Sunday, June 22, 2003

The Hulk: Critics are Talking (綠巨人浩克: 影評在說話)

The Hulk: Critics are Talking (綠巨人浩克: 影評在說話)

Critics are Talking about the Hulk

Critics are talking about The Hulk the way intelligent people talked about Marvel Comics characters when they first began attracting sophisticated adult readers in the mid-1960s. "The movie brings up issues about genetic experimentation, the misuse of scientific research and our instinctive dislike of misfits, and actually talks about them," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. He adds that director Ang Lee "is trying here to actually deal with the issues in the story of the Hulk, instead of simply cutting to brainless special effects." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes: "It's not easy being green -- and it's even tougher to make a summer event movie with a brain in its head. The hugely talented Ang Lee ... deserves credit for trying with The Hulk."

But Ebert and Lumenick, like most other critics, find the film itself riddled with issues that have little to do with humanity as a whole. As Ty Burr remarks in the Boston Globe: "Watching The Hulk, one gets an overwhelming sense of well-meaning hypocrisy: of high-minded middlebrow artists simultaneously exploiting and condescending to their trash-culture source." Some critics fault the computer animation. Phillip Wuntch writes in the Dallas Morning News: "The ungainly fellow at times looks like an enlarged, ferocious variation of the Pillsbury Doughboy."

But Bob Strauss concludes his review in the Los Angeles Daily News by remarking: "Any summer blockbuster entertainment this weird gets points just for being the extreme, unwieldy creature that it is." And, similarly, Joel Siegel remarked on ABC's Good Morning America: "It's a shame it falls apart at the ending but the worst thing I can say about this movie is that it's so smart, so deep, so well done it might be too good for the teenage boy audience these films are usually aimed at."

Editor's Comments:

Despite certain misgivings, critics in the US are giving The Hulk director Ang Lee two thumbs up for an honest attempt to fully develop the plot/theme of the movie, instead of attempting to snow the audience with "brainless special effects." Let's hope this trend, which manifested itself in such daringly different films as Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, The Matrix, and The Hulk, continues.

Somewhere along the way, some studio hack got it into his head that the average IQ of movie audiences dropped 15 points during summer. This unproven assumption, predicated on elementary, junior high, and high school students flooding the multiplexes while on summer vacation, has become Hollywood orthodoxy, and summer releases are "dumbed down" accordingly. The bar was set at a new low this season with "Dumb and Dumberer," [sic] which is not only a movie depicting a moron ("Dumb") and an imbecile ("Dumberer"), but is apparently a movie written by a moron and directed by an imbecile.

As Ang Lee told an Los Angeles Times interviewer, "I cannot speak for how everybody feels about summer movies, but I think I can speak for a lot of people globally. We're bored by the summer movie. I can't take it anymore. It's time for a change. I hope we can make that change. I don't feel we have a different mood from summer to winter, but somehow that is how they market it. And summer is a very long and boring two months. Just because it's summer, we don't have to be meatheads, do we?"

For the record I see no evidence that the intensely earnest Ang Lee, in contrast with Tim Burton, director of the annoyingly campy Batman Returns, has ever been the least bit condescending towards "low culture" source material. Lee's supremely arty Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, after all, was based on a popular "wu xia" novel, the Chinese equivalent of a Zane Grey or Louis L'Amour western novel. Yet consider the exhausting care Lee lavished on that project. According to his own account, Lee had to work harder on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon than he did on Sense and Sensibility.

If anything, Lee might be faulted for showing his source material too much deference, not too little. As one critic noted, the first hour of The Hulk more closely resembles Long Day's Journey Into Night than a comic book! That is not necessarily a bad thing. The Great Silent Majority in even the most "advanced" nations are shockingly indifferent to abstract thought. More than half will never read another book once they graduate from high school. If valuable insights about human nature can occasionally be communicated via popular film adaptations of pulp fiction and comic books, surely that is preferable to having them remain completely in the dark.

A final note. Like many movie reviewers, I have referred to Ang Lee's latest film as "The Hulk." In fact as director Ang Lee explains, the title of his film is not "The Hulk," but simply "Hulk." Why did Lee drop "The" from the title? Because the Chinese language contains no equivalent for the English pronoun "The." Therefore Lee insisted on naming his movie "Hulk," instead of "The Hulk."

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Critics are Talking about the Hulk
Illustration(s): Pillsbury Doughboy, Little Green Sprout
Author(s): Lew Irwin
Affiliation: Studio Briefing
Publication Date: 20th June 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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