June 20, 2003
How do you follow up on an Academy Award®-winning kung-fu film with a touching love story that, at its heart, delves into the philosophical (and not so philosophical) complexity of love? Why, with a tragic tale of man who turns into a gigantic green hulk of a monster whenever he gets angry, that's how. As silly as it sounds, it is exactly what acclaimed director Ang Lee is doing. As a follow up to his critically-acclaimed and publicly-loved kung-fu love story Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee has chosen to adapt the classic Marvel superhero The Hulk into a major motion picture from Universal Studios.
Universal was very happy when they were able to sign the then-white-hot Lee to this project back in the spring of 2001. The high-in-demand director had a proven record of delivering quality films that were high on emotional centers and a haunting feel that resonates throughout. This fit perfectly with the recent trend of signing young and talented, though not necessarily proven, directors on to projects that naturally sell themselves. The trend dates back to 1978, when Warner Bros. charged a then-unknown young director named Richard Donner to direct their big-budget event film, Superman. Eleven years later, Warner Bros. again hired another young director by the name of Tim Burton to direct Batman, the highly-successful feature that changed how big-budget movies are marketed.
After another 11-year gap, the trend resurfaced again when Fox hired Bryan Singer, the director and one of the brainchildren behind one of the most successful independent films of the '90s, The Usual Suspects, to direct X-Men, which again was a mega hit. With X-Men being so successful, now we see names like Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee being charged with bringing comic book superheroes to the big screen.
The secret of the success of such films might lie in the fact that most of these films market themselves well. Many superheroes have a familiarity instilled within pop-culture, and therefore require very little tweaking in how they are marketed. With familiar names such as Batman, Superman, X-Men and Spider-Man, it is usually enough to put the name out there in order for the studios to reap rewards. With this minimizing the risk of the film not succeeding, studios feel less financial pressure and are more likely to take risks creatively. With this in mind, the studios are able to hire young, talented directors who hopefully bring a deeper quality to the film. And although we won't see lee's film until summer 2003, it is shaping up to be one of the more exciting projects out there.
Lee's first action was to tweak the script to match his style, as he attempted to bring a more of an emotional aspect to it. His rewrites have been extensive and detailed and his preparations have been meticulous, to say the least. In his first casting move, Lee announced early on that Eric Bana (Chopper, Black Hawk Down) had been cast to play the lead role of Bruce Banner; in a bizarre pseudo-announcement, Bana will also be playing The Hulk, even though the plan is to have the giant green monster be almost fully CGI animated. Speculation at this point is that ILM, the lead CGI F/X studio on the project, will develop an animation technology which blends real life acting with CGI animation in much the same way as The Mummy Returns did, except with much higher quality. Bana, who is no stranger to playing monsters on the big screen, is an exceptional actor who should become one of the hottest actors in Hollywood after the release of this film.
Others on board are Academy Award® and SAG Award Best Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross, the love interest in the film. Connelly, a proven actress in her own right, will serve as the emotional center of the film, and the trigger for much of the action that goes on. Having brought to life two of the strongest female roles in recent movie history in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee will rely heavily on a strong performance by Connelly. Acting is very critical in these over-the-top stories and they usually will determine on which side of the campy/quality line the film stands, so the hiring of Connelly and Bana is a great start. Others on board are Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot.
All the pieces are in place for The Hulk to be a huge success at the box office. More than likely, the film will deliver in terms of quality of story and visuals. With a budget of $120 million, it is unlikely that The Hulk will look anything short of spectacular, especially considering the absence of any truly big-name actors from the cast list. The Hulk looks like a solid ship that will have ample production time before its release date. In the meantime, the hype and buzz will build and speculation will continue as the project moves forward. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
May 21, 2002
May 3rd was a banner day for comic-book movies, not the least of which was The Hulk. Not only did this date turn all box-office preconceptions on their heads by ushering in the awe-inspiring box-office performance of Spider-Man, the date also marked the release of the Hulk teaser, a mysterious 72 seconds that tantalize and tease in a very effective way.
The reaction to the trailer has been stellar, and one gets the sense that the buzz around this movie will be the same as that which surrounded Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk character enjoys much of the same pop-culture icon status that Spider-Man does due to its presence in pop culture for the last 30 years. Thanks to numerous animated television shows, the least of which is the '60s cult-classic TV show, and a landmark television series starring Bill Bixby, The Hulk ranks fourth only behind Superman, Batman and Spider-Man in terms of cultural familiarity.
Seeing as how the Hulk and Spider-Man share so much and that the release of The Hulk is set to mirror that of Spider-Man in terms of hype, anticipation and production value, Hulk seems destined to join the triple-digit openers club. Tentatively scheduled for a June 20, 2003 release, Hulk has established itself as a major player for the summer 2003 timeframe. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
Vital statistics for The Hulk
Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott
Josh Lucas, Brooke Langton, Sasha Barrese, Cara Buono, Mike Erwin, Lou Ferrigno
John Turman, Michael France, James Schamus
||Click Here for Trailer
|| Jason Dean reviews The Hulk
David Mumpower reviews The Hulk
Kim Hollis reviews The Hulk
||Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture
Comparison films for The Hulk
|X2: X-Men United
|Batman and Robin
|Batman: Mask of the Phantasm