Josh Lucas of Yellowstone reflects on the 2003 Ang Lee film Hulk and the evolution of comic book movies today. Marvel Studios was still attempting to adapt their characters into a film format for the general public before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took over theaters and restored Marvel to being a pop culture pillar. One of them was the Universal version of The Incredible Hulk, helmed by director auteur Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Although the movie was a commercial success, critics and viewers disagreed about it. Fans were generally disappointed with the adaptation, and even director Spike Lee considered it to be a failure after a string of critically acclaimed films.
One of the Hulk actors, Lucas, who played Glenn Talbot, Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) arch-enemy, has since gone on to work on other well-received projects like Yellowstone. While speaking with The Playlist, Lucas thought back on the movie and, while he doesn’t necessarily defend it, he does offer some explanations for why it came out the way it did, specifically mentioning the technology and the period in which the movie was produced. Given the complexity of the Hulk’s look and abilities, it makes sense that Lucas saw this as a challenge for Lee and that this was one of the factors that contributed to the movie’s failure. Below is the complete quote from Lucas:
“I think the technology evolved, and [Ang Lee is] one of the people who pushed the technology to evolve. I know he was pushing the team of people who were on the CGI of Hulk to make something that, technically, maybe wasn’t capable of being at the level he wanted it yet. And so I think he was very frustrated with that movie by not being able to get what he wanted and what was in his brain.”
The Evolution Of The Hulk Since Ang Lee’s Film
Regardless of how the Hulk turned out, Lucas has been a huge advocate for Lee and has even referred to him as one of the best directors working today. He specifically cited Life of Pi and the technology for the Hulk as examples of how Lee pushed VFX artists to create stunning visuals. Lucas praised the choice and pointed out that most comic book movies today do not follow this style, whereas Hulk’s editing was criticized for its poor replication of comic book panels and for its sheer redundancy.
The rage and strength that define The Hulk are surprisingly muted compared to Lee’s version of the character. In The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton, which depicted the character’s struggle between being a brilliant human and a ferocious monster, Universal revived the character in response to Kevin Feige’s redesign and announcement of the MCU. Audiences wouldn’t truly fall in love with the character with Mark Ruffalo in the role until The Avengers. The Hulk changed from being a brainless monster to a genius in a large super body known as “Smart Hulk,” thanks to Marvel Studios’ reputation for taking unusual creative liberties with their characters. Hulk has become regarded as a mainstay of the MCU ever since.
It is unfortunate that Lee was unable to fully utilize his abilities with Hulk because he is still regarded as a great filmmaker. He had previously said that while he was proud of the movie, he was also aware of his limitations and that the technological freedom he had been given for the movie had corrupted him. Lee seems content working on more personal projects, so it is unlikely that he will ever return to the comic book industry. Despite the movie’s failure, it contributed to the Hulk’s increased recognition as a legendary Marvel superhero and paved the way for the MCU and other up-and-coming filmmakers to succeed.
Source: The Playlist