HomeTV and MoviesThe Daily Stream: 'Hulk' Is Like a Glimpse At An Alternate Universe Where Superhero Movies Are Weird And A Lot More Interesting
The Daily Stream: 'Hulk' Is Like a Glimpse At An Alternate Universe Where Superhero Movies Are Weird And A Lot More Interesting
(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Movie: Hulk
Where You Can Stream It: FuboTV
The Pitch: Ang Lee takes the story of the Incredible Hulk and turns it into a big, weird, inventive comic book movie that the world just wasn’t ready for.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Tired of the predictability of the standard superhero flick? Then you need to watch Hulk, my friend.
Before I go any further, I should explain what FuboTV is. The streaming service primarily caters to sports content. They call themselves “the world’s only sports-focused live TV streaming service with top leagues and teams.” But they also have TV shows and movies. Not a ton of TV shows and movies, mind you. But they’re there. And nestled among those movies is Hulk, Ang Lee’s weird, wonderful take on the Marvel comics character. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before Mark Ruffalo, even before Edward Norton, there was Eric Bana hulking out and fighting giant monster poodles.
To watch Hulk now is a touch surreal because it hints at some alternate universe where instead of the assembly line, cookie-cutter films of the MCU, we got a series of superhero movies like this. Superhero movies that weren’t afraid to be silly while also trying to be serious. Movies that took big, weird swings – and while those swings don’t always work, they’re always interesting. I know this is a controversial statement and some people will think I’m “trolling,” but I would absolutely trade every single movie in the MCU for more superhero movies like Hulk.
The storyline of Hulk will be familiar to most folks: scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) turns into a huge green monster whenever he gets angry. Simple. But director Ang Lee takes that idea and uses it to tell a tale of the trauma of parental abuse. Every time there’s a new Marvel show on Disney+ these days, I hear people talk about how said show is “actually about trauma.” But Hulk got there long, long before that. We learn Bruce’s father (played by a grumbly, crusty Nick Nolte) ran scientific experiments on Bruce as a child, and that’s part of the reason Bruce turns into the Hulk. And this father of the year is so far gone and deranged that he no longer considers human Bruce to be his offspring. The Hulk, in all his green, smashing glory, is his real son.
All of this unfolds with a surplus of style, as Lee takes the comic book origins of the story to heart, crafting scene transitions that resemble the pages of comic books. I’m sure this doesn’t work for everyone, and there are moments – like when one character is about to die in an explosion, and we watch him freeze in the air as fire rages around him – that are fairly cornball. But that’s also part of the charm. Because all of this – the trauma, the comic book transitions, the overall bonkers tone of the film, which wants to be both fun and disturbing – help make Hulk special. Lee crafts this thing like a Greek tragedy, but he also understands that you have to have fun, and you have to entertain.
At one point, Hulk fights a trio of giant Hulk Dogs, one of which is a monstrous poodle. It’s silly as hell – and I wanted more of it. Comic book movies have become so damn rigid, sticking to a paint-by-numbers formula that’s been burned into our subconscious. We know how every MCU movie is going to turn out before we even sit down to watch it. And that’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing. But me, I’d much rather have a world where crap like Thor: The Dark World never existed, and movies like Hulk reign supreme.