Book Review: Telos Movie Classics - Hulk / Author: Tony Lee / Publisher: Telos Publishing Ltd / Release Date: Out Now
It's not easy being green. While the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor found almost instant popularity in their big screen exploits, The Hulk has struggled from one misfire to the next. It wasn't until this year's Avengers that the grumpy green giant achieved any sort of popularity (mostly at the expense of the unfortunate Asgardians on the receiving end of his ire). Tony Lee's Hulk examines the most controversial of the Hulk movies – the Ang Lee film of the same name.
It's a brave move, taking a whole book to discuss the merits of a movie which many regard to be one of the most disappointing comic book adaptations of all time. Ang Lee's Hulk attempts the same trick as Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, striving for realism, intelligence and character depth alongside a story about a man who turns green and punches tanks. Unfortunately, the director misjudged his audience's appetite for that sort of thing, and didn't deliver nearly enough of the HULK SMASH that people might have been expecting when they went to see a film called Hulk. Still, it's a fascinating film despite its faults, and one which Tony Lee dissects in admirable detail.
One's enjoyment of this book will depend entirely upon their taste for the film itself, since Tony Lee makes no attempt to hide his admiration for Hulk and its director. If you're of the mindset that the 2003 film is a worthless pile of steaming Hulk turds, this book will do little to change your mind. All film fans have been there though – ardently loving a movie which the vocal majority has decided is terrible. This book is Tony Lee's riposte to the critics. Who knows, maybe one day I will get around to penning a defence of Punisher: War Zone.
Hulk is very serious film criticism, with Lee tackling the film's symbology, literary references and subtext. There's no room for humour, nor any admission of the film's faults. Like its subject, the book is very serious, some might say bordering on pretentious. Yet Tony Lee's enthusiasm is infectious. Ardent haters of the film won't be argued with, but go in with an open mind and you may find yourself convinced by his writing. Admittedly, I was sympathetic to Lee's cause to begin with, but I found myself looking at certain scenes in a different light. I will never be convinced, however, that the CGI is ever anything but silly. It's realistic if you let yourself think it is, is the gist of his excuses here. Yeah, but Hulk look like angry Shrek.
He's less enthusiastic about Louis Leterrier's Incredible Hulk, which comes in for quite the bashing during the final chapter. Granted The Incredible Hulk is a dumber, trashier movie, but it seems unfair to ignore most of Hulk's flaws while listing all of its reboot's. Edward Norton and Louis Letterier beware - you won't like this film essayist when he's angry. Tony Lee smash puny comic book movie.
Hulk is a well-written, deftly researched, intelligent and thoughtful book on one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated comic book movies of our time. Whether you're a fan of the movie or not, the least it deserves is a little discussion.