Hulk (2003)


We’re Going to Have to Watch That Temper of Yours

I’m pretty sure that this movie ties up my series preparing for the release of the Avengers movie, but I did not endeavor to save the best for last.  Today’s movie was despised by nerds, but you didn’t come here for the opinion of nerds.  You came for the opinion of only one nerd.  I had not watched today’s movie since when I had seen it in theaters, and I really only remember that I liked the second movie much better, and that we did not see the titular character until about 50 minutes into the movie.  That is not a good sign.  Let’s see what I thought of Hulk, written by Michael France, John Turman, and James Schamus, directed by Ang Lee, and starring Eric Bana, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Jennifer Connelly, Josh Lucas, Cara Buono, Celia Weston, Johnny Kastl, Lou Ferrigno, and Stan Lee.

David Banner is a geneticist and a douche bag.  He’s a geneticist because he’s doing experiments to take special qualities from animals and mix it with human DNA.  He’s a douche bag because he tries it on himself and passes it down to his son.  When his boss, Lieutenant Colonel “Thunderbolt” Ross, finds out, he shuts down his research.  David overreacts a little bit and sets off a giant explosion in their gamma reactor, drives home, and stabs his wife in the chest.  He’s put in the looney bin and his son, Bruce (Eric Bana), is raised by foster mom (Celia Weston) until he becomes a successful bionuclear researcher.  Things get a little crazy for him at the facility when the military-industrial complex representative, Major Talbot (Josh Lucas), starts wanting to get their research, and the janitor turns out to be a much more grizzled version of his father (Nick Nolte).  It’s also not that easy working with his ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of now-General “Thunderbolt” Ross (Sam Elliott).  And things just get worse when he steps in front of a gamma blast to save his friend after a lab accident and he starts turning into a big, green thing when angry.

There were some things about this movie that worked, but the greater majority of them did not.  One big issue is not so much the story, but certainly the writing.  The biggest issue I had with the movie when I saw it in theaters carried over to irritate me again.  The Hulk is not shown until 42 minutes into the movie.  This movie is about him, or at least that’s what I was lead to believe by the title.  It’s supposed to be about a big, green thing smashing things that made it angry.  Instead, we watched a movie mainly about David Banner and the effects he had on other people.  But don’t worry.  If you came for lots of smashing you’ll get lots and lots of … people doing scientific experiments.  When the Hulk finally shows up, he just makes a mess of a laboratory and leaves.  Then you have another 20 minutes until you see him again.  This time, he actually decides to smash something.  That something is three ridiculous looking mutated dogs.  There are many things I want to see when the Hulk smashes giant mutant dogs.  I would be happy with blood, guts, bile, and any number of bodily fluids.  I would even be content with you just doing it off camera to keep the movie PG.  What I’m not too keen on is them just exploding into green pixie dust.  It was kind of cool that he broke one of the dog’s jaws by flexing until it dislocated.  You’re not really going to get any kind of real satisfaction from the Hulk until he starts fighting the military.  That bit of action was fairly well done, but also about two hours in.  I’m not happy that the Hulk is somehow concerned about making sure that a jet doesn’t crash into the Golden Gate Bridge after it had just been attacking him.  I understand that parts of Banner are still in the Hulk, but the Hulk should be thinking, “Fuck that guy.”  I guess the Hulk wouldn’t say that … just like he wouldn’t say, “Puny human,” because the Hulk himself is (in a way) human.  The Hulk says, “Puny Banner,” when he comes out of a mirror in a dream sequence and chokes Banner.  And then we get to the ending, causing me to throw up some ::SPOILER ALERT::  David Banner has done an experiment on himself to give himself powers, making him able to absorb energies.  He turns into a giant electrical thing to fight the Hulk and try to absorb his energy.  The Hulk responds with a line that they stole from Jiz Soaked Jezebels 14 and says, “Take it all!”  He then somehow releases a bunch of energy jiz into him which inexplicably makes a giant bubble of water out of the lake they were in that then explodes into green pixie dust.  Fuck that ending in the butt.  ::END SPOILERS::

The biggest problem with this movie is that it was WAY over-directed and poorly planned.  Ang Lee got obsessed with the artist direction of this movie, making it look like a comic book with interesting transitions, multiple panels on screen, and various camera angles happening at the same time.  It was a very interesting art project, but a super boring movie that needed to remember that it was about the Hulk.  It all has a good look to it, but at a certain point I started thinking, “Would you just knock it off and play the movie already?”  The BluRay of the movie did make it extra beautiful to look at.  In a lot of the opening, they decide that the audience needs some random close-ups of algae and trees.  It looked so good in HD that it made me wish I was just watching one of those Planet Earth movies instead of someone inexplicably putting these things into a Hulk movie.  We know that this character came from comic books, but we’re not reading the comic books.  We’re watching a movie, so just make a movie and not a hybrid of the two.  The CG characters (like the Hulk and the dogs) look good sometimes, but also occasionally don’t appear to be part of the scene.  And when Talbot’s character has something explode behind him and Ang decided he would do a freeze frame of him a-la Charlie’s Angels, that was just stupid.

Sometimes, when I see the cast they’ve attained for a comic book movie, I get really disappointed.  Other times – as with this movie, the X-Men movies, and the new Batman movies – I get excited that they actually got some good actors to elevate this comic book movie past it’s station.  I was about half right with this movie.  I was excited that Eric Bana was in the movie because his last name is so close to the character he’s portraying, which means he’ll definitely do a good job at it.  He did a good job throughout the movie but one scene was just bad.  It was when he had just beat up the green pixie-dogs, turns back into Banner, has a little anger freak out, and starts choking Betty for no reason whatsoever.  Jennifer Connelly was great and very real all the way through, but I can’t really look at her anymore without seeing some old guy saying, “Ass to ass.”  Nick Nolte did a decent enough job … until the end of the movie when he and Bruce are having a conversation and Nolte does a little mock pout thing.  That was funny, but it probably wasn’t the place for funny.  Josh Lucas played a decent enough asshole, and Sam Elliott was pretty good as General Ross.

This movie had a chance but, let’s be honest, Ang Lee fucked this thing up.  The story could have been alright with a little more smashing and the performances were mostly good.  The real problem with this movie is that Ang Lee was asked to do it right when he was finishing film school so he wanted to be able to submit this movie.  Pretty, but pretentious.  And just boring.  You don’t need to see this movie.  Watch the Incredible Hulk instead.  It wasn’t nearly as pretty, but my Hulk movies involve mostly smashing.  So fuck this movie, but make love to the Incredible Hulk.  Hulk gets “Oh, some more repressed memories” out of “Bad science, maybe.”

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Cliffhanger (1993)


Suits, Socks, 100 Million Dollars – The Usual Stuff

Today’s movie is in a much similar vein as the previously reviewed Speed.  It’s another classic action movie that some may consider a little cheesy, but in the very least should be a lot of fun.  Unlike Speed, I’m pretty positive that I had seen this one all the way through already, but I didn’t remember it that clearly.  All I really remember is who was in the movie, and that the opening scene of this movie was classically parodied in one of my favorite comedies, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.  I knew that I would probably end up liking Ace Ventura better as a movie, but let’s see how the original scene holds up in my review of Cliffhanger, written by John Long, Michael France, and Sylvester Stallone, directed by Renny Harlin, and starring Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Ralph Waite, Leon Robinson, Craig Fairbrass, Paul Winfield, and Michelle Joyner.

Starting off with a scene stolen right out of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, rescue ranger Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) climbs a mountain, looking not for a raccoon, but his friend Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) and Hal’s girlfriend Sarah (Michelle Joyner).  With the help of Gabe’s girlfriend Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner) and pilot Frank (Ralph Waite), they put a safety line going between 2 mountains.  Hal easily gets across the gap, but Sarah is more jittery about it.  Halfway through, her harness breaks.  Gabe does everything he can to save her, but she plummets to her death.  Eight months later, a group of criminals rob a jet of $100 million from the US Department of Treasury, but shit goes wrong, causing the plane to crash on the mountain with the three cases of money lost on various locations of the mountain.  The leader of the group, former Military Intelligence member Eric Qualen (John Lithgow), is less than pleased with the man who betrayed the Treasury, Richard Travers (Rex Linn).  Qualen’s lady friend, Kristel (Caroline Goodall), calls in for a rescue.  Hal gets the call and heads out to rescue them, not knowing what he’s walking in to.  Jessie tries to convince the recently returned Gabe to join him, but Gabe is hesitant due to Hal’s anger with him and his own fear of going back on the mountain, but he begrudgingly agrees.  Once they reach the criminals, Hal and Gabe are apprehended and made to lead the criminals to the money.

I liked Ace Ventura better, but this was still a pretty fun movie.  They called themselves Cliffhanger, and they definitely delivered on that promise.  There’s lots of hanging from cliffs, lots of shootouts and fist fights, lots of cheesy dialogue, a menacing bad guy, and all the things you’d want out of such a movie.  I got a little bothered by the opening scene of the movie, although it was a pretty great scene altogether.  It’s a very memorable scene with a good deal of tension, and sets up the tale of anger and forgiveness between Sly and Rooker.  They didn’t make very much out of this anger though.  There were a couple angry words from Rooker and a little bit of shoving, but he gets over it pretty quick into the movie when Sly is actually in danger.  The thing that bothered me about the opening scene is I don’t know why it needed to happen like that.  It’s obvious why it happened from a movie making point of view, but why did they decide to run the line between two mountains when they probably could have just hovered above them in the helicopter and reeled them in one by one?  This would’ve made the scene pointless, but they didn’t play that heavily on Rooker being mad at Sly, or even on Sly’s decision to not go up the mountain again, but it bothered me that they seemingly decided to do something pointless that got someone killed.  Still, it’s a great scene.  The rest of the movie doesn’t waste much time with story and dialogue, but it remains entertaining throughout.  One of the things I thought of as being interesting was that Sly took part in the writing, but really didn’t make himself too much of a badass.  He got his ass kicked a pretty good amount, most memorably by the guy from Cool Runnings, Leon Robinson.  Sure, Sly eventually won by body pressing him into a stalagtite, but I would generally expect someone who is as big of a jock as Sly would not be keen on letting his butt get kicked.

The performances were pretty solid for a big dumb action movie.  Sly was in great shape for this part, being in not so rare form with muscles that were ripped to shreds, and that was about all his part really called for.  He was also still able to articulate at this point, so you could actually understand what he was saying.  He pulled off his action and his suspense, and didn’t really do a lot of emotional stuff, but pulled off the slightly emotional parts he had to.  John Lithgow was pretty great in this movie as well.  He was more of a mastermind and didn’t get his hands dirty so much, but was still pretty intimidating.  He didn’t really kill anyone himself except for his female associate that he may or may not have been intimately acquainted with, but it showed that this guy wasn’t fuckin’ around.  He added a lot more quality to the dialogue that probably wouldn’t have been there in the hands of another actor.  Rooker was pretty good as well.  I thought he didn’t seem to be taking the loss of his girlfriend nearly as harshly as Sly did, and that was a little weird, but he still did good.  Janine Turner didn’t do much beyond the typical damsel in distress stuff though.  Leon Robinson’s character was a pretty imposing figure, but I didn’t like him very much.  What kind of bad guy actually says that he’s only going to ask a question three times?  I know that a lot of bad guys actually give them three tries to answer the question, but you don’t tell them that.  Then they know how long they can wait before you kill them for not answering it!

This movie definitely holds up as fun times.  Sure, it’s kind of stupid and a few things don’t make sense to me, but the action is great and the movie is entertaining all the way through.  The performances aren’t anything spectacular, but they work for the movie.  And Lithgow was the bomb.  I streamed this here movie off of the Netflix.  It’s a pretty popular movie, so you may have already seen it, but if you haven’t it’s a good time to check it out streaming.  If you’ve seen it, it’s still fun, so check it out again.  It’s also probably cheap enough that it belongs in any respectable collection.  Cliffhanger gets “Your friend just had the most expensive funeral in history” out of “Do you know what real love is?  Sacrifice…”

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