Whilst “Blade,” “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” helped kick off the wave of Marvel comic book movies we have now, one of the less talked about titles was Ang Lee’s 2003 feature “Hulk”.
Twenty years on, Lee’s film is looked back on as an interesting failure. Marking the first film adaptation of the character since the 1970s TV series, it was definitely trying for something and boasted a unique comic book panel visual style along with deep themes of generational trauma.
However, the reception to it was mixed – boasting a $137 million production budget, it was praised for its ambition but seen as muddled in its execution, and it remains something of an interesting failure. Even though it was one of the highest-grossing films of the year in 2003, with $245.4 million, it was seen as a financial disappointment.
The cast of the film included Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte and Josh Lucas. Lucas, who can be seen in “Yellowstone” in flashbacks, recently reflected on “Hulk” and tells The Playlist he thinks a lot of its issues stem from being simply too early for the tech to really convey the story Lee wanted to tell:
“I don’t use this word genius, but I think he’s truly up there as a, if not brilliant, genius filmmaker. Like you say, he was swinging for the rafters on [‘Hulk’]. I don’t think the technology was quite where his brain was…
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 way he was morphing, the way pages were flipping. I mean, he was creating a visual comic book. And I haven’t seen anybody do it quite the same way he was doing it – think about it, that’s twenty years ago, right? So, there’s an incredible auteur filmmaker beneath this monster, an early Marvel movie. I have nothing but respect for it.”
Lee had an idea lined up for the sequel but didn’t end up continuing the “Hulk” franchise, which was ultimately supplanted five years later by the Edward Norton-led MCU film “The Incredible Hulk”. That led to the past decade of Mark Ruffalo’s version of the character sticking to ensemble movies or the standalone films and shows of other MCU heroes.