Criticism of "The Hulk": comic book stories can't mean anything?

I’ve seen many criticisms of “The Hulk” (the movie), including in Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek, that argue that Ang Lee, and his approach to the film, were wrong and dragged down the film.

Now, I realize that this is open for debate, but one thing that struck me about such arguments is that the writers seemed to be saying that Lee added too much ‘serious’ stuff to the comic book source, and that this was inherently bad, or inappropriate. It felt, to me, like they were saying “just give us dumb action - stuff based on comic books can’t work if you try to make 'em deep.” It seemed, in other words, to go beyond the specificities of “The Hulk” and make a statement on comic book films in general.

Am I alone in this impression? Is this true? Are the authors being somehow elitist or condescending towards comic books, as adults are wont to be? Or am I somehow misinterpreting?

Well. a certain amount of serious stuff is fine… the comic had its share. But the audience for summer CGI-movies is not generally looking for “deep”.

As a friend recently remarked “They ought to just make a movie called 'KA-BOOOM!”… two solid hours of nothing but explosions. They’ll make a fortune."

When the ads consist almost entirely of Hulk smashing things, you set your audience up for a certain kind of show. When you drop another kind altogether on them, they naturally get upset. If the movie had been promoted as more “serious” drama, people might not have been so upset, because they would have known what to expect.

I agree that some critics are taking the attitude you described. And for what it’s worth, in this particular case I think they may have a point. The Hulk after all was an old Marvel comic; it wasn’t that deep to begin with. Lee was apparently trying to reach depths that weren’t in the original. (For the record, I haven’t seen the film.)

But the same thing was said about this summer’s other big comic book based movie bomb - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In this case, I think the critics missed the point. The comic book League was a parody of Victorian pulp characters not a superhero action book. So the filmmakers misunderstood their source material. But several critics mistakenly claimed the movie was flawed by being too faithful to its source rather than not being faithful enough - thereby demonstrating they were themselves unfamiliar with the original work.

I agree with this point, but was that what the previews were? The only one I can remember is Bruce checking himself out in a mirror, talking about his inner turmoil, and the battles betwixt Ego and Id. Then maybe half a second of Hulk smashing through a wall. Were the other trailers a reversal from this?

Oh yes. The second (“actual”) trailer consisted of shots of basically all the action scenes in the movie lumped together.

I fiercely hated Hulk. Not because it was “too deep” (a better description would be “trying to be deep”) but because it was a boring, incoherent, poorly directed movie that took itself too seriously. It tried to have it both ways (“deep” psychological stuff and mindless action) and it failed at both counts. My friend and me were so annoyed with it we actually made no less than three comics about it. If anyone’s interested: they’re here, here, and here.

I loved it. I don’t think Ang lee was going for “deep” - he didn’t have any big message, nor anything really to say about “man’s true nature” or some crap like that. The real story was always about Bruce and his Father, and even though we (the audience) may have figured out what his probem was, the story was about Bruce coming to understand and accept it. I’m buying this one on DVD for sure. And I’m really glad Ang Lee didn’t just make another Spiderman - that’s not bad, but the material required something different.
It could have used some more editing, though.

I thought it was okay, but the climax was poorly-shot and confusing, and the transitions got distracting after a while. I do appreciate the attempt to focus more on the characters’ problems instead of just having 90 minutes of the Hulk bashing everything in sight, though.

The biggest problem with the movie, I thought, was that it was trying to be its own sequel. The first movie in the movie was Hulk vs. the military, and should have ended in the streets of San Fran, with “You weren’t hard to find.” “Yes I was.”. But then, out of the blue, instead of the military being the chief antagonist, all of a sudden, we’ve got David the Freak Elemental. There really wasn’t enough development in the movie of his character or his powers, so all the bits with him didn’t make too much sense. We’ve got things like, right at the beginning, “I must find a cure!”. A cure to what? At that point, neither he nor his son have any apparent symptoms. Or when they’re in the chairs between the electrocution thingamajiggies, why are they there in the first place? And why didn’t someone stop them when Freak-dude started raving? No explanations. They should have just saved all the business with his father for a separate movie, when they’d have time for it.