Hulk (also known as The Hulk) is a 2003 superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character of the same name. Ang Lee directed the film, which stars Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte and Josh Lucas. The film explores the origins of the Hulk, which is mainly attributed to Banner's father's experiments on himself, and passing these genes on to his son.
Development for the film started as far back as 1990. The film was at one point to be directed by Joe Johnston and then Jonathan Hensleigh. More scripts had been written by Hensleigh, John Turman, Michael France, Zak Penn, J. J. Abrams, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Michael Tolkin and David Hayter before Ang Lee and James Schamus' involvement. Hulk was shot mostly in California, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. The film was released with mixed reviews, and was a box office disappointment. Marvel Studios rebooted in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk.
Bruce succumbs to a scientific experiment accident. Afterwards, we see Bruce sitting in a hospital bed telling Betty that he's never felt better, which she can't fathom due to the fact that the nanomeds have killed everything else they've touched. The radiation has intertwined with Bruce's already-altered DNA. That night, his father confronts him, revealing their relationship and hinting at the mutation inside Bruce. Using Bruce's DNA, he begins experimentation on animals. Soon after, the building rage within him stemming from all of the stresses building up around him activates his gamma-radiated DNA, transforming Bruce into the Hulk.
After the destruction at the lab, Bruce is found unconscious and at home by Betty. Bruce barely remembers his transformation, a sensation similar to birth. Ross arrives, suspicious, and places him under house arrest as well as taking over Bruce and Betty's lab. That night, David phones Bruce and tells him he has unleashed three mutant dogs to Betty's house. Enraged and attacked by Talbot, Bruce transforms again and, after seriously injuring Talbot and the guards, fights and kills all three dogs and saves Betty. The next morning, Bruce is tranquilized and taken to an enormous underground base in the desert. Betty tries to convince her father to allow her to attempt to help Bruce control his transformations, but Ross remains extremely skeptical, believing Bruce is "damned" to follow in his father's footsteps. In the meantime, David breaks into the lab and subjects himself to the nanomeds and the gammasphere, gaining the ability to meld with and absorb the properties of anything he can touch.
Talbot, seeing an opportunity to profit from the Hulk's strength and regenerative capability, attacks and taunts Bruce, but fails. Talbot puts him in a sensory deprivation tank and induces a nightmare that triggers his repressed memories and transforms him into the Hulk, eventually leading to the death of Talbot. David confronts Betty and offers to turn himself in. In exchange, he asks to speak to Bruce "one last time." The Hulk escapes the base in the process. He battles the army in the desert, defeating four tanks and two Comanche Helicopters, and leaps all the way to San Francisco to find Betty again. Betty contacts her father and convinces him to take her to meet the Hulk, believing that he needs "a chance to calm down." Bruce's love for her comes through the Hulk, and he transforms back into his human form. David is allowed to visit the base and talk to Bruce. David, having descended into megalomania, fails to convince Bruce to give him his power. David transforms into a powerful electrical being after biting into a wire and absorbing the energy. Bruce then transforms into the Hulk and battles his father. Both are presumed dead after Ross orders a Gamma Charge Bomb to end the fight, leaving no trace of either men. A year later there have still been numerous sightings of the Hulk. Bruce finds exile in the Amazon Rainforest as a doctor in a medical camp.
Johnston dropped out of directing in July 1997 in favor of October Sky, paving the way for Hensleigh to have his directing debut. Turman was brought back a second time to write two more drafts, the second of which was rewritten by Zak Penn. Turman's script featured the Leader and Rick Jones, as well as the canonical atomic explosion origin from the comics. Penn's script featured a fight scene with the Hulk and a school of sharks. Hensleigh himself started from scratch, coming up with a brand new storyline. In August 1997 Hensleigh completed his script, featuring Bruce Banner, who prior to the accident which will turn him into The Hulk, performs experiments with gamma-irradiated insect DNA on three convicts. This transforms the convicts into "insect men" that cause havoc.
Filming was set to start in December 1997 in Arizona for a mid-1999 release date, but was pushed back to April 1998. Hensleigh subsequently rewrote the script with J. J. Abrams. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski were also brought on board to rewrite with Hensleigh still attached as director. In October 1997, Hulk had entered pre-production with the creation of prosthetic makeup and computer animation already under way. Gregory Sporleder was cast as "Novak", Banner's archenemy. Lynn "Red" Williams was cast as a convict who transforms into a combination of human, ant and beetle. In March 1998 Universal put Hulk on hiatus due to its escalating $100 million budget and worries of Hensleigh directing his first film. $20 million was already spent on script development, computer animation and prosthetics work. Hensleigh immediately went to rewrite the script in order to lower the budget.
France stated his vision of the film was different from the other drafts, which based Bruce Banner on his "amiable, nerdy genius" incarnation in the 1960s. France cited inspiration from the 1980s Hulk stories which introduced Brian Banner, Bruce's abusive father who killed his mother. His script had Banner trying to create cells with regenerative capabilities in order to prove to himself that he is not like his father. However, he has anger management issues before the Hulk is even created, which makes everything worse. The "Don't make me angry..." line from the TV series was made into dialogue that Banner's father would say before beating his son. Elements such as the "Gammasphere", Banner's tragic romance with Ross, and the black ops made it to the final film. France turned in his final drafts in late 1999—January 2000.
Schamus was still rewriting the script in October 2001. In early 2002, as filming was underway, Michael France read all the scripts for the Writers Guild of America, to determine who would get final credit. France criticized Schamus and Hayter for claiming they were aiming to make Banner a deeper character, and was saddened they had denigrated his and Turman's work in interviews. Schamus elected to get solo credit. France felt, "James Schamus did a significant amount of work on the screenplay. For example, he brought in the Hulk dogs from the comics and he made the decision to use Banner's father as a real character in the present. But he used quite a lot of elements from John Turman's scripts and quite a lot from mine, and that's why we were credited. France, Turman and Schamus received final credit. A theatrical release date for June 20, 2003 was announced in December 2002, with the film's title as The Hulk.
Filming began on March 18, 2002 in Arizona, and moved on April 19 to the San Francisco Bay Area. This included Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley labs, Oakland, Treasure Island military base and the sequoia forests of Porterville, before several weeks in the Utah and Californian deserts. Filming then moved to the Universal backlot in Los Angeles, using Stage 12 for the water tank scene, before finishing in the first week of August. Filming of Hulk constituted hiring 3000 local workers, generating over $10 million into the local economy. Mychael Danna, who previously collaborated with Lee on Ride with the Devil and The Ice Storm, was set to compose the film score before dropping out. Danny Elfman was then hired.
Eric Bana commented that the shoot was, "Ridiculously serious... a silent set, morbid in a lot of ways." Lee told him that he was shooting a Greek tragedy: he would be making a "whole other movie" about the Hulk at Industrial Light & Magic. An example of Lee's art house approach to the film was taking Bana to watch a bare-knuckle boxing match. Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren was on the set every day. One of the many visual images in the film that presented an acting challenge for Bana was a split screen technique employed by Lee to cinematically mimic the panels of a comic book page. This required many more takes of individual scenes than normal. Sound design was completed at Skywalker Sound. Muren and other ILM animators used previous technology from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (for the Dobby character) to create the Hulk with computer-generated imagery. Other software used included PowerAnimator, Softimage XSI and RenderMan Interface Specification. ILM started computer animation work in 2001, and completed in May 2003, just one month before the film's release. Lee provided some motion capture work in post-production.
Hulk received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 61% approval rating, and 53% from their "Top Critics" category. By comparison Metacritic collected an average score of 54 based on 41 reviews. Roger Ebert gave a largely positive review, explaining, "Ang Lee is trying to actually deal with the issues in the story of the Hulk, instead of simply cutting to brainless visual effects." Ebert also liked how the Hulk's movements resembled King Kong. Although Peter Travers of Rolling Stone felt Hulk should have been shorter, he heavily praised the action sequences, especially the climax and cliffhanger. Paul Clinton of CNN believed the cast gave strong performances, but in an otherwise positive review, heavily criticized the computer-generated imagery, calling the Hulk "a ticked-off version of Shrek".
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle considered "the film is more thoughtful and pleasing to the eye than any blockbuster in recent memory, but its epic length comes without an epic reward. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe felt "Jennifer Connelly reprises her stand-by-your-messed-up-scientist turn from A Beautiful Mind. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly stated, "a big-budget comic-book adaptation has rarely felt so humorless and intellectually defensive about its own pulpy roots. Connelly and Danny Elfman received nominations at the 30th Saturn Awards with Best Actress and Best Music. The film was nominated for Best Science Fiction Film but lost out to X2. Dennis Muren, Michael Lantieri and the special effects crew were nominated for Best Special Effects.