Yellowstone‘s Josh Lucas looks back on the 2003 Ang Lee film Hulk and how different comic book movies are now. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took over cinemas and returned Marvel to being a pop culture pillar, Marvel Studios was still trying to get their characters converted into film format for the masses. Among them was Universal’s adaptation of The Incredible Hulk, which set film auteur Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in charge of the production. While the film was a financial success, it was divisive among critics and audiences alike, with fans in general disappointed with the adaptation and Lee himself has viewed the film as a failure within his resume of critically praised films.
One of the actors from Hulk, who has gone on to work on other successful projects like Yellowstone, is Lucas, who portrayed the character of Glenn Talbot, Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) arch-nemesis. While talking with The Playlist, Lucas reflected on the film and while he doesn’t necessarily defend it, does give insight as to why the film turned out the way it did, namely pointing out the technology and the time the film was made. With how complex the Hulk’s appearance and powers are, it makes sense that Lucas viewed this as a challenge for Lee and that it was one of the reasons that lead to the film’s downfall. Read Lucas’ full quote below:
I think the technology evolved, and [Ang Lee is] one of the people who pushed the technology to evolve. 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.
How The Hulk Has Changed Since Ang Lee’s Version
Despite how Hulk turned out, Lucas has been very supportive of Lee and even noted him as one of the best filmmakers around. He specifically pointed to Life of Pi and how the technology for Hulk was a precedent for how Lee challenged VFX artists and pushed for brilliant visuals. While Hulk‘s editing was maligned due to its poor replication of comic book panels and for the sheer redundancy of it, Lucas praised the decision and noted that most comic book movies today do not emulate this style.
The Hulk is a character who is defined by his rage and strength, things that were surprisingly toned down from Lee’s interpretation. Following Kevin Feige’s revamp and announcement of the MCU, Universal rebooted the character in The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton, that accurately depicted the character’s struggle as a genius and a raging monster. It wouldn’t be until The Avengers that audiences would fully fall in love with the character with Mark Ruffalo in the role. With how Marvel Studios is known for taking unique creative liberties with their characters, the Hulk went from being a brainless monster to a genius in a large super body dubbed “Smart Hulk”. Since then, Hulk has been seen as a staple of the MCU.
Lee is still regarded as a great filmmaker, so it is unfortunate that he was unable to exploit his talents with Hulk. He had previously stated that while he was proud of the film, he understood the limitations he had and was corrupted by the technological freedom that he was given for the film. It is unlikely that Lee will ever return to the world of comic books as he seems pleased with working on more personal projects. Despite the film’s failure, it did help with giving the Hulk more recognition as an iconic Marvel superhero and paved the way for the success of the MCU and other young filmmakers.
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