Magazine article The Christian Century

Brains and Brawn. (Impressions)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Brains and Brawn. (Impressions)

Article excerpt

IN THE MIDDLE of a summer of cultural and political discontent, there is a ray of hope--a few Hollywood films are showing respect for the intellect. Mindless films, usually so prevalent in the movie scene, have given way to a few mindful films. Take Hulk, for example.

Hulk? It is the sort of summer fare that would not normally call for serious intellectual reflection. Of course, comic book aficionados will insist that the best comic artists are anything but mindless, and will point out that many of the superheroes they create have their origins in literary history. Still, it would have been easy to rely on the latest special effects to draw summer audiences to Hulk. But as Peter Bart points out in a recent Variety column, Universal Pictures raised the bar when it hired high-concept artist Ang Lee to direct a film about "a brooding and brilliant young nuclear biotechnologist at Berkeley."

The Taiwanese-born Lee, 49, is credited with several previous films: the thoughtful and creative Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and an adaptation of Rick Moody's novel The Ice Storm. Lee's treatment of the Hulk is his first "tent-pole" film. The industry uses this term to describe a film that is distributed more widely in order to sell more tickets in the first few weeks of release. When a tent-pole film succeeds, its makes enough money to "hold up" the studio. With Lee as director and James Schamus as writer, Hulk may have the strong early start of a tent-pole film followed by additional success as the public realizes its depth.

As Bart points out, a film that dares to examine the anguish of its lead characters is a box-office risk when summer audiences want only escapism with their popcorn. But it's a sign of hope when the public responds to deeper fare. Young scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) and his colleague and girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) perform in the context of a simple comic book story. But they are working within another context as well--the context of a film that uses comic book flare boldly in its editing, and relies on Schamus's literate script to capture the ambiguity of a complex relationship.

Connelly has been here before. She played a similar role as the supportive wife in A Beautiful Mind, another mindful film about a brilliant but troubled researcher. She adjusts quickly to the fact that Banner makes a dramatic transformation when his anger explodes--into a green 15-foot, 1,500-pound monster of rage. This is comic book territory with a clear message: troubled men need strong women to keep them from spinning totally out of control. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.