tek's rating: ½

Hulk (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2003 (five years before the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which this is not a part), and I saw it in a theater at the time. I didn't write a review, but I can't quite recall whether that was a deliberate choice because I didn't greatly care for the film, or if I simply hadn't yet started writing reviews. In any event, I didn't have any particular interest in ever seeing the movie again, but in 2023 (twenty years later!) I happened to see that it was available on Hulu, and decided I might as well give it another chance. This time I liked it more than I remember having liked it the first time I saw it. In fact I don't really see anything wrong with it at all. I know the film didn't do all that well with critics (though reactions were mixed), and while it made rather a lot of money, it was still considered a financial failure. The biggest way the movie bombed, though, was fan reactions. A lot of viewers, including some critics, felt there was "too much talking, not enough smashing". I don't know if I agreed with that at the time, but I definitely don't now. I think there's plenty of smashing, and I mostly liked the talking well enough. And I have to say, if all you want from the Hulk is smashing, I don't think you understand the character as well as you think you do. Bruce Banner has always been a tragic figure, so it's entirely appropriate for a movie about him and his alter-ego to be drama as well as action.

Anyway, it starts in 1966, with a government scientist named David Banner engaging in genetic experiments. But when he's not allowed to do testing on human subjects, he secretly tests his formula on himself. The effects get passed on to his son, Bruce, and I guess he does further testing on Bruce. But when Bruce is four years old, David kills his wife and I guess tries to kill Bruce, as well as pretty much destroying the military base they lived on in the desert. After that, David was locked away, and Bruce was adopted by a woman named Krenzler, being told that both his parents had died.

The movie flashes forward to the present, and Bruce Krenzler (Eric Bana) is a scientist working in the same field David had once worked in, along with a couple of other scientists named Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) and Harper. One day there's a lab accident, and Bruce gets exposed to a potentially lethal level of gamma radiation, which together with the experiments David had done on him years ago and the nanobots (or whatever) Bruce and his colleagues had been working on in the present, alters Bruce's DNA. So now, whenever he becomes extremely angry, he turns into a huge, virtually mindless, incredibly strong monster (which we'll call the Hulk, though that word is only dropped once in the movie, I think). Meanwhile, there's a former soldier named Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) who now runs a bunch of labs, and is interested in Bruce and Betty's work, and wants to acquire it for his company, though they want nothing to do with him. He works with Betty's father, General Thaddeus Ross (Sam Elliott), who incidentally had put away David Banner thirty years ago. And it turns out David (now played by Nick Nolte) had recently been released, and took a job as a janitor at Bruce and Betty's lab, to get close to Bruce and continue his experiments. I suppose I should also say that Bruce and Betty used to be in a romantic relationship, which Bruce doesn't seem to be entirely over. And they both still care deeply for each other, whether romantically or not.

Well, lots more happens, as General Ross tries to contain the threat posed by the Hulk, while Talbot tries to obtain the Hulk's DNA to create super soldiers or whatever, and David has nefarious plans of his own. Bruce just wants to live his life, and Betty wants to protect him from those who want to either kill him or exploit him. So, yeah... there's a lot of drama, and I would maintain there is also a fair amount of smashing. It's still not a great movie, but I would definitely say it's better than it gets credit for being.

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