|"King Kong" is of course one of Lee's
inspirations, in a movie with an unusual number of references to
film classics. "Bride of Frankenstein" is another, as
in a scene where Hulk sees his reflection in a pond. No prizes
for identifying "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as the source
of the original comics. Other references include "Citizen
Kane" (the Hulk tears apart a laboratory) and "The Right
Stuff" (a jet airplane flies so high the stars are visible).
There also is a shade of Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Gen. Ross, who
is played by Elliott in a masterful demonstration of controlled
and focused almost-overacting.
The film has its share of large-scale action sequences, as rockets
are fired at the Hulk and he responds by bringing down helicopters.
And there are the obligatory famous landmarks, real and unreal,
we expect in a superhero movie; the Golden Gate Bridge, Monument
Valley, and of course an elaborate secret laboratory where Hulk
can be trapped in an immersion chamber while his DNA is extracted.
But these scenes are secondary in interest
to the movie's central dramas, which involve the two sets of
fathers and children. Banner has a repressed memory of a traumatic
childhood event, and it is finally jarred loose after he meets
his father again after many years. Nolte, looking like a man
in desperate need of a barber and flea powder, plays Banner's
dad as a man who works in the same laboratory, as a janitor.
He uses DNA testing to be sure this is indeed his son, and in
one clandestine conversation tells him, "You're
going to have to watch that temper of yours." Connelly's character
also has big issues with her father--she trusts him when she shouldn't--and
it's amusing how much the dilemma of this character resembles the
situation of the woman she played in "A
Beautiful Mind." Both times she's in love with a brilliant
scientist who's a sweetheart until he goes haywire, and who thinks
he's being pursued by the government.
The movie has an elegant visual strategy; after countless directors
have failed, Ang
Lee figures out how split-screen techniques can be made to
work. Usually they're an annoying gimmick, but here he uses moving
frame-lines and pictures within pictures to suggest the dynamic
storytelling techniques of comic books. Some shots are astonishing,
as foreground and background interact and reveal one another. There
is another technique, more subtle, that reminds me of comics: He
often cuts between different angles in the same closeup--not cutting
away, but cutting from one view of a face to another, as graphic
artists do when they need another frame to deal with extended dialogue.
Whether "Hulk" will
appeal to its primary audience--teenage science fiction fans--is
hard to say. No doubt it will set the usual box office records
over the weekend, but will it reach audiences who will respond
to its dramatic ambition? Ang
Lee has boldly taken the broad outlines of a comic book story
and transformed them to his own purposes; this is a comic book
movie for people who wouldn't be caught dead at a comic book movie.