Monday, March 17, 2008

(Universal Pictures/Marvel)
Hulk When: June 2003
Why: Ang Lee, Michael France, John Turman, James Schamus How: Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Eric Bana

The Story So Far...
Man's insatiable thirst for knowledge is rivaled only by his damning addiction to destruction. So comes about the research of docile scientist, Dr. Bruce Krenzler, a geneticist working with Betty Ross and Rick Jones in an effort to harness the regenerative process found in nature.

Unbeknownst to Krenzler, his own DNA hides within it the secret of a past life, and the designs of a prerendered destiny. Having been experimented on as a child by his true father, David Banner, Bruce's blood contains within it the secrets to unlocking the hidden power that lurks beneath his human facade. A twist of fate accidentally produces the keys to unlocking Banner's hidden strength when he saves the young Rick Jones from a mechanical malfunction in a nano distributor machine.

With the net of his forgotten childhood closing in, Banner finds whenever he is stressed, angered, or afraid, the green-eyed monster within bursts free of his puny prison to become the incredible Hulk! With his secret exposed, Bruce becomes the subject of suspicion and fear, but even as forces conspire to destroy the Hulk, the true villain hatches machinations decades in the making.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: John Romita JrARTWORK: John Romita JrStrength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: General Ross 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Hulk 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: General Ross 4 (Arsenal)

- Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a slight and insignificant scientist, lives slavishly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, as funded by the United States military.
Though Banner justifies his goals as means for peace, he becomes one of America's leading weapons designers after inventing a gamma radiation bomb.

During preperations for a test launch in the desert, Dr. Banner spots a reckless youth on the testing ground, and in a moment of magnificence, knowingly throws himself on a bullet that would grant a far crueller fate than death.
Bitterly aware of the Communist conspiracy of his fellow scientist, Banner struggles to usher he and the boy to safety while his colleague continues to countdown the launch.

After succumbing to an ordinarily lethal doses of gamma radiation, Dr. Banner soon finds himself undergoing a horrific transformation. Originally by night, but soon triggered by rage or unease, Banner discovers the superhumanly strong alter-ego within himself, dubbed simply - the Hulk! As the Hulk, Banner's brilliance is reduced to a childlike lumbering, while his slight frame conversely comes to possess size, strength, and durability never before imagined.

Hulk has no specific known weaknesses, but is fiercely protective of the few who earn his favour. Though generally good hearted, Hulk is prone to wild rages and varied personalities, including the calculating persona adopted during his time on the planet Sakaar, where he adopts a military savvy.

- In his career as a life-long military man, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross's defining moment would come as head of the Gamma Bomb Project, designed to test and develop a new radioactive weapon for the United States.

Sabotage during the testing phase of the project would result in the mass exposure of one of the scientists working on the project, Dr. Bruce Banner. The accident would radically alter Banner's genetic composition, giving birth to the rampaging behemoth that would become Thunderbolt Ross' green whale; the incredible Hulk.

The Hulk's constant ability to overcome and escape military opposition has earned Thunderbolt Ross his share of disgraces. In the pursuit of his foe, Ross has held memberships with SHIELD, Hulkbusters, and even allied himself briefly with the gamma irradiated villain, the Leader, which would eventually result in his dishonorable discharge for treason. Even so, General Ross prevails in parallel to his violent counterpart, always ready to step into battle with the Hulk.

The Math: Hulk Ranking: Hulk (#5)

What Went Down...
Glenn Talbot, Bruce Banner's rival for the affections of Betty Ross and experimentation with human regeneration, takes full advantage when Banner reveals the symptom of his accidental gamma exposure. When Banner is taken into custody, Talbot seeks to extract a sample of the Hulk's altered DNA, but to do so, must first provoke the change in Banner without endangering himself and others.

Awakening the beast proves easier than expected, but when the Hulk's burly hide proves resistant to Talbot's sampling drills, he quickly breaks free of the shackles containing him. Emergency protocol to subdue the Hulk upon escape soon fails when the behemoth's strength is again underestimated. A flood of knock-out gas proves ineffective, inspiring only a violent sneeze from the monster.

It's not long before Hulk escapes into the labyrinthine underground tunnels of the military facility. Talbot mobilizes his people to pursue the Hulk, calling upon the wealth of defensive resources at his disposal to ensure the non-lethal detainment of his specimen. His efforts fail to curtail the attentions of General Thunderbolt Ross, who orders an immediate evacuation of the contract sector, an order blatantly defied by the zealously determined scientist.

With his sector in an unauthorized lockdown, Talbot defiantly heads into the field to obtain his much desired sample. The Hulk, contained by a super durable constrictive foam, grows increasingly frustrated by his predicament, which includes the continued antagonism of Talbot's sadistic pleasure in his pain.

Hindered by injuries sustained during a previous encounter with Dr. Banner's dark side; Talbot finds himself overwhelmed by the sheer charisma of Hulk's will. Even with his extremedies tethered, the Hulk is able to knock Talbot off his feet.

The scenario provides Talbot with the necessary provocation to justify more extreme methods of detainment, but as he soon learns, even this escalation is over estimated. An explosive cartridge is easily deflected by the Hulk's super musculature, repelling the bullet back from where it came.
Talbot is engulfed in the resulting flames.

With the interfering scientist now a bitter footnote; General Ross is able to commandeer the facility, ordering a complete lockdown.

Codename "angry man" escapes the tunnels, entering the main hall where his statuesque dimensions are given greater freedom of movement. The dire situation forces the General to order the evacuation of personel, and the deployment of heavy weaponry to curb the beast's rampage.

The military's weaponry proves ineffective, and with the risk of mass casualty and further damage to the base, General Ross is forced to concede to more evasive maneuvers. Strategic lighting is used to lure the Hulk to the desert above, where the military hope to have better luck with more destructive missiles.

On the surface, the Hulk takes full advantage of the wide open spaces provided by the desert. His incredibly powerful limbs launch him into an aerial escape, making for a quick getaway from the puny humans that attack him.

Hulk finds himself landing in a long since abandoned military village, which provokes a flood of vague memories of a previous life. The ghost of his alter-ego emerges from within his raging mind, unearthing the day Bruce Banner witnessed his mother's accidental death by his father's hand. The confusion of the moment is compounded when suddenly his childhood home explodes, sending him airborne with the force of the shockwave.

The Hulk witnesses his own magnificent capacity for healing, just as a faint popping in the sky alerts him to the military's continued assault. The aerial missiles fan out in the sky, bringing down an artistic shower of war.

Hulk again launches himself, leaving behind the now pot-marked planes of this forgotten memory. His leap brings him to the arid dunes of the desert, where he tumbles uncontrollably upon landing. The strange landscape plays host to the continued nightmare of the military's faceless assault, interrupting the barren tranquility with yet more variations on cannisters of explosives.

The explosions push the Hulk tumbling further down the dunes, where the sandy flats reveals an incoming cavalcade of tanks. They fire in unison, sending another hail of artillery at the besieged giant. The Hulk disappears behind the curtain of sand that splashes with each impact, masking the effect of their weapons.

The soldiers soon realise their work continues as the Hulk emerges in a far less neutral stance. With guns blazing, the soldiers and tanks meet the Hulk's charge head-on, their influence continuing to be ultimately ineffectual against the raw power of the gamma-irradiated scientist.

The Hulk shrugs their gunfire off, and collides with one of the tanks, knocking it over like a child playing with a toy. Capsized, the vehicle is defenseless, as the Hulk hoists it by the barrel and swings it like an oversized hammer toss!

In full battle mode, the Hulk lets loose an animalist roar, before turning his attentions to the next tank in his wake. He leaps onto the front of the warmachine, this time isolating the moving turret section that houses the soldiers. With a mighty tug the Hulk yanks the section free, while ignoring a barrage of machine gun fire from the remaining two tanks.

He shakes the driver and his fellow free of the cab, just as one of the other tanks fires a shell that would have ensured their demise. It penetrates the isolated piece of tank, and knocks Hulk off his feet.

Growing stronger with each provocation, the Hulk recovers in an instant!
Enraged, he turns the tank cab into a weapon, dragging it by the barrel to be used as a club against his opposition. He repeatedly swings at the tank, shaking it with the unimaginable pounds of pressure of his super human swing.

With only one remaining tank, the Hulk marches toward an end to the fight with muscles taut. He grapples with the last remaining gun barrel, and with incredible strength he bends it backward toward the driver's cab in a final act of irony.

With his enemies smashed, the Hulk takes flight once more, leaving the puny humans with the thought provoking fact that each soldier escapes with his life, and minimal injury. Coincidence, or insight into the true nature of the incredible Hulk? Such a question is not the concern of a military commited to the containment, or destruction, of this accident of their own making.

ARTWORK: John Romita JrThe Hammer...
And the winner of the battle, if not the war, the incredible Hulk!

Whoof! These movie reviews always manage to take a lot of out me, but I'm pleased with how easily this isolated snap shot broken into a managably smaller piece. Those of you who recall the film may need to be reminded that this skirmish is neatly concluded, right before General Ross seeks a Presidential order of executive powers, allowing for later rematches in the film. So, before you freak out, we can conclusively confirm this as an individual entry in the Hulk's battle log.

Moving on; we have something of a convergence of themes today!
What character would be more suitable for an entry on St. Patrick's Day than mean green himself? Not only that, but last week we were given the first glimpse of a trailer for the upcoming Incredible Hulk feature, which, for the most part, has been flying somewhat under the radar, eclipsed by hype surrounding Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

With a couple of vague themes in mind, I decided to open up the vote to you, the readers. We typically have at least a hundred people moving through the site every day, so it was with thorough bemusement that two of you decided we'd go the way of this year's move stars, rather than discussing super teams. Just to remind you all, you don't need to be registered to vote in site polls, or comment on entries, so feel free to make yourself heard!

This might be the perfect entry to do so, considering the ire the Ang Lee directed film has inspired. I'm going to give you plenty to shout about by declaring my resounding support of the film! I couldn't possibly deny blemishes in the over complication of Bruce Banner's backstory and largely unpleasant presence of Nick Nolte, but for the most part, I'm a fan of this picture.

One of the many criticms of the film came from the quality of a CG Hulk.
In selecting stills for this entry, I as always attempt to convey the story in the best light possible, but also kept in mind the point I hoped to make about the CG. "Shrek-Hulk" is a term bandied about by many fans who feel computer generation left the Hulk less than convincing, but it's my hope some of these warbound stills reveal a very realistically respectful approach to filming the Hulk as a living entity.

Hulk emerged in a period I would argue was crucial to the evolution of modern cinema. The post-Matrix 00's mark a period where both the industry and viewer alike come to recognise CG manipulation as a complimentary device to practical effects, rather than the utopian vision of a universal solution to cinematic fantasy. With many contemporary examples of practical wizardry, [such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's suit driven Mr. Hyde], one might say Lee's all-digital approach was radically against trend, at the time. I believe in some capacity this contributed to the establishment of a negative perception surrounding the digital Hulk, which boasted not only a phenomenal budget, but also the laborious application of high end technology, and motion capture.

DVD watchers will already know about Ang Lee's intimate involvement in developing the Hulk's abilities to emote, and while I wouldn't say expression was anywhere near as impressive as the characters interactions with environment and actors, it's an admirable instalment in CG quality.

St. Patrick's Day Top 25
[Characters Wearing Green]
#1 Hulk (Marvel)
#2 Sub-Mariner (Marvel)
#3 Green Lantern (DC)
#4 Green Arrow (DC)
#5 Iron Fist (Marvel)
#6 Hawkman (DC)
#7 Rogue (Marvel)
#8 Dr. Doom (Marvel)
#9 Robin (DC)
#10 Guile (Capcom)
#11 The Spectre (DC)
#12 Green Lantern (DC)
#13 Jean Grey (Marvel)
#14 Martian Manhunter (DC)
#15 Aquaman (DC)
#16 Guy Gardner (DC)
#17 Lyja (Marvel)
#18 Ganthet (DC)
#19 Sayd (DC)
#20 Drax (Marvel)
#21 Maul (Wildstorm)
#22 Banshee (Marvel)
#23 Tara (Marvel)
#24 Thin Man (Marvel)
#25 Green Lantern (DC)
[Ang] Lee's vision for the character is a very unusual blend of genres. The minutia of the tale obviously benefits from some assemblance of tangible science-fact, but inherent in the character is the fantastic qualities characterized in four-colour fiction.

Lee combines elements of various styles of action, showcasing tropes of conventional superhero film brawls; military maneuvers; and general action movie violence.
The merging of these qualities, as well as the underlying psychodrama of Bruce Banner, makes for a fairly well rounded representation of the Hulk's story.

Another common complaint registered by fans is a perceived lack of Hulk-style action. This seems to buck against a typical desire to see comic book films display the maturity of the medium, and it's ability to convey depthier stories than mindless fist fights and super powers. It also fails to give credit to Lee's dedicated approach to representing the Hulk's classical struggle with Thunderbolt Ross and his military, along with the psychological qualities ingrained in the source material.

One can't help but think of the precedence of influential Hulk writer, Peter David, whose own work is well regarded for dancing between big action and psychological drama.

In the span of this entry I'm not sure I can provide quality enough discourse to sway opinions of this film. Especially when noting the very real negatives that exist; such as convolutions in the Hulk's new origin, and the unnecessarily complicated backstory that further confuses Bruce Banner's identity, with the supposed pay off being a garbled confrontation with his Absorbing Man-styled father. While these elements leave intact the desire to see Hulk's exploits fighting super-villains realised on the big screen; I don't feel they undermine the more admirable qualities of the movie, such as the skirmishes with the military.

I'm reticent about this new sequel.
Incredible Hulk is smart enough to dance around the issue of the much maligned first film, completely recasting, without overwriting the original film. Already evident is the fact that this is a distinct departure from Ang Lee's vision.
Early stills show iconography familiar from the 1970's TV series, as well as elements familiar to comic-reading fanboys.

Edward Norton's intrusions on the script, though concern making, show some endearing qualities, such as the inclusion of Doc Samson; albeit, depicted by less than exciting casting in TV's, Ty Burrell. Also promising is the presence of one of Hulk's most famous villains, the Abomination, and strong rumors of appearances by Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark, and a Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury, all allegedly building toward a Hulk/Iron Man film, or even a big screen Avengers.

I can't help but feel we're wrapping this entry up, even though there's still so much to be discussed. Thrilling is the prospect of Marvel pioneering the big screen crossover in ways never quite realised, particularly with the promise of feature casting that includes Downey, Jackson and Norton all in the one picture! This makes a particular statement while DC toils away on a Justice League film that not only distances itself from existing franchises [ie; Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins], but also promises a cast fit for a forgettable TV movie.

Of course, much like the duality of Banner and Hulk, there's a flipside to the barely publicized Hulk sequel. Turmoil in the script suggests a power struggle that could easily jeopardize an ensemble picture, and a story that ultimately sounds far less involving than Ang Lee's character-driven two-hour epic.
More specifically, the trailer projects early indications of a disappointing legacy left by Ang Lee's box office failure. The disappointingly dumbed down action movie many fans called for seems front-and-centre, while the budget-blowing exploits of the first film leave this one with a CG Hulk and Abomination that truly are less than convincing. Fingers crossed the latter is merely a symptom of typically rear ended post-production.

You'd be forgiven for not knowing that Incredible Hulk hits cinemas in June, sandwiched between Iron Man (May) and The Dark Knight (July). I have no doubt we'll be talking a lot more about the Hulk around that time, but for now, we wait with reticent hope that inexperienced director, Louis Leterrier, can deliver the goods that many feel the Oscar winner Ang Lee did not. I have my doubts, but we shall see.

The Fight: 5 The Film: 5

Having toted the genius of Lee Falk, you've got to give it up to ol' Stan and Jack. Together they created a monstrous character part Jekyll & Hyde, part Frankenstein's Monster, and all commentary on the futility of war as Hulk smashes his comparatively morally grey military opposition time and time again. A contrast to Iron Man's pro-war establishmentarian approach, making the two characters perfect philosophical rivals! If you want to get a heads up on the action that's yet to come, or feel you might have passed the Hulk movie up without fair prespective, why not head over to Amazon? By using purchase links provided on the Infinite Wars, you help fund future military experimentation!

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