June 30th, 2003

Went out to see “The Hulk” last night. What an absolutely horrible movie. I guess I understand that it’s been getting mixed reviews (I can’t bring myself to read movie reviews; there’s simply no Pauline Kael out there these days making it worth my while), but I’m not at all sure I understand where the good side of the mix is coming from.

Well, OK, I guess the animation is pretty good. I admire Ang Lee’s attempt to capture the feel of a comic book with all the split screen stuff (though I neither think it was necessary, nor particularly effective). And, unlike some of the folks I went with, I wasn’t bothered by the fact that you’re 45 minutes into the film before the Hulk shows up — at least I wasn’t until I started looking at that 45 minutes as just another chunk of time lost to this dog.

My main problems with the movie derive from the horrendous performances of Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte (who, to be fair, didn’t have much of a script to work with) and from the fact that once the Hulk does show up, the plot pretty much takes a back seat to the effects and the action. It’s much the same problem that I’ve seen in a lot of current big action films (the second X-Men film is one notable recent exception — and actually I think most of the Marvel Comics-based movies have been pretty good). I use the term “action porn” to describe these movies. As in porn, plot is either non-existent or silly, serving only as a mechanism for binding what really drives the film, in this case big action scenes. And, look, that stuff may have its place. Certainly, it’s exactly what one should expect in a Vin Diesel vehicle. I just feel like Ang Lee and Marvel Comics, who have a track record for making smart films and smart comic books, can do better. (Never mind the Matrix folks, who made a great first movie then completely ruined the whole thing with the worst sequel since Police Academy 7.)

So will I go see the Spider-Man sequel next year? Yup. The first one was good and I have high hopes for the second. I’ll probably hit that Punisher movie when it comes out, too. And whatever else Marvel produces until things start falling apart for real (please, Marvel, get Captain America and Fantastic Four movies in before that, though — and no using Vin Diesel as the voice of the Ever Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing, OK?). But I won’t see a Hulk sequel no matter how much money this one makes. They’ve lost me on that front. Sorry.

One more note from my trip to the movies last night. Disappointing, but true. It comes from the Eventually Mike Myers Was Bound To Do Something To Make Me Hate Him file, and it’s called “The Cat in the Hat.” Saw the trailer for the latest pop-cultured-up Hollywood desecration of a Seuss masterpiece before “The Hulk,” and, well, I guess I’ve said what needs to be said. Except this: Mike, I’ve really dug everything you’ve ever done. I really do think you’re the second funniest man on earth (after Mr. Murray, of course). But this shit is just too much. Leave the making a fool of yourself while destroying wonderful children’s literature gig to Jim Carey, who was never worth half a damn to begin with, and make something funny and original, like “So I Married an Axe Murderer” (brilliant stuff; no, I’m not being sarcastic) or, if ya need to be cute, something like “Shrek,” which was clever if a bit overwrought. Just please stop ruining you for me.

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