Believe it or not, Ang Lee‘s unique take on the brilliant scientist who transforms into a big green monster with purple pants when he gets mad can, more than any other superhero movie, be described as the “thinking man’s” comic book film. Lee isn’t so much interested in “Hulk Smash!” (though there’s a good amount of of that, too) as he is in the psychological dynamics of the story’s tortured protagonist, Bruce Banner (Eric Bana), a man dealing not only with the bizarre and, shall we say, big side effects of being exposed to gamma radiation but also with repressed childhood memories involving a crackpot and ultimately abusive scientist father (Nick Nolte, sporting mad scientist hair to help accentuate his trademark gravel-voiced rants). Add an enchanting and melancholy score by Danny Elfman (his best in years) and you’ve got a movie as misunderstood as the Marvel monster himself, a tragic father-son drama masquerading as a summer popcorn flick that wasn’t quite loud or destructive enough for its target audience. Jennifer Connelly works her big sad eyes in her Fay Wray-ish role as Banner’s ladyfriend, Betty Ross, while Sam Elliott makes for a very satisfying General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, the military man obsessed with taking down the Hulk. The movie loses its mind every now and then (such as in the Hulk Dogs sequence and the final battle between the Hulk and his now-transformed father, a sort of variation on the Absorbing Man) but, for the most part, Lee keeps things smart, insightful and fascinating.
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