Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Mark Ruffalo. What the kazoo??? Are you kidding me Marvel? Granted, Ang lee's Hulk film is really far superior to any adaptation to date, but I really liked Ed Norton as old Doc Banner. Ed looks like he jumped right out of the pages of the comic. He's the spitting image of Banner in my opinion and he kind of has that Bill Bixby look and presence. I can believe that Ed Norton could be a Nuclear physcist on screen, but Mark Ruffalo??? I'm so sick of Marvel recasting actors. Iron Man 2 sucked and one of the main reasosn it sucked besides being rushed to filming was the lost in continuity when they recasted the role of Stark's best friend James Rhodes. Don Cheadle is a great actor, but I found it hard to accept that he was Rhodey after Terrance Howard played the part in the original. I know Christopher Nolan recast Katie Holmes part in The Dark Knight, but at least he found a near doppelganger in Maggie Gyllenhaal. Now we have yet another actor who is playing the Hulk. So basically the last Hulk reboot meant nothing even though it's supposed to be a prequel to the much hyped "Avengers" movie. Blah!!! I'm not feeling Ruffalo as Banner at all, but we shall see.

While we are on reboots will someone tell me why Sony decided to reboot "Spider-Man" and hire an actor that is not that much younger than Tobey Maguire?? I thought Sony was suppose to be going for a much younger actor to play a teen aged Spidey. At least Sony squeezed 3 movies out of Maguire by the time he hit 30. Tobey is 35 now and still looks 25! They could have allowed him to at least finish the 4th film he was going to start filming in January 2010 instead of yanking the rug from under him. It was Sony's fault that Spider-Man 3 failed critically not Tobey or director Sam Raimi. Sam Raimi did not want to use Venom as a villain ( personally I hate Venom too) , Sony forced it on him and started making all kinds of suggestions. This new webslinger Andrew Garfield will be 30 by the time they make a second Spider-Man reboot sequel. Really, what was the point?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Roger Ebert doesn't like the new Hulk as much as Ang's either.

For the most part I like Roger Ebert as a critic. I side with his opinions more often than not. Roger understands and appreciates pop cinema as well as art house flicks. I thought I would post his recent critique of the new "The Incredible Hulk". much of what he says connects with my thoughts on both hulk movies.

The Incredible Hulk
// / June 12, 2008 Cast & CreditsBruce Banner/Hulk: Edward NortonBetty Ross: Liv TylerEmil Blonsky: Tim RothSterns: Tim Blake NelsonGen. Ross: William HurtVoice of Hulk: Lou Ferrigno
Universal presents a film directed by Louis Leterrier. Written by Zak Penn and Edward Norton. Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Running time: 114 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images and brief suggestive content). Opening today at local theaters.
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By Roger Ebert
"The Incredible Hulk" is no doubt an ideal version of the Hulk saga for those who found Ang Lee's "Hulk" (2003) too talky, or dare I say, too thoughtful. But not for me. It sidesteps the intriguing aspects of Hulkdom and spends way too much time in, dare I say, noisy and mindless action sequences. By the time the Incredible Hulk had completed his hulk-on-hulk showdown with the Incredible Blonsky, I had been using my Timex with the illuminated dial way too often.
Consider the dilemma of creating a story about the Hulk, who is one of the lesser creatures in the Marvel Comics stable. You're dealing with two different characters: Mild-mannered scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, and the rampaging, destructive Hulk, who goes into frenzies of aggression whenever he's annoyed, which is frequently, because the Army is usually unloading automatic weapons into him. There is even the interesting question of whether Dr. Banner is really conscious inside the Hulk. In the Ang Lee version, he was, more or less, and confessed to Betty Ross: "When it happens, when it comes over me, when I totally lose control ... I like it." In this version by Louis Leterrier, the best Banner (Edward Norton) can come up with is that being the Hulk is like a hyperthyroid acid trip, and all he can remember are fragments of moments.
It's obvious that the real story is the tragedy that Banner faces because of the Hulk-inducing substance in his blood. But if Banner never turned into the Hulk, nobody would ever make a movie about him. And if the Hulk were never Banner, he would be like Godzilla, who tears things up real good but is otherwise, dare I say, one-dimensional.
The Ang Lee version was rather brilliant in the way it turned the Hulk story into matching sets of parent-child conflicts: Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) was appalled by her father, the general (Sam Elliott), and Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) suffered at the hands of his father, a scientist who originally created the Hulk genes and passed them along to his child. (Nick Nolte had nice scenes as the elder Dr. Banner.)
In the new version, Betty (Liv Tyler) still has big problems with her father the general (William Hurt); she's appalled by his plans to harness the Hulk formula and create a race of super-soldiers. In both films, Banner and Ross are in love, but don't act on it because the Hulk business complicates things way too much, although I admit there's a clever moment in "Hulk" 2008 when Bruce interrupts his big chance to make love with Betty because when he gets too excited, he turns into the Hulk, and Betty is a brave girl but not that good of a sport.
Consider for a moment Gen. Ross' idea of turning out Hulk soldiers. They would be a drill sergeant's worst nightmare. When they weren't Hulks, why bother to train them? You'd only be using them in the fullness of their Hulkdom, and then how would you train them? Would you just drop thousands of Ed Nortons into enemy territory and count on them getting so excited by free-fall that they became Hulks? (This transformation actually happens to Banner in "Hulk" 2008, by the way.)
So, what's to like in "The Incredible Hulk"? We have a sound performance by Edward Norton as a man who desperately does not want to become the Hulk, and goes to Brazil to study under a master of breath control in order to curb his anger. And we have Liv Tyler in full trembling sympathy mode. Banner's Brazilian sojourn begins with an astonishing shot: From an aerial viewpoint, we fly higher and higher above one of the hills of Rio, seeing hundreds, thousands, of tiny houses built on top of one another, all clawing for air.
This is the "City of God" neighborhood, and as nearly as I could tell, we are looking at the real thing, not CGI. The director lets the shot run on longer than any reasonable requirement of the plot; my bet is, he was as astonished as I was, and let it run because it is so damned amazing. The scenes involving Banner in Brazil are well conceived, although when he accidentally contaminates a bottled soft drink with his blood, the movie doesn't really deal with the consequences when the drink is consumed in the United States. The contamination provides Gen. Ross with his clue to Banner's whereabouts, and Army troops blast the hell out of the City of God; all through the movie, the general deploys his firepower so recklessly that you wonder if he has a superior, and if he ever has to account for the dozens, hundreds, thousands, who die while his guys are blasting at the Hulk with absolutely no effect.
Enter Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a Marine who Gen. Ross recruits because he's meaner and deadlier than anyone else. Blonsky leads the chase in Rio. Later, Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), Banner's research associate, is forced to inject Blonsky with a little Hulkie juice, setting up a titanic rooftop battle in Harlem between Hulk and Blonsky. And this battle, as I have suggested, pounds away relentlessly, taking as its first victim our patience. "Iron Man," the much better spiritual partner of this film, also ends with a showdown between an original and a copycat, but it involves two opponents who know who they are and why they are fighting.
When you get down to it, as a fictional creature, the Incredible Hulk is as limited as a bad drunk. He may be fun to be around when he's sober, but when he drinks too much, you just feel sorry for the guy.

~ Roger Ebert
( taken from rogerebert.com)

Why Ang lee's 2003 "Hulk" is better than 2008's "Incredible Hulk"

Ang Lee's "Hulk" while it may be missing a dessert or two is a full course meal to be digested slowly, while 2008's "the Incredible Hulk " is Mcdonald's - everybody loves it, but two minutes after eating it you feel hungry again. Just like Mcdonald's fries there are things I loved about the new Hulk, but at the same time I knew it was bad for me. "The Incredible Hulk" is a seriously dumbed down Hulk! Yes, it's action packed and it has a cool finale. I loved the addition of Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Samual Sterns/The leader. However many characters were not fully fleshed out or at the very least were not as good as the same charcters in Ang Lee's film. Yes, Ang lee did deviate from some of the comic canon with his interpretation. However, there is not a live action Hulk production created thus far that has been entirely true to the comic. Most fanboys complain about how Bruce Banner is passed genetic traits to become the Hulk in Ang's film. While I do side with fans regarding Ang making the hulk 20 feet tall ( bad idea!) , I also have to say "Hulk" came out in 2003 at a time when we all know gamma rays will KILL YOU!!!!! This was a case where changing the origin a little made sense. To me it makes much more sense that the Hulk was developed through a combination of genetic research/repressed rage and gamma rays.

So, let's look at the characters from "The Incredible Hulk" and compare them to characters in the Ang Lee version.

Ed Norton's Banner is greatness!!! In fact I'd say he was even better than Eric Bana's Banner. Eric's Banner was a bit too repressed and I think we didn't get to know him enough in Ang's film, although Bana does shine in several moments of the film like after he has defeated the "hulk dogs" and when he is confronted by his father several times in the film. Eric Bana is a fine actor and gives a solid performance. However, Ed Norton reminded me a lot of Bill Bixby' the televison Banner. To me Bill Bixby epitomized who Banner really is- a caring sensitive genius forced to live alone with a terrible rage that lurks inside.

On the otherhand when you compare Betty Ross' in both films Jennifer Connelly "owns"!!! Her acting is dead on in Ang lee's Hulk. I feel her pain, frustration, fear, and isolation. She is essentially alone. The man she loves she cannot be with and her father is too abrasive to allow anyone to be close to him for long- including his own daughter. Connelly really made me belief she was in love with Banner. For me one of the most memorable and endearing scenes takes place in the hospital after Bruce Banner has been belted by gamma rays, a teary emotionally broken Betty played by Connelly delivers the powerful line ," Bruce, you were going to die. And I was standing there, helpless, knowing you were going to die!". I'm sorry but that's deep tremendous dialogue folks and anyone who thinks Ang's film isn't worth a dime needs to take a second look. Now you compare that to Liv Tyler's performance and Liv's Betty doesn't even scratch the surface. The Betty of " The Incredible Hulk is more or less a screenwriter's after thought and a cliche of every damsel in distress we have ever seen on film. She's a cardboard cutout, but Connelly's Betty is a person on celluloid.

In the comics General ross was a boring old fart that I hated. To his credit William Hurt makes that old fart jump right off the pages of Marvel comics onto the big screen. Hurt give's a great performance that is the General Ross I recall reading. Nevertheless, Sam Elliot as Gen. Ross in Ang's version seems more like the real deal. It's as if Sam Elliot was born to play general Ross. Elliot takes Gen. Ross to a new place and makes him better than he ever was in the actual comics similar to the way Wesley Snipes improved "Blade". This was a rare case where an actor reinterpreted or redefined a fictional character and made him 100 times better than he was written. Elliot as Gen Ross simply cannot be topped. 'Nuff said!

Tim Roth is an amazing actor, his efforts alone in "Planet of the Apes" nearly saved that film... almost. Unfortunately, Roth comes off rather bland in "The Incredible Hulk". Roth's Emil Blonsky is a career soldier who feeds on war and violence, yet his motivation is never really explained. The character is never explored deep enough. We never get to see why a semi-rational human being would choose to be experimented on. Could it be he is going to be discharged because of his age? Is his life truly so empty that he has nothing else? Is he insane?Why does he care so little for himself? These questions are never answered. Blonsky is simply written as an unthinking thug who does stuff for the hell of it, wheras this guy should have been as compelling as "Travis Brickle" in "Taxi Driver" or "Prvt. Pyle" in "Full Metal Jacket". I think I woudl have liked to have seen Blonsky written as a shell shocked demented and sadistic soul, that enjoys hurting others. Someone who spends all his time alone off teh battle field. we could see him downing strong drink in a strip bar, even popping pills. they should have made him a true basket case. Then I would have believed and said ok , this guy just doesn't give a damn. And I am Roth could have taken such a role to new heights. Puny marvel! If only you had taken it a step farther.

Enough with my tirade, so lets compare Roth's Blonsky/Abomination to Nick Nolte's David Banner/Absorbing Man dad. Ok, Nolte gave a far out unhinged performance. They say there is a fine line between genius and insanity and Nolte plays the role of scientist as if he has stepped over the line, yet he doesn't realize it. Nolte's David Banner believes everything he has done is right, which makes him truly twisted. The best madmen in fiction much like their real life counter-parts ( ex. Adolph Hitler ) always believe they are doing what is right and just by committing acts of evil. David Banner in Ang's film, experiments on himself seeking a way to improve human frailty. Yet, he passes a genetic anomaly onto his son. An error that can only be released with gamma radiation. At, first Banner Sr. attempts to cure his son, but when this fails, he decides his only recourse to spare his son a life of pain is to destroy his only child. It's a sick modernized greek tragedy!
David Banner justifies his actions to Betty in Ang Lee's Hulk saying , "And what have I done to my son, Miss Ross? Nothing. I tried to improve on the limits in myself. Myself, not him. Can you understand? To improve on nature, MY nature, knowledge of one's self. It's the only path to the truth that gives men the power to go beyond God's boundaries."

While the Abomination was a great villian to pit against the Hulk, I have to say Nick Nolte's David Banner was more clever and plain fun to watch on film. The Abomination was all muscle, no brain. The ending on Ang Lee's hulk could have been animated better or set in the day time, because many people misinterpret it. What happens of course is that by the end of the film Banner Sr. is truly nuts and decides to absorb his sons energy in order to stablize his own power and take over the earth, but the Hulk's anger fueld strength is too much for the Absorbing Man-Dad whois reduced to a cloud of unstable energy , before being nuked. At any rate, Nolte's performance as a sick demented old man made me laugh and cringe with disgust, while at the same time explained the methods and motivations of his madness. Again, make mine Ang Lee's "Hulk".

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A New Hulk, Designed For a New Age

While I loved the tv series "The Incredible Hulk" and still do, it was not quite an accurate assessment of the Hulk.The Hulk from the comics is a monster the width of a small truck. and there isn't a person alive who could really portray him without some special effects embellishment. I think most people were turned-off from Ang Lee's film the moment they saw the  computer generated Hulk. As good as the CG was and it was good, CG just lacks that human quality that even stop motion and animatronics capture awkwardly through human manipulation. It's an essence of realism that is simply missing from CG human characters. Also many audiences balked that the CG Hulk was too green and looked like the "Green Giant" or "Shrek". I think perhaps this observation may have been correct. A more subtle green may have worked better.  Nevertheless, I think it was brilliant how the Hulk was designed to resemble Eric Bana.  I  only wish the Hulk had appeared more gruesome and  freightening in appearance like his inspirations the Frankenstein Monster and Mr. Hyde. I feel it would have been best had test audiences been  used to  delevop the final look of the on screen Hulk.   Also, the character design may have been more successful had they used a combination of actor, prosthetics, animatronics and CG, though this would have proved more costly.   In the end, the choice of CG was  handle well over all and Ang Lee  showed real commitment to bringing the character to life  by acting out the actual parts of the Hulk in a motion capture suit.  If you ever come across any behind the scenes footage of how the Hulk was animated you will see that Ang really puts all his energy and sweat into  every scene in which he plays the Hulk.


After a transformation, Eric Bana as "Bruce" tell's  Betty ( Jennifer Connelly) that being the Hulk feels like a release of .."rage, power and freedom". I think the  hulk resonates with all of us , because we all  have a side that we try to hide from others. We all have in fact been so angry that we wanted to smash something  , though hopefully maturity and reason overruled instinct. Yet, the hulk is like a boastful angry child, unable to control his rage or understand the complex harmful world around him. His  only way to communicate his feelings are to act out physically like an oversized toddler. I have long been a fan of the Hulk as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  While it appears the story of the Hulk is very simplistic, it is quite a complex character.  In the end the Hulk's worst nemesis is not a jealous  megalomaniac like Lex Luthor , a demented madman like the Joker, or a twisted genius ( although the Leader comes close). The Hulk's greatest nemesis is himself. The Hulk is so compelling because he is a monster who is often placed in the role of a reluctant  hero. The early Hulk comics did a wonderful job of capturing the monsters true selfish nature  and volatile temper. The early Hulk was not a green puppy.  He was a jerk!  He was confrontational,   agressive,  mean, very much a force to be reckoned with that despised most men  because they hunted and persecuted him.  Ironcally. the Hulk hated his alter ego Banner and Banner hated the Hulk, though they were essensially the same.

In Defense of Ang's Hulk

I often run across comments online that completely dismiss Ang Lee's Hulk simply due to it's lack of shall we say... "Hulk Smash". I find it odd that so many people actually hate this film. I believe many have a clouded vison of the HULK based on the 1970's televison series which starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Also many movie goers expected a typical summer escapist popcorn flick. However what Ang Lee delivered was a poignant psycho drama/action thriller. I challenge anyone to watch it without preconceived notions of what the film should be and you will walk away pleasantly surprised. Maybe it wasn't a Hulk for kids or the Hulk of our childhood, but what Ang Lee delivered as a very respectable grown up superhero film similar to "Batman Begins". In fact, "Hulk" was "Batman Begins" before "Batman Begins". Yet, "Hulk" gets nailed and "Batman Begins" is applauded. In this blog I will attempt to critique and analyze Ang Lee's "Hulk" , both it's flaws and triumphs and give my opinion why this is such a worthwhile, yet underappreciated film. I hope you will feel free to ad you comments, especially those who love this film. Just remember to keep your commentary respectful and clean.