The Hulk: Special Edition (2003)
15th November 2003
Dr. David Banner is a 1960's a scientist working for the US government who is attempting to isolate genes from various creatures in order to create a super immune systems for soldiers in battle. Whilst his experiments with animals have produced mixed results his superiors reject the idea of moving on to human trials. Banner is left with no alternative but to experiment on himself. After conducting a number of tests he concludes that there are signs of genetic modifications, but nothing like the effects he was hoping for. However, his experiment is about to take on a different dimension when his wife announces that she's pregnant.
Once Bruce is born his father's worst fears are realised when he notices that there has been some genetic transmission of his experiments on himself to his son. There is also another side effect. Bruce not only bottles up his anger and emotions but whenever he gets agitated or upset strange green pockmarks appear on his skin. But when human blood samples are found in Banner's lab the government shut his project down and in revenge David Banner initiates a safety destruct sequence in the lab and destroys the base. In the melee that ensues David manages to accidentally stab his wife before the military police turn up at his house and cart him away. And all of this is witnessed by the young Bruce Banner. No wonder his mind is all screwed up.
Fast forward to the present day where the now grown up Bruce Banner, believing both his mother and father are dead, has unknowingly continued his fathers experiments in the fields of genetics and nano-technology as part of a research team at the University of California. However, all his regenerative experiments have managed to produce so far is a range of exploding frogs. Never the less, the ideas behind the genetic experiments have attracted the attentions of the military. But when an experiment goes badly wrong he's exposed to the nano-machines and a deadly high dose of radiation. Clinically Bruce should be dead, but rather than feeling the effects of the radiation he's feeling perfect. Even his bad knee is sorted. But when he looses his temper something strange happens. It's not the jolly green giant or the big green monster of envy, but more like the big green monster of rampaging rage... and the military want a piece of the action (and a copy of Bruce's genetic makeup).
The picture is bright and colourful with a high level of detail and average bit-rate. However, for such a recent release the picture is no where near as good as it should be as it suffers from a number of dust scratches on the print and a general graininess. Is this graininess and average bit rate a consequence of having to accommodate an audio commentary, Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks? Considering the length of the film it is a distinct possibility. Fortunately, this is not a problem for the majority of the film and is only apparent during the brighter desert scenes. On the plus side, the CGI effects are superbly rendered and blend in well with the general on screen melee. This is especially evident during the desert scenes where the main CGI attack helicopters look almost real.
Although this is nothing to do with the overall picture quality I was more than impressed by the use of various split screens and cross fades to give the film a comic book style of cinematography. It's certainly very effective and can result in some stunning shots. It's just a pity that there's no consistency in the use of this novel approach as it only used at infrequent times during the film. Mind you, I'm sure that it could have become rather distracting after a while so it all levels out.
One of the beauties with the Hulk is that it comes with a 384Kbps Dolby Digital and 768Kbps DTS soundtrack. There is little to choose between the two formats, but unless the DTS soundtrack is an absolute stinker then I'd always opt for the superior separation and dynamics of the DTS soundtrack. And in the case of Hulk, the soundtrack is certainly no stinker. Still, both formats offer an extremely dynamic and involving soundtrack with a cracking array of surround and ambient effects. The surround channels are hardly ever idle and the stereo steerage in the front channels is one of the best I've ever heard on DVD. It's an extremely powerful and impressive soundtrack and even the often neglected LFE channel is well used throughout the film.
The Hulk is not afraid to show its comic book origins so along with the films clever split screens the menus are introduced with some comic book style animation before morphing into a live action cut. With the film housing an audio commentary and impressive Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks it is only natural that a second disc is provided for the majority of the extras. However, disc one hasn't been neglected. Along with the directors audio commentary there's also a Hulk Cam feature which offers a Matrix style branch to behind the scenes footage. Unfortunately, in order view all of the footage you need to watch the entire film and select the branch option whenever a symbol appears. Why is there no option to view them separate to the film? Disc one is rounded off with a teaser trailer for Thunderbirds.
The audio commentary from Ang Lee is certainly worth a listen and fans of the Hulk will pick up quite a few interesting nuggets of information along the way. However, Ang Lee's commentary is rather sedate and there are far too many long gaps between his quips. Another down side to his commentary is that it can be quite hard to understand what he is saying and I still can't work out what he is saying during his opening sentence. I think the commentary track could have been improved so much more if there had been some additional input from either one of the stars or a member of the team responsible for the CGI effects.
Disc two contains an interesting and varied selection of extras, some better than others. Highlight of the extras is the Evolution of the Hulk with the ever jolly, and co-creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee talking about how the Hulk and his green appearance came about. If you've never seen Stan before then keep an eye out in the film for a short cameo appearance. The Unique Style of Editing Hulk feature is also interesting viewing and goes on to explain the various split screen techniques employed in the film. The Hulkification feature is a multi-angle feature which contains a scene from the film which is then shown in a storyboard format but drawn by various Anime and Marvel animators. However, unless you like your comic books then it is going to be of little interest.
The other features The Incredible Ang Lee and The Making Of Hulk are reasonable enough and certainly show just how enthusiastic Ang Lee was about the film and went to great lengths to get across just what he wanted from his actors and special effects team, even donning a special motion capture suit to make his point. There's was certainly no doubt in his commitment to the film and I'm sure most other directors aren't as enthusiastic as Ang Lee. There's also a number of uninteresting deleted scenes and a rather tedious 3D Anatomy Of The Hulk interactive feature. Overall, the features are of a good quality and certainly go some way to making this two DVD set good value for money.
The Hulk is a film which grows on you. Although I skipped it at the cinema, essentially due to the negative hype surrounding the CGI effects, it just goes to show that you should ignore what the press says and go and make your own mind up. The CGI effects are truly top draw stuff and whilst there are occasions when the effects do look obvious, especially the mutant dogs, the Hulk is rather good indeed, especially the facial expressions. Another bonus is the fact that whenever Bruce Banner gets agitated, thankfully, he's wearing stretchable sweat pants before he transforms into his angry CGI alter ego. However, the highlight of the film must be the extremely stylish opening credits. They are truly a wonder to watch and they even manage to give some value information on the background to the story.
However, the film does have its negative points. For a start it is far too long and spends too much time explaining Bruce Banners past. Secondly, just what the hell is the ending all about?! Oh, and don't get me started with those mutant dogs. Also, fans of the Hulk may be rather disappointed with the alteration to his appearance and rather ridiculous jumping skills. But does all of this really matter? The CGI effects are top notch and the film is left wide open for a sequel. Let's just hope that next time the script writers come up with an ending.
- Feature commentary with Director Ang Lee
- Hulk Cam: Inside the Rage - Inside access to behind the scenes footage throughout the film
- Thunderbirds Teaser Trailer
- Superhero Revealed: The Anatomy of the Hulk
- Deleted Scenes
- Hulkification - You're Making me Angry scene drawn by accomplished illustrators from around the world
- Evolution of the Hulk - A deep look into the production and technology that have brought Marvel's strongest superhero to life on the big screen
- The Incredible Ang Lee - A tribute to Ang Lee's hands on directing style and his dedication to the Hulk
- The Dog Fight Scene - Step by step breakdown of the scene from storybook to finished scene
- Making of The Hulk
- Ang Lee - A unique look at the unique comic book editing style of the film
- DVD-ROM feature - Featuring PC wallpaper and screensaver