thinking of how to do it in the comics

    But as I said, they both work pretty well; they’re just indicative of the difference between Norton’s style and Lee’s. Norton does seem to create a Bruce Banner who’s really disturbed about having an alter ego; Eric Bana’s Bruce, on the other hand, knows damn well that Banner and the Hulk are the same person. I mean, that’s interesting too, except Norton never gets the chance to follow his interpretation up with much…but again, his is much more the “classic” Hulk of the comics, and you can see that he has some ideas about how to use that classicism in making a movie. His Hulk isn’t cancer, it’s a bad trip</i…it's a threat to his identity. Lee's Hulk is the identity threateningly liberated. I mean, you can see a nice integral construction in the Norton stuff, I think — where it works it works pretty nicely, it ticks over very reliably, and it makes an interesting dialogue with Lee’s Hulk itself…which, is what we maybe want it to do? There’s a core, there.

    But you can’t see it, really.

    And of course no one ought to expect Norton’s movie to be better than Lee’s, I mean that’s just nuts: Lee was freer, and pretty obviously more inspired. But then there’s that thing with the political dialogue between geekiness and ungeekiness, too, which Lee obviously wasn’t interested in: possibly he had such a vision of the film (and if anything’s obvious it’s that he had an amazing vision of it!) because the very last thing he was interested in was the problem of “how to rehabilitate a comic book for an mainstream audience”. There’s nothing to challenge the eye in Norton’s movie as there is in Lee’s, obviously — and there was never going to be, because to challenge the audience is manifestly not the point of doing another Hulk movie…and, hell, how do you even ask someone to produce a real “sequel” to Lee’s effort? I don’t think you can…

    Wow, longish comment here, but I just wanted to get into something I don’t know if I feel like fully writing out just now, so here’s my notes I took for myself on it, just pasted-in:

    “Maybe there’s something in revisiting “The Joy Of Cheese And Stars” — as Englehart says, Hollywood just *would not* do comics as comics — even Spider-Man had this weird — what was it? — Night Gallery kind of vibe, the ratchety music etc…and then the disco’ed-up quasi-Rockford horn-and-guitar-based “action” music…something about the costume changes, something about Cap’s plastic shield, some strange vague need to be modern, only then “modern” was like plexiglas and polyester pantsuits, chicks in spandex with touchably-soft hair, and stuff that looked more comicky than ANY comic, like Dr. Strange’s final “costume”, the very thing they were afraid of, the hokey stuff. Seems strange to screw that all up so bad, so why did they do it, what were the motivating factors, etc. I know as a kid I was *thrilled* to see them even though I found them disappointing — now it would not be the same, I think. So, why was I so damn thrilled?

    And why do I think it wouldn’t be the same?

    And what was that deal with Cap’s shield?”

    …If you see what I’m going for here, which is that same “comics fans watch the political dialogue, not the movie” thing I was talking about before…

    …But, hold on, abruptly I’ve lost the thread.

    Will have to come back to it!

  7. Also, Joss Whedon doing the Avengers movie…I don’t understand why anyone would want to do that movie, I just don’t think it’ll work at all…although it will be fun to see who Whedon kills off.

    Smart money’s on Rick Jones!

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