DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Hulk
The Hulk

One of the lasting qualities of Ang Lee's The Hulk is its sensational look. The editing is sublime and the cinematography far superior to other superhero comic strip spinoffs. These remain true to the double disc DVD.

You would have thought that by now an Extras package would have a uniformity, recognisable and understood by all. Instead, it's everyone to their own and you haven't a clue what to expect.

The Hulk has an entire disc devoted to Extras, with Lee's commentary included on the other. For a movie so dependent upon effects, it leaves you hanging on for more.

Movies with obese budgets like to test the ingenuity of CGI teams, which is fascinating because new barriers are being breached the whole time and that's where The Hulk's second disc comes into its own.

First, a word about Lee's take on The Hulkage. His commentary is not as full as some, which does not demean it in any way, because there's nothing worse than an overblown ego when it comes to the waffle machine.

He is constantly praising others, giving credit to everyone, from Nick Nolte ("His performance is funny a lot of the time - not laugh-out-loud funny") to his wife ("She told me that he must be very hungry and thirsty after he de-Hulks") and yet, listening between the words, you have the feeling that he is a perfectionist, who puts his actors through hell to get what he wants.

He has looked deeper into motivation than a wham-bam comic book fanatic might expect. He calls the first section, which some critics find slow, "an overture to the opera."

Having the advantage of a blockbuster budget did not encourage an indulgent attitude. With the exception of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee's previous films have not been expensive. He found working with more money liberating, rather than spoiling.

He describes one sequence as "very comic booky", which is delightful, and then again will say in all seriousness, "Anger is merely a catalyst to me." His commentary has an unexpected charm to it, as well as that rarity amongst the Hollywood tribes, modesty.

The Hulk himself is an astonishing creation, entirely computer generated and capable of expressing emotion, as well as rage. There is an entire section in the DVD devoted to what they call The Dog Fight Scene, in which Big Green is attacked by three monstrous canines.

What they are talking about is £16million worth of CGI, just on this. The maestros behind the magic discuss how it was done and, if you can get your head round the cost - several small countries could be fed for months on this kind of money - it is a fascinating insight into the way it works on the cutting edge of computer animation.

The Making Of featurette is too short, meaning it's so enjoyable you don't want it to stop. Very good on stunts and special effects, it discusses the cast and crew as well. Eric Bana is hugely complimentary of Jennifer Connolly: "She comes on the set and always gets to the heart of it." Watching her work on wires to an invisible Hulk demonstrates the actor's innate professionalism. It couldn't have been easy, even much fun, and yet her sense of humour remains intact.

The Incredible Ang Lee is a puff for the ever-popular Taiwanese director, who likes to dress up in a black shell suit and go through the fight sequences personally. He is called "incredibly brilliant and, at the same time, humble," which may well be true. Certainly, his commitment is 200%. Someone dubs him "the nicest man in show business and the most ambitious."

Evolution Of The Hulk tells the story of his birth in a Marvel Comic, through to a successful television series and, finally, an Ang Lee film. Producer Gale Anne Hurd explains why she chose an Asian director, with no experience in the superheroic mould. "It's the humanity in everything he does," she says, which is demonstrated in the Deleted Scenes, which contain moments of refined sensitivity, as well as further examples of Connolly looking gorgeous.

The Hulk's creator, Stan Lee, remembers the early Sixties when Marvel's heroes were in ascendence. He had always been impressed by Boris Karloff's portrayal of Frankenstein's monster, because of its quality of innocence. He combined this with the rage and power of Dr Jekyll's alter ego Mr Hyde. As for the Incredible Hulk's skin colour, "my first choice was grey, but the printer was having problems keeping it consistant." He looked around for a colour no one else was using and discovered green.

Hulkification is a truly imaginative idea. Four comic book artists were asked to draw strips of one of the transformation scenes and the results are enormously enjoyable.

Salvador Larroca from Spain has worked on X-Men books and most recently The Fantastic Four. His drawings can only be described as beautiful.

Katsuya Terada is very young. "His innovative use of the computer as a digital canvas has changed the way art is created and looked at in Japan," reads the blurb. He conceives the scene in close up. The green one-eyed face of The Hulk is terrifying.

Tommy Ohtsuka, a manga artist, remains closer to the Japanese tradition. The characters appear so much younger. The Hulk looks 12-year-old and when he transforms, he's all teeth and cucumber skin, like a giant, muscle-bound body builder.

Adam Kubert from America works with Wizard magazine and Marvel Comics on stories featuring Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman and The Ultimate X-Men. He portrays The Hulk before greening up as a nerdy weakling with glasses. His drawings are the most expressionistic and probably the closest in spirit to Stan Lee's original.

Reviewed on: 17 Jan 2004
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Hulk packshot
Ang Lee directs summer blockbuster of the Marvel Comics scientist who turns green with anger.
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Product Code: 8210757

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Making Of feauturette; Superhero Revealed: The Anatomy of the Hulk; Deleted scenes; Hulkification; Evolution of the Hulk; The Incredible Ang Lee; The dog fight scene; The unique style of editing the Hulk; DVD-Rom content

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