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The Hulk

Seen: 2003.06.24   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.06.26

I have no hesitation assuming, based on a lifetime of experience, that people are generally stupid, or at least stupider than I am, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering who the hell Hollywood thinks they’re fooling. Watch a trailer for any movie involving a lot of guns or the acronym that we are now expected to know, CGI, and it all seems so predictable. It’s the depravity and cowardice of studio expectations that galls me, and I do actually think of this every time I see it: We’re expected to respond in a Pavlovian fashion to any jigsaw-puzzle reconfiguration of such interchangeable components as guns, cops, cops in trouble (pace William Gibson), soldiers, soldiers in trouble, aliens, global apocalypse, androids, androids with guns, androids with guns in trouble, and of course comic-book characters driftnetted from the vanishingly-small range still unfilmed. (As further evidence that injustice prevails, why are Concrete and Sandman in that group?)

It’s flat-out fake. It’s generic, conventional, and oppressive. It’s manufactured consent.

To focus on the current cinematic feature: Like I’m supposed to care about an inflatable man.

If you think I’m exaggerating, ask yourself how many Hollywood superhero “blockbusters” – deployment of that word is itself a dead giveaway you’re being manipulated – actually were true to human reality. (That’s not contradictory; through fiction, we lie to tell the truth.) Perhaps three were: Batman with Keaton (and Nicholson: “Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we’re living in when a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?”), Spider-man, X-Men 2. So it’s been a good year for that genre, actually, but not a good lifetime for that genre.

Everyone forgets the bombs, but they are legion. And people even forget the good ones. I had to sit there and think for a moment.

It’s a dissipated genre. It barely qualifies as cinema. And I say this as someone who values the concept of entertainment. I merely devalue entertainment-by-formula.

I am thus faced with a difficult case in [The] Hulk. If one removes all the scenes featuring an inflatable green giant, à la samizdat Star Wars remixes, one is left with a functional family psychodrama featuring thoroughly correct underacting by Eric Bana and irksome, cigar-chomping overacting by Sam Elliott. (J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-man is who General Ross should really be.)

It’s Bana’s eyebrows, angled downward toward the temples, that do it, communicating self-knowledge and what is dismissively known as sensitivity, both of which you do in fact find in handsome, well-put-together heterosexualist Australians. (Except they tend to be Greek.) And the deep, well-modulated voice: Only future roles will demonstrate whether this instrument was custom-wielded to connote quietened inner passions or is Bana’s sole manner of speaking. Given his experience as a comedian, I suspect the former. The future bodes well for him.

(Curiously, at the beginning of exactly one sentence were Australian vowels discernible.)

Eventually Jennifer Connolly is going to get tired of playing romantic foils for troubled geniuses. Her beautifully-tailored jeanjackets, a supposed signifier of a cool but down-to-earth kinda gal, were insufficient talismans against her intrinsic Hollywood-actress stick-insect figure. Yet again, slight-of-frame, dazzlingly-beautiful, articulate, bien-maquilléed women, with no autistic mannerisms or speech characteristics whatsoever, simply do not become theoretical research scientists. Not even the lesbians. (“Sexiest geek alive” is a contradiction in terms for females. And the Studmuffins of Science calendars now cannot be found online.) Meanwhile, E. Bana’s adoptive mother looks like John Lithgow in drag.

Every scene involving biological transformation, including the mid-picture shape-shifter and late-stage electrocution nonsense with Nick Nolte, was a flat-out waste of time. When something doesn’t make literal sense, you at least need to be able to fall back on metaphoric sense, as, famously, in the pinnacle of 20th-century cinema, 2001. Little sense was made here, even at the level of logical detail, like why the Hulk doesn’t have a sexual organ the size of a Range Rover and why his loins remain clothed. (Audio description: “With only tattered pants remaining.”) Why Bruce’s dad kills his mom is also simply inexplicable – and you can’t trace it back to the rage that causes Bruce to inflate later in life. (The same scene is shown in dreamstate and realstate, as if to suggest that absolute truth could not be known about it, but even in the fantastical logic of the movie it makes no sense.)

And perhaps worst of all, The Hulk ignores James Whale’s maxim (pace Gods and Monsters) that the monster must remain noble. The Hulk merely remains green, and castrated.

But the opening credits! I couldn’t believe it. A superb typographic achievement, besting even Panic Room. Captions and descriptions abetted the design superbly.

The use of split-screens and pictures-in-picture is now a proven cinematic trope, along the lines of bullet time. I remember Timecode, but this is another level altogether. Ang Lee brings a new conception to the match cut. Not only do we get multiple views of the same action, pictures-in-picture are used diegetically. The story moves along because of them. You couldn’t effect a Star Wars–style remix without them.

Theatre experience

Superb. New manageress got the gear (a reasonably unscratched reflector) and dug out two more when I told her I was going down to get Mr. X and Mr. Y. She had the gear waiting for them when they arrived.

I told the other d00d to just copy my details down in the book from my previous entry – the one I had myself written out. (That really needs to be stopped everywhere immediately. I no longer look at other people’s names, but it becomes possible under that system.) Only five usages of the system between my previous visit and the present one. That’s pretty low, actually.

We went on a Tuesday (“cheap” night – I remember when they were $2.50) to accommodate Mr. Y. Nearly a full house. We got bumped twice by guys who didn’t give a shit, and had seven people stare at us. That’s what happens when you’ve got gizmos in front of you and are sitting directly under a spotlight.

Caption quality

A great deal of captioning of musical form during the redoubtable opening credits: (kettledrum adding dynamics), (violin plaing descending musical phrases). I wish we knew more about how helpful those are to viewers with different forms and histories and indeed sociologies of hearing loss. I’m telling you right now, they work really great for hearing people.

(muffled, angry voices shouting): You’d never, ever find a Canadian captioner going into that much detail, being arrogant, indifferent, unqualified, and uncaring as they are.

(catches his breath): Indeed he does. But (air whoosing): Whooshing, presumably.

Attention all personnnel: Mandatory comma in vocatives. My dear, Miss Ross: We don’t write a comma there. It’s an adjective sequence. Similarly, I'll tell you, though that, if he were alone is a mess. It should be written I'll tell you, though, that, if he were alone.

Problem with illegibility of the shitty caption display: Which of the following did the caption actually say?

“Go,” as it turns out (I assume from the dialogue). “Then” has to be followed by a comma.

The phrase “cell-copy-to-disassemble ratio holding within ¶ one percent” was unhyphenated and spread over three captions when it’s hard enough to understand as a continuous phrase. (One of the breaks is indicated there.)

Also, dig this appalling caption break:

You know, for me
this is a win-win ¶
you turn green

And of course this one:

It we deploy
the electromagnetic ¶
array, there should
be no collateral damage.

You see, the strength of my son's D.N.A didn’t need periods in the first place and was missing a final one.

I can't believe Talbot'd go around me on this: Another Canadian-style error. Those aren’t the sort of verbs we’d contract.

( automatic weapons fire ): We don’t use spaces, a relic of Line 21 italic toggles.

Description quality

Maybe narrator Miles Neff knows something I don’t, but he insists on pronouncing the director’s name as Ahng Lee. We could have a discussion of American vs. Chinese vowels here if you desire. Then there’s his pronunciation of herculean: “her-kyool-yen.” He did get behemoth right.

A cameo was IDed explicitly, since describers took the fair assumption that clued-in sighted people would have noticed: Two security guards walk out, “one grey-haired, the other beefy. It’s Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno!”

“Glenn eyes her roguishly”: I suppose he did.

“Betty lies her cheek against his chest”: No, lays. It’s transitive.

Yet another huge, beautiful, well-tended house on a big lot on a tree-lined street is described as a “modest home.” Anybody down at GBH ever lived in a real one of those?

“Leaning forward, the general gets in Bruce’s face”: Didn’t we just hear that in 2 Fast?

“Behind them, a line of evenly-spaced fenceposts stretch to the horizon”: No, the line stretches.

“Naked and muddy, he takes a step toward the car”: Everybody’s fantasy, shurely?!


Bruce Banner’s father David is IDed as David Banner in descriptions and FATHER: (repeatedly) in captions.

Exit interview

No problems. Handed gear back and that was that.

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