Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ang Lee|
|Story by||James Schamus|
by Stan Lee
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Tim Squyres|
Valhalla Motion Pictures
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||138 minutes|
Hulk is a 2003 American superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character of the same name. Ang Lee directed the film, which stars Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film explores the origins of the Hulk, which is partially attributed to Banner's father's experiments on himself, and on his son.
Development for the film started as far back as 1990. The film was at one point to be directed by Joe Johnston and then Jonathan Hensleigh. More scripts had been written by Hensleigh, John Turman, Michael France, Zak Penn, J. J. Abrams, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Michael Tolkin, and David Hayter before Ang Lee and James Schamus' involvement. Hulk was shot mostly in California, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The film grossed over $245 million worldwide, higher than its $137 million budget, but still considered somewhat of a disappointment. The film received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. Many praised the writing, acting, character development of the film and the music score by Danny Elfman, but criticized the character origins differing from the comics, outdated CGI, and the dark, depressing story plot. A reboot, titled The Incredible Hulk, was released on June 13, 2008.
In the late 1960s, scientist David Banner is conducting research into genetics and is attempting to mutate human DNA to boost the immune systems of soldiers, to help them heal quickly in battle. After being denied permission to conduct human trials, Banner experiments on himself. As time passes, David realizes his mutated DNA has been passed on to his son and attempts to find a cure. Thunderbolt Ross orders the shutdown of Banner's research after discovering his unauthorized and dangerous experiments. In a fit of rage, David Banner triggers a massive gamma explosion, releasing tons of radioactive material and then speeds back home to kill his son to prevent him turning into a monster. In an event not initially revealed, he fatally stabs his wife with a cook's knife when she tries to stop him. David Banner is arrested and confined in a mental hospital for 30 years, while young Bruce is adopted into a foster home, and grows up believing both his parents are dead. A few years later after the explosion, the Banners' home town is abandoned and evacuated.
In 2003, Bruce Banner is a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. The military takes an interest in Banner's research into nanomeds and Major Talbot is sent to investigate it. Meanwhile, David Banner reappears and takes a job as a janitor at the lab to keep an eye on Bruce. Thunderbolt Ross is informed of the research and becomes concerned for his daughter Betty, who works with Bruce. Ross meets with Betty to tell her of his concerns, but she becomes angry that he met her for business and not to reconcile with her.
Bruce encounters his father's dogs for the first time, but they prove vicious when he tries to pet them.
In a lab computer glitch, Bruce is accidentally exposed both to the nanomeds and to gamma radiation; the nanomeds, combined with his already mutated DNA, protect him from being killed by the radiation. Bruce awakens in a hospital bed and Betty informs him that he should be dead. Instead he is better than he was before. That night, David confronts Bruce and reveals himself as Bruce's father. He tells Bruce to watch his temper, and quietly steals some of Bruce's hair to conduct his own tests on. David uses Bruce's altered DNA to produce a pack of mutated dogs. The combined frustration and stress around Bruce begin to overwhelm him and he transforms into the Hulk, in a rampage destroying the lab and ripping equipment and furniture to pieces. The next day, Betty finds Bruce passed out at home. As he is trying to piece together what happened, General Ross arrives and places him under house arrest. Betty tracks down David and confronts him, prompting David to call Bruce to tell him he has unleashed three enormous mutant dogs to track down and kill Betty, angering Bruce. Talbot arrives, provoking Bruce and witnessing him transform into the powerful Hulk again. Hulk throws Talbot outside and the guards open fire. In response to being shot, the Hulk immediately grows larger, and throws Talbot at the guards, breaking Talbot's neck, arm and right leg, before rushing to save Betty. The Hulk at first frightens her, but Betty gains Hulk's trust and recognizing Hulk's eyes, asks, "Bruce?" The dogs arrive; and, after much fighting in sequoias, the Hulk viciously kills all three and reverts to Banner. The next morning, Bruce is tranquilized and taken to an underground Arizona desert base, where Talbot is put in charge of research. Betty wants to help Bruce control his transformations, but Ross believes that Bruce is a danger and doomed to follow in his father's footsteps.
Talbot sees an opportunity to profit from the Hulk's strength and regenerative capability. He tortures Bruce trying to get a sample off him, but Bruce resists. He then puts Bruce in a sensory deprivation tank. Bruce wakes up and again transforms into the Hulk, at 15 feet high. He destroys many parts and equipment, along with the control center. Talbot attempts to manually retrieve a sample of the Hulk while he is trapped in a solid, but Talbot is killed when an explosive shell he fires at the Hulk ricochets back towards him. Hulk escapes, and Ross decides to chase the Hulk. The escaped Hulk flees into the desert, battling army forces sent after him. He discovers that he can leap great distances with his powerful legs, jumping miles at a time. Hulk finds his childhood town deserted, all the memories of Bruce's childhood quickly come back. Missiles directed at him are narrowly missed. He manages to smash four tanks and four helicopters sent by Ross to track and restrain him. The army shoots at the large rocks in a canyon, causing them to fall, leading the army to believe Hulk died. Upon arrival to San Francisco, he is stalked by fighter jets which he avoids on the Golden Gate Bridge Betty defies her father and confronts the angry Hulk, who is calmed by her appearance, transforms back into Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, David breaks into the lab and uses Bruce's nanomed technology on himself, gaining the ability to meld with and absorb the properties of any substance he touches. He goes to Betty and offers to turn himself in, with the condition that he can see Bruce one more time.
General Ross agrees and allows David to talk to Bruce. David tells Bruce that he wants to see his real son, the Hulk. Bruce refuses to transform and David grabs a nearby power wire, mutating into a large power-absorbing monster. Bruce becomes the Hulk and the two leap to a forest and do battle. The fight takes them to a lake. Hulk desperately uses his strength to destroy his father, but David freezes the Hulk in the water and taunts him, trying to get Bruce to release his power. Finally, Bruce unleashes the full power of the Hulk, which overwhelms his father and causes him to swell into a huge, unstable mushroom-shaped form. At the same time, General Ross detonates a gamma bomb on them. David is destroyed, while Bruce, unconscious at the bottom of the lake, dreams of his father tucking him into bed as a child and wishing him sweet dreams.
Bruce is presumed dead, but Betty and her father both wonder whether he survived. Betty expresses the wish that, if he is alive, he won't try to find her, as she knows her father is watching.
In the final scene, one year later, Bruce is shown working as a doctor in a rain forest. Soldiers arrive to confiscate medical supplies from the camp, but Bruce confronts them, saying "Don't make me angry! You wouldn't like me when I'm angry!" His eyes turn green as the camera zooms out and as the loud roar of the Hulk can be heard and the screen fades to green.
Producers Avi Arad and Gale Anne Hurd started the development for Hulk in 1990, the same year the final TV movie based on the 1970s TV series aired. Hurd explained the Hulk became her favorite superhero as a child because "When girls are growing up, they're the ones who are picked on. I had an older brother, and there's no way that you could ever really fight back. So, to me, the Hulk was wish fulfillment." By December 1992 Marvel Studios was in discussions with Universal Pictures. Michael France and Stan Lee were invited into Universal's offices in 1994, with France writing the script. Universal's concept was to have the Hulk battle terrorists, an idea France disliked. John Turman, a Hulk comic book fan, was brought to write the script in 1995, getting approval from Lee. Turman wrote ten drafts, being heavily influenced by the Tales to Astonish issues, which pitted the Hulk against General Ross and the military, the Leader, Rick Jones, and the atomic explosion origin from the comics, and Brian Banner as the explanation for Bruce's inner anger. Universal had mixed feelings over Turman's script, but nonetheless future screenwriters used many elements brought by Turman.
By late 1996 Hurd's husband Jonathan Hensleigh signed on as producer. Industrial Light & Magic was hired to use computer-generated imagery to create the Hulk. For the second time, France was invited to write the script. By April 1997 Joe Johnston was directing with the film's title as The Incredible Hulk. Universal wanted Hensleigh to write the script since he worked with Johnston on the financially successful Jumanji. France was fired before he wrote a single page, but received money from Universal. However, France still wanted to write the script. Johnston dropped out of directing in July 1997 in favor of October Sky, paving the way for Hensleigh to have his directing debut. Turman was brought back a second time to write two more drafts. Zak Penn then rewrote it. His script featured a fight between the Hulk and a school of sharks, as well as two scenes he eventually used for the 2008 film; Banner realizing he is unable to have sex, and triggering a transformation by falling out of a helicopter. Hensleigh rewrote from scratch, coming up with a brand new storyline. In August 1997 Hensleigh completed his script, featuring Bruce Banner, who prior to the accident which will turn him into The Hulk, performs experiments with gamma-irradiated insect DNA on three convicts. This transforms the convicts into "insect men" that cause havoc.
Filming was set to start in December 1997 in Arizona for a mid-1999 release date, but was pushed back to April 1998. Hensleigh subsequently rewrote the script with J. J. Abrams. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski were also brought on board to rewrite with Hensleigh still attached as director. In October 1997, Hulk had entered pre-production with the creation of prosthetic makeup and computer animation already under way. Gregory Sporleder was cast as "Novak", Banner's archenemy. Lynn "Red" Williams was cast as a convict who transforms into a combination of human, ant and beetle. In March 1998 Universal put Hulk on hiatus due to its escalating $100 million budget and worries of Hensleigh directing his first film. $20 million was already spent on script development, computer animation, and prosthetics work. Hensleigh immediately went to rewrite the script in order to lower the budget.
Hensleigh found the rewriting process to be too difficult and dropped out, and felt he "wasted nine months in pre-production". It took another eight months for France to convince Universal and the producers to let him try to write a script for a third time. France claimed "Someone within the Universal hierarchy wasn't sure if this was a science fiction adventure, or a comedy, and I kept getting directions to write both. I think that at some point when I wasn't in the room, there may have been discussions about turning it into a Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler movie." France was writing the script on fast track from July—September 1999. Filming for Hulk was to start in April 2000.
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 final drafts in late 1999-January 2000.
Michael Tolkin and David Hayter rewrote the script afterwards, despite positive response from the producers over France's script. Tolkin was brought in January 2000, while Hayter was brought in September of that year. 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 20, 2001. Lee was dissatisfied with Hayter's script, and commissioned Schamus for a rewrite, merging Banner's father with the Absorbing Man. Lee 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 the storyline that introduced Brian Banner, thus allowing Lee to write a drama that again explored father-son themes.
Schamus was still rewriting the script in October 2001. 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 and Turman's work in interviews. Schamus elected to get solo credit. France felt, "James Schamus did a significant amount of work on the screenplay. For example, he brought in the Hulk dogs from the comics and he made the decision to use Banner's father as a real character in the present. But he used quite a lot of elements from John Turman's scripts and quite a lot from mine, and that's why we were credited." France, Turman and Schamus received final credit. A theatrical release date for June 20, 2003 was announced in December 2002, with the film's title as The Hulk.
Filming began on March 18, 2002 in Arizona, and moved on April 19 to the San Francisco Bay Area. This included Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley labs, Oakland, 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 the first week of August. Filming of Hulk constituted hiring 3,000 local workers, generating over $10 million into the local economy. Mychael Danna, who previously collaborated with Lee on Ride with the Devil and The Ice Storm, was set to compose the film score before dropping out. Danny Elfman was then hired.
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 & Magic. An example of Lee's art house approach to the film was taking Bana to watch a bare-knuckle boxing match. Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren was on the set every day. One of the many visual images in the film that presented an acting challenge for Bana was a split screen technique employed by Lee to cinematically mimic the panels of a comic book page. This required many more takes of individual scenes than normal. Sound design was completed at Skywalker Sound. Muren and other ILM animators used previous technology from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (for the Dobby character) to create the Hulk with computer-generated imagery. Other software used included PowerAnimator, Softimage XSI, and RenderMan Interface Specification. ILM started computer animation work in 2001, and completed in May 2003, just one month before the film's release. Lee provided some motion capture work in post-production.
Universal Pictures spent $2.1 million to market the film in a 30-second television spot during Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003. Just weeks before the film's release, a number of workprints were leaked on the Internet. The visual and special effects were already being criticized, despite the fact that it was not the final editing cut of the film.
Hulk was released on VHS and DVD on October 28, 2003. The film earned $61.2 million in DVD sales during 2003. Hulk was released on HD DVD format on December 12, 2006 and it was later released on Blu-ray on September 16, 2008. The DVD, when inserted into an Xbox console, included a playable demo of The Hulk Videogame.
||The examples and perspective in this article may not include all significant viewpoints. (February 2013)|
Hulk received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 62% approval rating out of 229 reviews. By comparison Metacritic collected an average score of 54 based on 40 reviews. Roger Ebert gave a largely positive review, explaining, "Ang Lee is trying to actually deal with the issues in the story of the Hulk, instead of simply cutting to brainless visual effects." Ebert also liked how the Hulk's movements resembled King Kong. Although Peter Travers of Rolling Stone felt Hulk should have been shorter, he heavily praised the action sequences, especially the climax and cliffhanger. Paul Clinton of CNN believed the cast gave strong performances, but in an otherwise positive review, heavily criticized the computer-generated imagery, calling the Hulk "a ticked-off version of Shrek".
Conversely, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle considered "the film is more thoughtful and pleasing to the eye than any blockbuster in recent memory, but its epic length comes without an epic reward." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe felt "Jennifer Connelly reprises her stand-by-your-messed-up-scientist turn from A Beautiful Mind." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly stated, "a big-budget comic-book adaptation has rarely felt so humorless and intellectually defensive about its own pulpy roots."
Hulk was released on June 20, 2003, earning $62.1 million in its opening weekend, which made it the 16th highest ever opener at the time. With a second weekend drop of 70%, it was the first opener above $20 million to drop over 65%. The film went on to gross $132,177,234 in North America, and $113,183,246 in foreign countries, coming to a worldwide total of $245,360,480. With a final North American gross of $132.2 million it became the largest opener not to earn $150 million.
Connelly and Danny Elfman received nominations at the 30th Saturn Awards with Best Actress and Best Music. The film was nominated for Best Science Fiction Film but lost out to another film based on Marvel characters, X2. Dennis Muren, Michael Lantieri and the special effects crew were nominated for Best Special Effects.
After the mixed reception of Hulk, Marvel Studios reacquired the rights to the character, and writer Zak Penn began work on a sequel titled The Incredible Hulk. However, Edward Norton rewrote Penn's script after he signed on to star, severing ties with Hulk by retelling the origin story in flashbacks and revelations, which pleased the director Louis Leterrier in establishing the film as a reboot instead of a sequel. Leterrier acknowledged the only remaining similarity between the two films was Bruce hiding in South America.