Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte
lab accident gives a scientist superhuman powers, and makes him a threat
to the military.
WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers!
Lee's Hulk is a misguided attempt to bring dramatic and emotional depth to
a comic-strip-inspired story. Fans of relatively superficial films like X-Men
2 and Daredevil will probably
be bored by Hulk's more adult approach, which concentrates as much
on the characters and their complex relationships as it does on cool
effects sequences and blowing stuff up. Director Ang Lee was best known for
intimate arthouse drama movies before breaking into the mainstream with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Wo hu cang long, 2000). Hulk
doesn't seem like a radical departure after that, but it will probably
further alienate fans of his early work. Lee coaxes remarkable
performances from his cast, including a startling turn by Nick Nolte which
may have you questioning the actor's sanity. Lee also brings the film
together nicely on a technical level, often dazzling the viewer with its
artistry. The quality of the film's special effects has been widely
criticised, but this is a film where you either go with the flow, or
you're going to waste two hours of your life. The CGI effects work better
scaled down to the small screen, and are generally impressive.
film is presented in 1.85:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The
is extremely good, with virtually perfect contrast, black levels and colour
fidelity. The film's colour scheme has a pop art look with bold
primary colours, akin to
movies like The Final Programme (1973) and Dick Tracy (1990).
The transfer also has to accommodate more subtle hues (notably the
green tinting when Bruce Banner morphs into the Hulk), and does so
admirably. The image is generally clean
and sharp. It's probably as good as possible, given the limitations of the
format, but it isn't pin-sharp. There's
a smidgeon of edge-enhancement visible, most prominently on split-screen
shots with black borders contrasting with light backgrounds, but the film
is restless, and usually doesn't give the viewer time to dwell on its
average bitrate is a reasonable 6.46 Mb/s.
UK disc offers a choice of English Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes. The Region 1 disc,
which also features 5.1 tracks in Spanish and French, does not contain the
DTS track. The DTS mix (at 768kbps) is aggressive, with plenty of
sound being thrown into all the channels when the Hulk goes ballistic, and
more subdued ambient atmospheres in calmer moments. The mix contains
plenty of low frequency rumble, too, which viewers with meaty subwoofers
will doubtless appreciate. The Dolby Digital mix (at 384kbps) is also
impressive, but it's not as good as the DTS track (at 768kbps), which
offers subtle improvements, including better imaging and more enveloping
ambience. The US disc's Dolby Digital track is presented at 448kbps, so
should, in theory, offer a marginal improvement over the UK version's
Dolby Digital track.
and Dutch subtitles are provided for the film and the bonus materials.
film is supported by a disappointing, hesitant commentary track by Ang Lee.
There are lots of gaps, but when Lee speaks it's generally worth hearing. He
doesn't elaborate much on how particular scenes were created, but does
address some of the film's specific challenges and problems, talking in general
terms about working with his cast and about the leap of imagination the
audience must make if they are to accept the CGI Hulk. There's very little
information on the disc about how the film developed, and Lee's commentary
doesn't expand on this aspect, so you'd be forgiven
for thinking that they simply shot the first draft of the script. Perhaps
the most interesting part of the commentary is Lee suggesting that
people's perception of how film looks (the brightness, particularly) might
somehow be related to the colour of their eyes.
film's on-screen captions have been replaced by generic player-generated
subtitles, which fail to replicate the original look and style. It is
possible to precisely replicate the font, size and position of the captions with
player-generated subtitles, but the producers haven't really tried here. The
original captions faded in and out, but the player-generated subtitles
blink on and off. Shoddy. The American disc features the caption as it was
meant to be seen. One of the film's original captions can be seen in The Making of Hulk featurette, on the second
disc of the UK set. It's not
possible to show exactly the same frame from both versions, because the clip in the
featurette is truncated, and the player-generated captions have
disappeared by the time the equivalent moment in the documentary clip
begins! Here's a comparison,
based on what is available:
Above: the caption
as it should appear in the film
the original caption, mid-fade. The player-generated caption simply
the US version, the UK Region 2 discs are a joy to navigate. The American
disc has four forced trailers (for 2 Fast 2 Furious, Sinbad:
Legend of the Seven Seas, Battlestar Galactica, and Bruce
Almighty) before the film appears, which can only be skipped in fast-forward
mode. The only trailer on the UK version (a teaser trailer for Thunderbirds)
is optional, and selectable from the Bonus menu. Disappointingly,
none of the trailers for Hulk are included on the disc.
animated menus are elaborate. Each features a clip of the Hulk in action, which
freezes and turns into a comic-strip-like rendition. These clips give away a
few plot points, and might spoil the impact of the Hulk's first appearance
for viewers who haven't seen the film. Happily the video part of the menus
can be skipped using the chapter skip button, making navigation much
quicker. Copyright notice screens can be skipped, leaving only the short
Universal logo at the beginning to test the viewer's patience.
from the commentary track, the main supporting feature on disc one is the Inside The Rage mode, which offers
viewers cutaways to eighteen minutes of additional, unadorned behind the scenes
material. In this mode a symbol will appear on-screen at the relevant
point in the film. Selecting it opts out of the film to watch
behind-the-scenes bonus footage (ala The Matrix's White Rabbit feature).
Either by luck or design, you can use the chapter skip button to move from one
enhanced scene to another, meaning you don't have to watch the whole film
to access the extra material.
BBFC's online database has kindly broken down the Inside The Rage
material into its component parts: (The figures
on the left are the durations in minutes, seconds and frames)
- Bruce saves assistant in lab
01:25:00 - Betty meets with father
02:00:11 - Lab destruction
02:46:09 - Bruce and Talbot fight at house
02:11:09 - Couch toss
01:20:17 - Escape from tank
00:20:19 - House explosion
01:44:03 - Tank Battle
01:20:18 - Cable car crash
02:02:09 - Military surrounds Hulk
01:56:00 - Bruce cuffed in chair with father
two is where you'll find the bulk of the bonus material, broken down into
nine sections: Hulkification, Evolution of the Hulk, The
Incredible Ang Lee, The Dog Fight Scene, The Unique Style of
Editing Hulk, The Making of Hulk, Deleted Scenes, Anatomy
of the Hulk and DVD-Rom Materials.
it or not, all this material is all presented in full-screen 4:3 ratio.
Much of it uses the split-screen technique, making it easy to compare
special effects shots before and after they've been completed, or to watch
a scene being shot from a different angle, alongside the finished
sequence, for example. As usual the bonus material has been sourced from
NTSC recordings, and standards converted. This has no appreciable effect
during playback, but means that using in pause mode still frames are often
interpolated (a mixture of two or more frames).
A two-minute clip of one of the
transformation scenes is interpreted by four acclaimed comic book artists
(Adam Kubert, Tommy Ohtsuka, Salvador Larroca and Katsuya Terada). The
storyboards for this sequence are also available, and comparisons between
the film and each artist's interpretations are fascinating. It's also
interesting to compare the comic art to the storyboards, and see how it
takes the comic artists far fewer panels to convey the scene than the film
or it's storyboards. The presentation of these sequences is a little
awkward. For each one a split-screen version is offered, showing the film
clip, the pencil artwork and the finished art. From there the user can
select any of the three versions, which are then offered full-frame.
Jumping between them is virtually impossible. This section is billed as
multi-angle, but you can't change angles on the fly, so it's probably been
accomplished by branching. The artwork is jazzed up by using zooms and
pans, which somewhat ruins the point of the comparison. There's no way,
for example, of seeing each page of art as the artist laid it out, and
often you don't get a clear view of an entire panel.
EVOLUTION OF THE HULK (16m)
A breathless potted history of Marvel
comics, and of the Hulk character in particular, followed by a look at the
various screen incarnations of the Hulk, eventually concentrating on the
2003 version. It includes interviews with creator Stan Lee and Marvel's Avi
Arad. This featurette includes clips
from Frankenstein (1931) and Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Universal's 1913
version, starring King Baggot).
INCREDIBLE ANG LEE (14m)
This featurette explains what unique talents Lee
was able to bring to the role, and includes valedictions from his key
contributors. If there was one key message conveyed in the film's TV
publicity, it was that Lee himself was used as the basis for the Hulk;
acting out the character's rage in a motion capture jumpsuit. Heaven knows
what Eric Bana, the actor that Lee had hired for the role, thought about
this. The featurette shows Lee in action, with a few split-screen
sequences showing how precisely Lee's movement was transcribed to the CGI
Hulk. The featurette seems to go out of its way to show how involved Lee
was with every aspect of the production, but you get the impression that
he was not best suited for this type of production. This featurette also looks at the contribution of composer Danny
Elfman, and how Lee pushed his creativity.
DOG FIGHT SCENE (10m)
of the film's action set pieces involves the Hulk being attacked by three
hellish dogs who have been boosted by the same super-strength-giving
properties. It sticks out like a sore thumb in the film. It was designed
as an epic sequence, featuring more than 200 shots, and about
fifteen million dollars worth of CGI effects. In the end the scene was
scaled down, and this featurette examines its creation. It focuses on the
CGI aspect, but the disc includes shots where it looks like the producers
used simple puppetry.
UNIQUE STYLE OF EDITING HULK (6m)
An overview of the film's editing
style, which attempts to mimic the look of a comic strip (with the use of
split screen and fancy transitions between shots). Editor Tim Squyres
explains the concept, Ang Lee describes some of the problems involved, and
ILM's Mark Casey explains how some of the effects were achieved.
MAKING OF HULK (24m)
section is broken down into four sections: Cast and Crew, Stunts and
Physical Effects, ILM and Music. There's a "Play All" option,
too. The Cast and Crew section is the usual back-slapping and superficial
character analysis, but includes deserved praise for supporting actors Sam
Elliot (who plays the villainous General Ross) and Josh Lucas (Talbot).
Stunts and Physical Effects deals with the Hulk character's interaction
with the real world, in particular a sequence where the Hulk smashes up a
laboratory. The ILM section contains lots of footage of the Hulk CGI
character in various stages of development, including lots of very cool
prototype footage. About half the Music section is devoted to composer
Danny Elfman, who's become the composer of choice for Superhero movies (Batman,
Spider-Man, Darkman, etc). His work on Hulk is
atypical, but still distinctly Elfman. The rest of the Music section
focuses on the movie's lead song, Set Me Free, featuring brief
contributions from former Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash and Stone Temple
Pilots' Scott Weiland.
are six deleted scenes: Betty and Bruce's presentation of their nanomed
research findings to their colleagues at the Institute; a late-night phone
call between Betty and Bruce; a flashback to Bruce's school days, with a
caption that says "Awakening", where a young woman teases him,
triggering Banner's rage (we only see the initial stage of the
transformation); a short exchange between General Ross and the Mayor
during the pursuit of the Hulk (this seems like a cameo role for someone,
but the actor playing the Mayor isn't identified); a short conversation
between Bruce and a security guard (a cameo appearance by TV's The
Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno); and a scene of men in suits
removing research equipment from Betty's home. The first scene is
unfinished, (there's some dialogue missing (which is filled-in by another
voice), and it has captions recounting the dialogue. The others seem more
or less finished, complete with music, although they're presented in dark and
murky non-anamorphic widescreen format, with stereo audio.
OF THE HULK
fun, fact-filled look at the Hulk, presented in standard DVD menu format.
Clicking on the Hulk's various body parts leads to a short clip
illustrating some aspect of his superhuman powers (here you'll find out
that, if he wore shoes, he'd be a size 87, and that he can run at 300mph,
for example). There are also a few short clips showing the development of
the CGI character at ILM.
DVD-Rom bonus features require the installation of the horrible
InterActual PC Friendly software. Poking around in the files suggests
there's a screensaver and some wallpapers.
- WHICH VERSION TO GET?
UK disc offers a knockout DTS 5.1 audio track, which isn't on the US
version. This must surely be the deciding factor for many potential
US disc features a couple of Hulk-related TV adverts for Sunny D and an
advert for a Universal Mastercard credit card. The US disc also features a
playable level of a Hulk video game, when the disc is played in an
Xbox. Unless they're hidden away as Easter Eggs, these features are
missing from the UK disc. The US disc features four forced trailers, none
of which are for Hulk. The US set has the film's original
caption burnt into the image; the UK disc has a player-generated subtitle.
limited edition box set is also available in the UK and Australia, with
various printed supplements (storyboard art prints, a production notes
booklet, a complete presentation of the artwork featured in the disc's Hulkification
featurette, and a reprint of the first issue of The Incredible Hulk
comic, from May 1962) and a bonus DVD, featuring a forty-five minute
behind the scenes documentary hosted by Sam Elliot and Josh Lucas, titled Hulk:
The Lowdown. (This disc wasn't available for review).
Australian version of the disc appears to be identical to the the UK
release. Note - early reports that the Region 4
version had a full-bitrate DTS track are erroneous - it's encoded at
768kbps, the same as the UK disc.