Year: 2003, Writer: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby(Marvel comic book character), James Schamus(story), John Turman & Michael France & James Schamus(screenplay), Director: Ang Lee, Budget: $137 million (estimated), Gross: $132 122 995
besides the fact that both films have a large, green, cgi hulk in them, these are pretty much two completely different films. this makes sense in a way. i mean if you are going to try and reboot a series and feel like the last attempt got it wrong, then it makes sense to go in a very different direction. the problem is that neither one of these movies got it all right.
it surprises me that i am saying that for two reasons. first off, i had always remembered liking the 2003 version of the film and, for some reason, the trailer for this new version had me pretty excited to see it. but oh how things change.
i should say at this point that i know nothing about the actual hulk comic books, so i don't know which film is more faithful to the real hulk story and the characters or anything like that. therefor, my discussion of the films is based solely on the films.
i sat down earlier this week to re-watch The Hulk, since i hadn't seen it since 2003 in the theater, and it just wasn't as good as i remembered it. and then, on friday i went to see The Incredible Hulk and it just wasn't that good to begin with. but, like i said before, they are two very different films.
i had a sense they would be quite different even before i saw The Incredible Hulk. first off, louis leterrier is quite a different director then ang lee: lee has made films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountian and The Ice Storm, where as leterrier's three other films are Unleashed and The Transporter 1 and 2. also, given the general negative response to lee's film, i was pretty sure the studio would want to do it differently this time around.
i knew things were different about 30 seconds into The Incredible Hulk. the film opens with writing on the screen that says, 'days without incident - 157'. bam!! he is already the hulk and he is trying to control it. it took lee's film 45 minutes till we got our first glimpse of the green guy, but in this new film we are told right off the bat he is already the hulk and within 10 minutes or so we see our cgi friend big, green and very angry. while that is only one point, it is a perfect example of how these two films differ.
lee's film is all about the psychology of the character and his inner struggle with what is going on inside him, with his father who made him this way and the girl he loves. leterrier's film is all about the action. ya, sure norton has demons inside and is focused on controlling his anger and does have a love interest, but it all feels very secondary to ' hulk smash!!'
not that i was disappointed from the start though. in fact, when The Incredible Hulk starts off and throws us right into the story in progress so-to-speak, i was thinking, ok this could be fun. they are assuming we know the basic story (scientist, gamma rays, things go wrong, yada yada yada) and they just want to throw us right in. the problem is that they threw us right into a pretty typical action movie. you know the kind that love special effect and big action sequences, but don't really care about the characters on anything more then a superficial level. and it was because of this that as the film went on i found myself losing interest.
the special effects are great and the big action set pieces are involved and quite impressive. but, besides that i was only mildly interested in the rest of it. watching it, you really get the feeling that the studio was all over this from the beginning and really focused on getting a lot more bang for their buck then they did in the 2003 version.
speaking of the 2003 version, there was a fair amount about it that i did like. i liked that we got an origin story. the way he became the hulk was a major part of the film, whereas in The Incredible Hulk we only get it mentioned quickly in passing and a few flashback images.
i also liked the depth of character that lee brought to the film and the editing style with all the comic book framing and multiple angles on the screen at the same time was a fun touch that i found viscerally appealing.
i also prefered jennifer connoly to liv tyler. i like liv, but the script she was working with didn't help her any by relegating her to the damsel in distress, the ann darrow in this green king kong story.
however, lee's film is a bit slow and long. although, that isn't the real issue. rather i think that is just made more evident because the film itself is so overbearing and heavy. it really isn't that much fun
in the end the better of the two films is the 2003 version. however, both of them are flawed, but this new version should do much better at the box office given its more action pact and general audience friendly. it seems like the studio feels the same way because the appearance of another recently launched franchise character at the end of the movie suggests there are a few more films planned.
p.s. i have heard that leterrier's original cut of the film was a good 30-45 minutes longer then what the studios made him stream line it down to. this gives me hope that the directors cut of the film will be a much fuller and more interesting film.... guess its wait for the special edition dvd time.