The trouble with the green guy is that he doesn't have anything to do, except tear the dollshouse down. Daredevil had an equally traumatic childhood, but ended up following the tradition of caped crusaders and righting wrongs. The Hulk is not what he seems; he is not a superhero. He's Mr Hyde, in chlorophyll-coloured chinos.

The first thing to say about the film is that it looks stunning. The second thing is that it takes forever before transformation time. Aficionados of comicbook blockbusters will be shouting in unison, "Get green, buddy!", because they don't want to listen to cod therapy sessions with the lovely Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), who has a weakness for emotionally distant men.

Bruce Banner (Eric Bana - no relation) is a scientist, who works with Betty. His social skills are limited, but that's okay. What he's good at is the test tube stuff. Betty respects his mind. Later, she admits: "I love him." Oops! Soppy is not sweet in this kind of movie. Let's see the big guy bring down a helicopter. Special effects rule, baby. Let 'em unleash Armageddon! Let the masters of CGI be masterful. But do it now.

Step back from the Spider/Dare/Superman arena and be still for a moment. The Hulk is a love story. It's about what happened on that army base in the desert in the mid-Sixties, when Bruce was four years old and his dad, another emotionally dysfunctional scientist, was doing experiments on himself and baby Bruce against strict orders. When the authorities find out, they sack him and he goes berserk and comes back to the house and takes Bruce's mom into a room and they have a terrible row and there's a bright blue light on the horizon that's sort of mushroomy and then men in uniform arrive and they are running and Bruce is taken away, although he doesn't remember any of it until later. He's told that his parents died and he is adopted by another mummy and memories of that house in the desert and his first dad are fragmented, like dream memories.

Betty wants to find the real Bruce. That's what girls do. She can't hear the chorus from the stalls, because she wants to discover the truth behind his past, believing that only then will he be able to... what? Love her? Instead, someone says: "You're going to have to watch that temper of yours", and it's funny, because that's the trigger. When he loses it, he gets green and the audience howl, "YES!", because that's what they've been waiting for and the quiet, introspective Bruce turns into the giant on the corn nibblets can and starts causing havoc. He describes it as: "rage, power and freedom." He likes the feeling, although he's not doing any good to anyone, only destroying buildings and mashing expensive military equipment, such as tanks.

There are two films, attempting to fuse. Connelly has been here before in A Beautiful Mind, where she nursed the mentally unstable Russell Crowe through half a lifetime of delusional daymares. Bana knows fury. His debut was the ultra-violent biopic of Aussie hard man Mark Read. In some respects the personal story is more effective than the action package. When Bruce becomes The Hulk, he's like a big kid breaking his little brother's toys and when the army is on the case, it's a simple chase flick, except nothing like as exciting as Godzilla, which everyone thought was rubbish.

The director from Taiwan, Ang Lee (The Ice Storm, Sense And Sensibility) has no experience in $140million mammoth pictures, although some might think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was up there with the greats. He doesn't understand the genre, which demands ever more dramatic stunts. He's interested in emotions, what makes a man love a woman, how the past feeds the present, why memory is the key to unlock the heart.

His use of split screen and fade through flashbacks is so imaginative that there are moments when the film is artistically stimulating. The way that the back story integrates with the front story has qualities associated with melody and rhythm. These visual subtleties have no place in a blockbuster and yet having them here is like discovering orchids on a battlefield.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2003
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Ang Lee directs summer blockbuster of the Marvel Comics scientist who turns green with anger.
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Read more Hulk reviews:

Stephen Carty **1/2
Gator MacReady *1/2

Director: Ang Lee

Writer: John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus, based on the comicbook, by Stan Lee and JackKirby

Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Paul Kersey, Cara Buono, Todd Tesen, Kevin O Rankin

Year: 2003

Runtime: 137 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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