July 26, 2003

Big, Green, Ugly and Charismatic

I have seen Hulk. It was an incredible comic, and now it has become an incredible movie. Naturally, the critics lambasted it mercilessly. One critic proclaimed it the worst summer movie since Jaws created the idea of "summer blockbuster". As usual, the critics missed the point.

Hulk has a complex, multilayered storyline featuring classic conflicts, romance, and keen human insight. It tells a story of greed, ambition, idealism, and realism all in conflict with one another.

As mentioned everywhere, the story opens with a genetic researcher desperately trying to perfect regeneration in humans and rapidly running out of funding. He makes the same mistake of every fictional researcher (and many real ones), he experiments on himself. In this case, there is an unexpected side effect, the results of his research are genetically passed on to his son. There is a moment of confusion, and next we see the grown son become researcher working on nanomeds designed to act as regeneration agents. In a lab accident his genetically modified body absorbs the nanomeds he is developing and he is exposed to a massive amount of gamma rays. The net result is the transformation into a big green man rampaging through the countryside, but not immediately. He still appears himself, but when angered swells up and develops superhuman physical abilities.

If the entire concept of the movie ended right there, then the critics would be right. Hulk would be another worthless Hollywood extravaganza. Fortunately, it doesn't. Sub-plots involving a former girlfriend, a money-hungry capital venturist, and the return of the Hulk's half-crazy father whirl around each other in a maelstrom of tension and intrigue that would do a winter thriller justice. Bruce, the son of the original researcher, struggles to find his past, reconcile himself with his present, and learn to understand himself better as a human being. In the end, a titanic struggle between god-like father and son is brought to an explosive conclusion when the two are hit with a nuclear weapon of some kind. The father disappears, the son survives but vanishes.

Later, the son surfaces dispensing medications in an unnamed Latin American jungle where there is a hint that he is using his brawny green side to defend the people from revolutionaries. We're left with him ominously warning a revolutionary leader, "you won't like me when I'm angry."

Throughout the movie ran themes of repressed memory, the definition of humanity, morality, survival, and of course, what it means to be a hero. Critics didn't like Hulk because underneath the usual flash and bang was something they couldn't recognize, literature!