Scientist Bruce Banner has, to put it mildly, anger management issues. His quiet life as a brilliant researcher working with cutting edge genetic technology conceals a nearly forgotten and painful past. His ex-girlfriend and fellow researcher, Betty Ross, has tired of Bruce's cordoned off emotional terrain and resigns herself to remaining an interested onlooker to his quiet life--until a simple oversight in the lab leads to an explosive situation in which Bruce heroically saves a life by absorbing a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation. Believing himself to have emerged from the accident unscathed, Bruce can't deny he's experiencing some strange side effects--including blackouts and the feeling that there is some kind of strange and dark, yet attractive, presence within him. All the while an impossibly strong, rampaging creature, who comes to be known as the Hulk, continues its sporadic appearances, cutting a swath of destruction in his wake. But Betty Ross has her theories; she knows the shadowy figure lurking in the background, Bruce's father David, is somehow connected. She may be the only one who understands the link between the scientist and the Hulk, but her efforts may be too late to save both man and creature.
In the old days, we knew him as the Incredible Hulk, but the only thing incredible about this version is that is was made by Ang Lee and James Schamus, the minds behind "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The greatest failure of "The Hulk" is not the clumsy, ugly special effects. (As the angry green fellow hops through the desert, pursued by fighter jets, he looks more Claymation than computer-generated, and you half expect to see Wallace and Gromit in the cockpits.) Nor is it the witless writing or the hectic, inconsistent acting. Eric Bana's inertia is overcompensated by the trembling weepiness of Jennifer Connelly, who plays his soul mate, and the raving of Nick Nolte, as his dad, a mad scientist. These lapses would be forgivable if the filmmakers had found the right tone of pop seriousness to bring the hero and his story into focus. They seem to be at once taking the material too seriously and condescending to it, and they are too busy marveling at their own technique to make us care about the sufferings of the Hulk, who is finally not credible at all. — A. O. Scott
2003-06-20 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of The Hulk