Telos Publishing, out now
A dissection of Ang Lee’s apparently much-misunderstood superhero movie…
Perhaps the first thing that needs to be got out of the way is that this short book is not the work of comic book writer Tony Lee, author of numerous Doctor Who stories, who has written for Marvel and DC Comics among many others. His insights into Hulk as a comic turned into superhero movie would no doubt be very different from those we get here.
There are some worthy things about this guide, in terms of its analysis of the roots of Hulk, although the almost reverential way in which Kenneth Johnson’s TV version is regarded gets a little annoying at times, although it surprisingly never quotes the “green-eyed son of the Fugitive” description that was in common usage when the show was on air. Both the film’s novelisation and its sequel are regarded quite disparagingly, as if they need to be pushed down in order to make Hulk seem more impressive – missing the point of some of Peter David’s (admittedly quite heavy-handed) satire in the former, and some of the jokes in the latter (the “make me hungry” bit wasn’t meant to be anything too serious!) – and some of Hulk’s own shortcomings are glossed over.
When the guide sticks to discussing the roots of the film in “practical” terms – such as its debts to earlier movies, TV series, and comic books – it’s quite engaging, but every so often, it wanders into territory that qualifies it for Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner (apparently the Hulk is like Peter Finch’s character in Network, representing “the incoherent protests of the so-called 99 percent.” The next sentence, though, is the clincher – you’ll have to buy the book to read it!)
Whether Hulk merits the serious treatment it’s given here is a question for the publishers – I can see a good book coming from an examination of the themes within all the Marvel movies, and how they have been tackled by directors as diverse as Lee, Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon – and it does feel sometimes as if the author is padding it to fill the word count. However, it’s an interesting defence of an often-derided movie, and might even get you to take the DVD off the shelf and give it a rewatch with fresh eyes…
Verdict: It won’t make you consider reassessing The Dark Knight (Rises) or The Avengers’ place in your personal Top 10, but it may give pause for thought. 7/10