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Hulk is a 2003 superhero film based on the comic book series The Incredible Hulk published by Marvel Comics. It was directed by Ang Lee and stars Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross, Sam Elliott as General "Thunderbolt" Ross, Josh Lucas as Glenn Talbot and Nick Nolte as David Banner.
The film received mixed reviews, and polarized opinions from audiences with the film experiencing a second-weekend box office drop of 70%, the second-largest drop ever recorded for a movie that opened as the top box office draw its opening week. The film is followed by the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, which is not a direct sequel, but rather a reboot in the vein of Batman Begins.
David Banner is a genetics researcher who experiments on himself, trying to improve human DNA. Once his wife gives birth, he is concerned about how his modified DNA might affect his son. Young Bruce is a withdrawn and closed child, rarely outwardly expressing emotion even in extreme cases, with patches of green skin that appear when he feels intense emotions. The elder Banner, under extreme guilt for his unintentional damage to his son, is feverishly attempting to find a cure for the child's condition when the government, represented by Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, shuts down his research after learning of his dangerous experiment. David Banner, in a fit of rage, causes a massive explosion of the facilities' gamma reactor. After the accidental death of his wife, David Banner is arrested and locked away in a mental hospital, while 4-year old Bruce is sent into foster care and adopted, taking on the last name of Krenzler, and believing both his biological parents to be deceased. During his life, the repressed memories of his parents, the explosion and his young life manifest themselves as intense nightmares that leave Bruce shaken and disturbed but unable to conjure the memories.
20 years later, Bruce Banner is a brilliant researcher freshly graduated at the University of California, Berkeley. Bruce uses nanomeds, activated by gamma radiation from a device called a Gammasphere (but actually operates differently to the genuine Gammasphere, to regenerate living tissue; the nanobot experiments result in out-of-control cellular growth and are invariably fatal to their test subjects. Presenting a fusion of gamma radiation, nanotechnology and congenital mutation as responsible for the transformations, the screenplay modernizes the Hulk's origins somewhat. The military-industrial complex, represented by the unscrupulous Major Talbot, becomes interested in the research to build self-healing soldiers. David Banner reappears and begins infiltrating his son's life, working as a janitor in the lab building. "Thunderbolt" Ross, now an army General, also begins to investigate when he learns of Bruce's involvement in the research through Talbot. Ross, the estranged father of Bruce's ex-girlfriend and co-researcher Betty Ross, becomes concerned both for his daughter's safety around Banner, but also because Bruce is working in the same field as the father he does not remember.
As Bruce, Betty and their other co-scientist, Harper, continue to work towards progress in their experiments, they experience an accident during a routine power-up when there is an overload of the nanobots with Harper stuck in the lab room. Bruce saves Harper and takes the brunt of the gamma radiation himself. Afterwards, we see Bruce sitting in a hospital bed telling Betty that he's never felt better, which she can't fathom due to the fact that the nanomeds have killed everything else they've touched. The radiation has intertwined with Bruce's already-altered DNA. That night, his father confronts him, revealing their relationship and hinting at the mutation in his son. Using Bruce's DNA, he begins experimentation on animals. Soon after, the building rage within him stemming from all of the stresses building up around him (his father, Betty, Talbot and the accident) activates his gamma-radiated DNA, triggering Bruce's signature transformation into the Hulk. His father sees him in his transformed state, and is in both awe and horror of what he has created, deepening his obsession.
After the destruction at the lab, Banner is found unconscious and at home by Betty. Bruce barely remembers his transformation, a sensation similar to birth. Ross arrives, suspicious, and places him under house arrest as well as taking over Bruce and Betty's lab. Betty confronts David Banner for answers, but only succeeds in angering him when she reveals her father's involvement. That night, David phones Bruce and tells him he has unleashed three mutant dogs to her house. Enraged and attacked by Talbot (who believes Bruce has deliberately cut him out of the loop by giving Ross control of the lab) Bruce transforms again and, after seriously injuring Talbot and his henchmen, manages to save Betty. The next morning, Bruce is tranquilized and taken to an enormous underground base in the desert. Betty convinces her father to allow her to attempt to help Bruce control his transformations, but Ross remains extremely skeptical, believing Bruce is "damned" to follow in his father's footsteps. In the meantime, David Banner breaks into the lab and subjects himself to the nanomeds and the gammasphere, gaining the ability to meld with and absorb the properties of anything he can touch. Talbot, seeing an opportunity to profit from the Hulk's strength and regenerative capability, goes over Ross' head and takes over custody of Bruce, sending Betty away. When attacking and taunting Bruce fails, Talbot puts him in a sensory deprivation tank and induces a nightmare that triggers his repressed memories. David Banner confronts Betty and offers to turn himself in. In exchange, he asks to speak to Bruce "one last time." He also recounts to Betty his experience with his young son, revealing that he intended to kill Bruce after General Ross threw him off the project, believing his son's mutation would grow out of control. However, he accidentally killed his wife instead when she tried to defend her child. Remembering the entire event, Bruce finally transforms; killing Talbot (who fires an explosive missile at the Hulk that ricochets off of his tough skin and backfires towards him) and escaping the base in the process. He battles the army in the desert, defeating 4 tanks and two Comanche Helicopters, and leaps all the way to San Francisco to find Betty again. Betty contacts her father and convinces him to take her to meet the Hulk, believing that he needs "a chance to calm down." Bruce's love for her comes through, and he transforms back into his human state.
At night, David is taken to a base to talk to Bruce. As a precaution, Ross has placed Banner between two large electrical generators which will kill them both with a massive electical surge when activated. David, having descended into megalomania, rants of how the military and their weapons have ruined their lives, and dismisses Bruce as a pathetic shell of his "true son," with whom he can destroy the military. He bites into a wire, and absorbs the electricity to become a powerful electrical being, and Bruce transforms to battle him. The two fight in the sky before landing near a lake, where David takes on properties of rocks and water. He tries to absorb his son's power, but is unable to contain the grief and pain that is its driving force, and swells to an energy bubble. Ross orders a weapon (a Gamma Charge Bomb) be fired into the lake, and David's swelled form is destroyed, leaving no trace of either man.
A year later, Ross talks to Betty on the phone. Bruce is presumed dead, but there have been sightings of the Hulk in various locations, and Betty is under 24 hour surveillance. Deep in the Amazon Rainforest, Bruce is a doctor whose medical camp comes under siege by guerrillas. When they raid his camp, he tells them in Spanish, "You're making me angry, You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." His eyes become green, and the camera pans back to show the rainforest, just as it fades to green and a roar is heard.
|Eric Bana||Dr. Bruce Banner / The Hulk|
|Jennifer Connelly||Betty Ross|
|Sam Elliott||General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross|
|Nick Nolte||David Banner|
|Josh Lucas||Major Glenn Talbot|
|Paul Kersey||Young David Banner|
|Cara Buono||Edith Banner|
|Todd Tesen||Young Ross|
|Kevin O. Rankin||Harper|
|Celia Weston||Mrs. Krenzler|
|Mike Erwin||Teenage Bruce Banner|
|Lou Ferrigno||Security Guard|
|Stan Lee||Security Guard|
|Geoffrey Scott||The President|
|Regina McKee Redwing||National Security Advisor|
|Daniel Dae Kim||Aide|
| Michael Kronenberg|
|Bruce Banner as Child|
|Rhiannon Leigh Wryn||Betty Ross as Child|
Lee approached Billy Crudup to play Bruce Banner, but he turned it down, as did Edward Norton (who would eventually play Bruce in The Incredible Hulk). Eric Bana signed on to star in three films on October 15 2001, later he turned down just for one movie.
In 1994, Universal Studios invited Michael France to write the script for a film adaptation of the Hulk. Their concept was to have the Hulk battle terrorists, an idea France disliked. Two years later, producers Jonathan Hensleigh and Gale Anne Hurd signed on to the project. They wanted to use computer-generated imagery to create the Hulk, and approached France to write the script once more. Joe Johnston, who worked with Hensleigh on Jumanji, was hired to direct. The script included Glen Talbot becoming the Abomination, instead of Emil Blonsky. Hensleigh decided to become writer, and sacked France, who was still paid for no written work whatsoever.
In July 1997, Johnston quit, and Hensleigh considered becoming director as well as producer. John Turman wrote two drafts, which Zak Penn rewrote. Turman's script featured the Leader and Rick Jones, as well as the canonical atomic explosion origin from the comics. Penn's script featured a fight scene with the Hulk and a school of sharks. Rejecting these, Hensleigh created a new script. In his story, he envisioned Banner as a scientist developing lifeforms which would survive long-range space travel. Gamma-iradiated insect DNA is given to three convicts, whom the Hulk must battle when they mutate. J.J. Abrams worked with Hensleigh on his second draft, which was rewritten by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. By March 1998, with $20 million already spent on unsatisfactory scripts, Universal announced they wanted to reduce the shooting budget from $100 million to $75 million. Hensleigh left the project, and France was once again approached to write.
France stated his vision of the film was different from the other drafts, which based Bruce Banner on his "amiable, nerdy genius" incarnation in the 1960s. France cited inspiration from the 1980s Hulk stories which introduced Brian Banner, Bruce's abusive father who killed his mother. His script had Banner trying to create cells with regenerative capabilities in order to prove to himself that he is not like his father. However, he has anger management issues before the Hulk is even created, which makes everything worse. The "Don't make me angry..." line from the TV series was made into dialogue that Banner's father would say before beating his son. Elements such as the "Gammasphere", Banner's tragic romance with Ross, and the black ops made it to the final film. France turned in his drafts in late 2000 and early 2001, to positive response from the producers.
Michael Tolkin and David Hayter rewrote the script afterwards. Hayter's draft featured The Leader, Zzzax and the Absorbing Man as the villains, who are depicted as colleagues of Banner and get caught in the same accident that creates the Hulk. Director Ang Lee and his producing partner James Schamus became involved with the film in January 2001. Schamus rewrote the script, merging Banner's father with the Absorbing Man to create a physical antagonist. In early 2002, as filming was underway, Michael France read all the scripts for the Writers Guild of America, to determine who would get final credit. France criticized Schamus and Hayter for claiming they were aiming to make Banner a deeper character, and was saddened they had denigrated his work in interviews. He, Turman and Schamus received final credit. Lee claimed he cited influences from King Kong, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Beauty and the Beast, Faust and Greek mythology for his interpretation of the story. Schamus said he had found Peter David's storyline that introduced Brian Banner, thus allowing Lee to write a drama that again explored father-son themes
Filming began on March 18, 2002 in Arizona. Several weeks later, it moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, shooting at Lawrence Berkeley labs, the Treasure Island military base and the sequoia forests of Porterville, before several weeks in the Utah and Californian deserts. Filming then moved to the Universal backlot in Los Angeles, using Stage 12 for the water tank scene, before finishing in August. Eric Bana commented that the shoot was, "Ridiculously serious... a silent set, morbid in a lot of ways." Lee told him that he was shooting a Greek tragedy: he would be making a "whole other movie" about the Hulk at Industrial Light and Magic. Lee took many takes of each scene, and one example of his art house approach to the film was taking Bana to watch a bare-knuckle boxing match.
Its ad during the Super Bowl was controversial because comic fans and some of the public complained that the Hulk looked too fake, drawing comparisons to Shrek. Still, the hype was substantial and it drew a $24.3 million opening day and a $62.1 million opening weekend, which made it the 16th highest ever opener at the time. However, poor word of mouth spread, and it never recovered. With a second weekend drop of 69.7%, it was the first opener above $20 million to drop over 65%. With a final North American gross of $132.2 million it became the largest opener to fail to earn $150 million. It performed slightly weaker overseas with a gross of $113.1 million giving it a total worldwide gross of $245.3 million.
Some critics disliked the picture-in-picture multiple scene framing, but Roger Ebert approved. While not a box office bomb, the film fell short of Universal's financial expectations following the success of Spider-Man. Reception from mainstream critics was generally lukewarm to negative, often criticizing the film for being overly serious. About half of American critics bashed the film, but most praised Connelly's acting; internationally it received somewhat more praise. Sight & Sound called it "...the best Marvel adaptation so far.". The New York Times critic A.O. Scott called it "incredibly long, incredibly tedious, incredibly turgid" and Entertainment Weekly wrote that "a big-budget comic-book adaptation has rarely felt so humorless and intellectually defensive about its own pulpy roots." MSN Movies ranks Hulk as the fifth worst superhero movie to date. However, Ebert and Roeper gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating on their television show. Other critics such as David Ansen of Newsweek, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, James Berardinelli and Jeffrey Lyons of WNBC-TV also gave the film positive reviews. Aggregate movie review web site Rotten Tomatoes lists user scores for the film at 45%, though critic scores fare better at 61%. In his book, Tom Rogers analyzed the Hulk’s leaping, and explains how the jumps are thoroughly impossible through any application of physics.