Shiny Shelf


Hulk

By Mark Clapham on 23 November 2003

Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’ comes to DVD with exactly the same strengths and weaknesses it had on its cinema release. The special features on this two-disc set seem fully aware what does and doesn’t work in the movie, and majors on the good stuff – the artistry of director Ang Lee and effects house Industrial Light and Magic.

While there are contributions from, and praise for, the actors who ostensibly star in the film, this DVD is really a love letter jointly addressed to Lee and his ten-foot, green-skinned baby. The praise lavished on Lee throughout the featurettes may be well deserved, but the relentless sychophancy and hyperbole can be a bit much. As is usual with these promotional reels, the most pointless comments come from producers desperate to flog their wares and keep the talent happy.

Luckily, there are interviews with those who have a greater creative insight to give. Lee’s working processes are pretty heavily covered here, and its easy to see why this was one of toughest shoots of his career. Aside from directing the film, Lee would regularly don a motion capture suit to actually play the role of the Hulk himself. There’s something inherently amusing about the footage of these motion capture sessions, with a cultured, middle aged film director dressing up in a leotard and jumping around pretending to be a monster. It’s especially funny when he acts out bits of the scene where the Hulk fights mutated dogs, with a domestic canine in a motion capture suit standing in for the monstrous hound.

Away from the technical stuff, the discs fall down with a documentary on the history of the Hulk character that doesn’t match the standards of previous Marvel movie DVDs. While the ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Daredevil’ DVDs had long documentaries on the comics, complete with long interviews with key creators, here we get a few clips of Stan Lee wheeling out old anecdotes, along with some background on the Bill Bixby TV show. This is all entry-level stuff, and delivered in an infuriatingly simplistic way. Someone needs to point out to the people behind these features that anyone who watches a disc of extras by definition wants to go into some level of detail. Let’s face it, it takes some degree of obsession to watch this stuff, and the casual audience will just watch the film like any sane person.

The main comic-book related treat is the multi-angle feature where a scene from the film is reinterpreted by four very different comics artists. It’s cool in a ‘hey kids, comics can be clever!’ way, but isn’t exactly insightful. There’s also a kiddie-oriented, ‘Top Trumps’ style fact file thing where you can look at statistics relating to the Hulk’s abilities, but it’s difficult to see this as a movie for kids (it’s alternately very slow and grindingly violent), so why include the feature.

‘Hulk’ was a muddled film in the first place, creating a smart film out of Marvel’s dumbest creation. The thinking behind this DVD is similarly confused, expanding on the movie’s dual nature of hand-crafted artistry and cold tech-demo, trying to appeal to the art house crowd, the multiplexers and family audiences. The DVD, like the film is alternately highly impressive and completely baffling. Odd.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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