Discussing the old school DVD’s that still sound and look great in the era of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology.
Ang Lee’s Hulk got a bad wrap.
When it was originally released in 2003, it was endlessly criticized for replacing action with a “boring” psychoanalysis of Bruce Banner.
I think there was a mutated poodle in there somewhere, too. But I could be wrong.
Despite all of its flaws — and it has quite a lot of them — I always enjoyed Hulk. I foun… the psychoanalysis part to be a little tedious, but necessary to understand Banner’s rage. The action was impressive, especially the extended desert sequence, and I thought the CGI was damn near perfect, capturing Eric Bana’s likeness and morphing it into the Hulk about as well as it could have been done.
However, the film didn’t feel much like a comic book movie, even though the nifty split-screen panels were supposed to give us that impression. I liked the touch, but also felt like it was a ploy to make us feel something that was supposed to come natural. For instance, Spider-Man always felt like a comic book movie and didn’t employ anything of the sort. Hulk also lacked a true villain, one that could match the Hulk’s nearly indestructible strengths. Sure Banner’s father, played with equal parts ham and cheese by Nick Nolte, has similar strengths, but his character doesn’t hover over the film the way a real villain should. The battle between father and son also feels tacted on at the end, even though it is a cool scene.
One thing is for sure, and that is Hulk is not a perfect movie. However, it definitely didn’t deserve the proverbial bitch slap it initially received by critics and audiences upon its release. Had it not been directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) it probably would have been a more crowd-pleasing comic-book adaptation with less character development and more mindless action. Think Daredevil. But you can expect more than that from Lee’s films, which is why he is one of my favorite directors. There is always a meaning behind the action in Lee’s films, and such was the case here.
I’m glad Ang Lee made Hulk, although I’m not sure he feels the same. Nor Lee, or Bana, is involved with a sequel, which is supposed to capture more of the feel of the television show. While others will probably be happy to hear this news, I am not. I’m more likely to check out Lee’s next film over a Hulk sequel.
Having said that, Hulk is a fine demo disc. It’s presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. There is some slight image grain, but other than that it is pretty much what you would expect from a recent large studio film, which is a very good thing.
But where Hulk always stands out for me is in the sound department. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is one of the better ones available — even today.
Skip to the chapters with action and you will be pleased. For as much as the mutant dogfight may have sucked, the audio in this scene does not. You can hear crisp highs of tree limbs snapping as Hulk does battle with the mutant mutts, and when he falls to the ground or pounds a pooch with a Hulk smash, the subwoofer responds with an earth-shaking roar.
There are also smaller scenes without much action, like when Banner first turns into the Hulk at the college, but when the Hulk crashes through a wall, the sound is given excellent detail. You can hear every pane of glass shatter, every bottle fall and break, and every piece of wood splinter into a thousand pieces. The Hulk’s footsteps are also given the appropriate bass level, reminiscent of the dino stomps in Jurassic Park.
But the one scene that is a sight to behold is the one after Hulk escapes from the underground desert lab and returns to his childhood home. It’s a sad moment, and I always connect with the Hulk in this scene. The hour and a half of psychoanalysis before hand always feels worth it when I see the look of hurt in the Hulk’s eye. Then, before I start to feel like a little girl, a cluster bomb suddenly destroys the house — and the Hulk jumps away to do battle with Army tanks, planes and helicopters.
Again, these battle scenes are given great detail, and each rocket, each cannon shot, and each Hulk smash are felt more than they are heard — which is always a good thing. It usually means the lows are deep and crisp, adding to every other sound dimension present.
And just when you think the action is over, we’re treated to an extra bonus battle between Hulk and his father (Nick Nolte). While the scene did make the movie run a little long, it is still a solid demo disc scene. The Banners become electrical currents and battle through the clouds as thunder and lighting booms around them, which is just more icing on the audio cake. The thunder and lightning echo through the speakers to become the best sounding scene in the film.
While Hulk may be an unbalanced film, it’s still enjoyable. The A/V aspects it receives on the DVD are both excellent, making Hulk even better than it may have originally been. Filmgoers who may not have enjoyed this film in the theater, are likely to warm up to it in repeat viewings when they hear and see what this disc can do in the comfort of their own home.