Hulk Blu-ray Review
PictureSay what you want about the film itself, but the 1.85:1 (not 2.35:1 as it claims on the back of the box) BD transfer is phenomenal. I never actually saw the HD version of the movie but I know that it was very highly thought of - and this VC-1 transfer is hardly likely to disappoint. And, make no mistake, if green is your favourite colour then you're going to be in heaven with this.
The colours all the way across the spectrum are excellent, with a delightfully vibrant hue that can be, at times, realistic if generously saturated, and at others - the garish tones of the Hulk, himself and the awesome chemical-bubble scene changes or the out-and-out cartoon embellishments - literally burst from the screen with gorgeously thick spatterings of Marvel-intensity. The orange and burnished tones of the desert rocks and the gleam of scientific machinery all possess a richness and eye-embracing degree of warmth. But green is the order of the day, folks, and it seems to permeate more than just the big feller's hide, with it potent effect dripping through scenes like a fungus growing inside the film. Despite this terrifically strong palette, I noticed no smearing taking place and the deeper swathes of primaries revealed no elements of banding either.
The layer of finite grain has been preserved and the waxy look of DNR-tinkering is blessedly absent. The contrast is spot-on throughout, with the desert whites and hazy skies looking very accurate and the night-time scenes exhibiting very strong blacks and fine shadow-play. Hulk standing in the gloom behind the tree - like that was ever going to hide him, eh - reveals a nice degree of subdued colour saturation amid the murk, as well. Skin tones are excellent whether inside or out, or seen in light or dark conditions.
Details in the rocks and the lichen, the reflections in a pool and the foliage that so interest the Hulk are now much more pronounced than in any SD version. Facial detail too is exemplary, with the spots and minute scars on Bana's face all perfectly offered up for scrutiny. The eyes, especially Connelly's mesmerising set, have a keenness and vibrancy that is, at times, astonishing. The crags on Sam Elliott's rugged chops and the finite definition of his chrome flat-top (and just look at those eyebrows! Every single strand clearly defined), the haunted glimmer in Nolte's eyes and the crazed latticework of his jumble of long hair and whiskers - all picked-out with very assured clarity. The bright stars that we suddenly see as the plane roars into the upper atmosphere are clean and sharply etched, as are the waves and splashes of the San Francisco Bay. Electrical sparks and shards of glass and other assorted debris are crisp and smartly presented. Fast action is never dogged by blurring or drag and the chaos of the mutant-dog brawl, the desert rampage - with gunships, scattering star-clusters of bombs and numerous bullet-hits on Hulk's impregnable flesh - and the facility breakout very impressively packed with sharp detail that gleefully invites scrutiny. The close-ups, though, are what truly impress - with some of the best imagery that I've seen in 1080p with regards to eyes, skin and tears.
Three-dimensionality is definitely inherent in this transfer as well. The tank hurled into the distance and the reverse shot as the battered driver climbs out of the wreckage to see his attacker run towards the horizon before practically leaping over it provides more ample depth to the image, inviting viewer immersion. Look at the clarity of the rocky ridges and the blue sky with its powder-puff clouds for environmental pop. The cartoony Hulk - who really does look bogus in some of these desert shots - actually comes across as quite rounded and textured with regards to his surroundings. His placement within the frame is very good and enhanced considerably by a true sense of depth, even if he, himself, still looks fake when viewed objectively. Arguably, the greater definition renders the CG even less convincing than before, but you have to accept such things and move on, suspension of disbelief and all that. With so much exquisite detail and such a smothering of luxurious colour to bring an indulgent smile to your face, you shouldn't have too much of a problem doing that.
Yet there is still some minute damage to the print. On a couple of occasions and most noticeably during the scene when Betty comes to visit Bruce after his exposure to the Gamma rays, tiny black flecks appear - in this particular instance they flutter across Connelly's face. These are just little elements of source-glitches, but their appearance here was still somewhat unusual, given the wonderful quality of the image as a whole. Some noise is also apparent at times. But edge enhancement or artefacts do not hamper this transfer.
All in all, this is a tremendous picture that should easily impress. It is just too bad that I can't give out half marks. As it is, Hulk earns itself a glowing 9 out of 10.
SoundThankfully, The Hulk is also equipped with audio that will blow your socks off.
Equipped with DTS-MA 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), Universal's disc boasts wild bass levels that thunder across the floor, rocking the foundations and giving the guts a fearsome jiggling. When Hulk smashes tanks and shatters walls, you will feel it as well as hear it. His landings after those wild leaps are also nice and emphatic. The dog-tussle has plenty of, ahem, bite and the toppling cars down one particular street of San Francisco possess both great directionality and oomph. Hulk's voice - “Puny human” - actually doesn't sound quite as deep as I would have liked it to be, though, but this is just a personal quibble and not something lacking in the transfer.
This lossless upgrade also caters for the whirly-bird lovers out there, with plenty of well steered rotors whump-whumping about the set-up and engines roaring across the soundfield. Machineguns and missiles provide heaps of cool activity from speaker to speaker, spitting sharp and deadly detail around you. The full surround environment is also maintained right the way throughout the film, with voices, action and movement manifested from the rears consistently and often. Seamless panning around the set-up is also distinctly rewarding, lending the atmosphere a crisp and enveloping dynamism that captures every nuance of the on-screen action. Some of the explosions are actually viewed from a distance, yet the effect is still convincingly depicted by the DTS-MA, and the sound of the rubble from Ross's mountain-cum-parking-lot being hefted out of the way as Hulk clambers to freedom is nicely presented. Voices and dialogue are always clear and well rendered, even Nolte's slouchy, whisker-muffled vocals and Elliott's awesome growl gives off his distinctive throaty rumble without a hitch.
Danny Elfman's score has a fair degree of presence - certainly more power and depth than the SD's still impressive DTS mix - and his percussive tendencies are given a fine presentation that pounds and rattles around the full reach of the soundfield. The spread across the frontal array is smart and wide, the intention to place you in the heart of an active and aggressive aural environment is overt and successful, and the experience of watching Hulk is brilliantly engrossing and cinematically charged. No complaints here, folks.
If pushed, I would say that I have heard cleaner and sharper audio tracks, even more powerful and detailed ones - but Hulk's DTS-MA remains a terrifically bombastic and hugely enjoyable track that you will definitely get a kick out of. 9 out of 10.
ExtrasWith a fair stack of extras adorning this BD release - and HD's much vaunted PiP track also gracing the disc - Hulk presents its case with somewhat conventional aplomb. Considering that this movie was such an audience-divider and that the themes explored within it were so avant-garde, I'm a little surprised at the lack if intellectual weight they offer and that some more recent opinions haven't been added. The selection, overall, covers all the usual bases for an fx-ridden comic-book adaptation with the looks, design and CG examined, the cast and screenplay chronicled and the requisite Marvel origins of the character lovingly revealed to us. There's nothing spectacular or particularly rewarding, however, about any of it.
Ang Lee carries the commentary on his own and is clearly impressed with his achievements and how his unique slant on the conventions of the genre will be a breath of fresh air. Sadly, of course, he is speaking to us from a time before the film's release and his enthusiasm is painfully optimistic when we consider the movie's lack of following. The track could have done with some other participants to liven things up a bit, but then considering that the cast, reputedly, had a tough time on the shoot, they may not have been all that willing to spend even more time in their director's company. Still, this is a fine and fact-packed track that only really disappoints because it is half the story and is no dated perhaps more than the film that it covers.
The PiP feature, entitled Inside The Rage, is exactly the same batch of featurettes as the SD edition's Hulk-Cam material. Only brief behind-the-scenes snippets and explorations of aspects such as stunts, cast interviews, FX and production, these are of the typical EPK style and quickly wearying. Possibly spurred on by the plentiful lulls between each drop-in vignette, I found this lacking and insubstantial and, in honesty, didn't last the distance.
The Making Of The Hulk is a 24-minute breakdown of the film's production. Entirely puff-pastry and far too snappy and smiley, this is chapterised into four sections looking at Cast And Crew, Stunts, ILM's fx-work and Danny Elfman's score in Music. Nothing here stands out, I'm afraid. By now, we've seen a million of these things and we need some sincere thoughts and opinions to make such material anywhere near relevant or fresh. Particularly, the sections of Dennis Muren and ILM lack substance or interest. As cutting edge as they think they were being, history has proved that their results were not as convincing as they would have us believe. Again, something in the way of a retrospective look-back would have been much more beneficial.
The Evolution Of The Hulk (16 mins) is the typical life and times of the Jolly Green Giant as evidenced on the page and TV screen. Led merrily by creator Stan Lee, we meet various writers and artists who pay homage to the behemoth and see some awesome artwork. Lou Ferrigno's and Bruce Baxter's much-loved serialised version gets a look in, as does the weird 60's cartoon show (just released in its entirety on R2 SD, by the way, Hulk-fans). This sort of thing is great and wholly valid and, in all honesty, I wish it could have gone on for longer. However, having watched the similar Marvel rundown for Iron Man on its terrific Blu-ray disc, this one feels severely truncated.
The Unique Style Of Editing Hulk (5 mins) and The Incredible Ang Lee (13 mins) provide nothing we needed to see. The latter, especially, is pap of the worst variety. Yes, everyone wanted to work with the guy behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Ride With The Devil and, yes, it is cool the way that the filmmaker opted to have himself bedecked in mo-capture dots to essay the movements and expressions he wants the Hulk to adopt, but this is really just cheesy padding.
The Dog Fight Scene (10 mins) focuses on the film's first big action sequence and breaks it down from conception, through shooting and the finalising of the effects. At least, here, we find out about the severe audaciousness that Lee initially wanted and the harsh reality of getting it financed. A little roundtable with ILM's whiz-kids shows the tactful manner in which the ambitious filmmaker's dreams are reduced quite considerably.
Then we are treated to six Deleted Scenes that run for 8 mins. There is nothing here that warrants a repeat viewing. Lou Ferrigno's cameo security guard is allowed a further moment in which he actually speaks to Bana, but of the scene when he is supposed to have “fought” the Hulk - which Ferrigno, himself, has mentioned in interviews, there is still no sign.
Basically, I am unsatisfied with the quality of the extras here, as a whole. This is a character and an interpretation that needs much more time and effort to fully get a handle on. But, then again, the Hulk will be probably be explored in much greater depth when Leterrier's version arrives on disc shortly. This array fills all the extra-features categories, however, so it will still please some people.
VerdictAng Lee put together a courageous interpretation of a much-loved character. He took a few strange turns in bringing the Hulk to big screen life, but he should be applauded for at least trying to do something a little different with the material, instead of being derided. For sure, the father/son Greek Tragedy mythos is left-field and perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, actually unnecessary to have given cinematic life to the Hulk, but this take was deliberately delving into uncharted areas that sought to invigorate the background to the rage, and lend Bruce, who in comics and TV shows, was never given anything other than a sketchy scientific story that made him merely a cipher, a vehicle to move his monstrous other half around whilst dormant, some much-needed soul.
Universal's disc looks and sounds terrific, making a lot of other releases green with envy. Sorry, couldn't resist that one. But the extras are lacking in any real substance with too much coming over as EPK pap and some boring repetition. However, I definitely recommend this disc to fans and lovers of comic-book adaptations. It bravely takes a story that everybody knows and, throwing caution to the wind, creates an entirely new world out of it that, in my opinion anyway, has a lot more integrity and invention than it would have done had it gone down the safe route of simply hurling monsters at one another.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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