Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Abominable Hulk

I don't know why Hulk seems so difficult. Deep down, it is nothing other than a Frankenstein-like tale of man playing God. Yet, directors and writers do not seem to get it and persist on offering sub-par versions of Hulk which do not do justice to the greatness of one of Marvel's most beloved characters.

I, like many, was taken by surprise when I heard that another Hulk was already in the works. It seems only yesterday that I sat through an excruciating director's commentary on the just-released DVD and today, I endured some more pointless crap kindly of director Louis Leterrier and writer/actor Edward Norton. I know that Norton has his own share of fans; apparently, he is a much more capable actor than he seems. I just never seem to stumble across that movie of his that makes me nod slowly as I crease my eyes and pout and think 'yes, I get it', like I did when I saw Johnny Depp dancing with Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. That was my Depp Ephiphany, when the thick layer of tarmac that had encrusted my eyes since A Nightmare on Elm Street finally cracked and fell off my blinkered lids. But with Norton, the epiphany hasn't happened yet. If anything, this latest Hulk is enough to put me off him for a long time still.

Because you see, the story of Bruce Banner is one of heart-felt alienation, of being a cast-away from society, of being the rejected monster that is still so painfully human. I often thought that the original Hulk theme, the one from the TV series which was thrown into this latest movie as a stilted nod to the past, is a hunting melody of loneliness and despair. This is not a superhero at ease in his own skin (Superman), nor a superhero that eventually grows into his super-suit (Spider-man); even less so is he a self-made superhero that works at it until he transcends reality and becomes a symbol (The Batman). Bruce's humanity is taken not by his green alter-ego, but by a society that makes him a fugitive. How can directors not pick on these subtleties and prefer endless minutes of war-like extravaganza? I am not saying this cannot be entertaining, but when you have a character whose issues are as multi-faceted as Bruce Banner's, you're missing a lot if you throw it all to the winds of computer-generated imagery.

As if one cartoon-like beast were not enough, Leterrier inflicts us a second, lizard-like monster that runs rampant for a final show-down with the Hulk. As I watched, I wondered how many more of these brain-dead versions we will have to endure before the Hulk will get granted the Batman treatment and will finally soar to the great heights of sub-text that the character encapsulates. This version, like Ang Lee's in 2003, left me with bleeding eyes, broken eardrums and a horrid, hopeless and downright abominable sense of déjà vu.
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