Describe Morality and Ethics of the Character:
Hulk dir. Ang Lee
The Incredible Hulk Reboot
Hulk Vs. Wolverine
The Hulk: Fact vs. Fiction
Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
July 2, 2003
A few years ago, the filmmakers behind The Hulk began surfing the Internet in search of some real-life
science to update the classic comic book story about a shy scientist who transforms into a raging beast.
On the Web site for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, they found what they were looking for: the
Gamma Sphere, a super-advanced spectrometer designed to detect gamma rays, extremely powerful
With its vivid colors and angled metal supports, the hulking machine looked the perfect part. Hollywood
technology wizards quickly built their own replica of the Gamma Sphere. In the movie, the monster within
Bruce Banner is unleashed after the scientist is hit with gamma rays during an experiment.
"The Gamma Sphere in the movie is very realistic and looks the same as the real one," said I-Yang Lee, who
heads Berkeley's nuclear physics program. "But there's one big difference. Our Gamma Sphere doesn't emit
radiation, it detects it."
OK, so there may not be a real gamma ray machine that occasionally zaps poor scientists and turns them into
giant green monsters. Hollywood can still twist the truth to fit or embellish a story.
But the science behind Hollywood movies is turning increasingly sophisticated. As audiences grow more
science savvy—there are even Web sites rating movies based on the plausibility of movie physics—
filmmakers strive to make their movies as scientifically realistic as possible.
Mutated DNA
In The Hulk, Banner's father, David, an Army scientist, gets a little carried away with an experiment to boost
his immune system by mutating his DNA. He survives, but passes on the mutated DNA to his son, Bruce.
When Bruce, who grows up to be a scientist, is hit with a massive dose of gamma radiation—fatal to anyone
with a normal genetic makeup—he doesn't die. Instead, the accident triggers the mutated DNA and unleashes
the Hulk within Bruce.
To ensure that the story was based on accurate science, Universal Pictures hired a science consultant, John
Underkoffler, to work on the movie.
"The first thing they wanted me to come up with was an explanation for the research that the scientists in the
film were pursuing, which would then lead to the accident that creates the Hulk," said Underkoffler.
"[The director] also wanted all the background, the techniques and gestures, from how to hold a beaker to the
more theoretical, to be as realistic as possible."
While the mutations that the Hulk goes through are clearly in the comic book realm, doctors in real life are able
to introduce genes into the body to repair damage on a sub-cellular level.
The catalyst that triggers the younger Banner's transformation may not be that far-fetched either. Studies have
documented the amazing effects of the addition of a simple dose of adrenaline into the bloodstream of animals
and humans.
Adrenaline boosts has been known to provide brief episodes of superhuman strength, like the time when a
123-pound (56-kilogram) Florida mom reportedly lifted a 3,000-pound (1,350-kilogram) vehicle off her trapped
Teaching Comic Book Science
A few books, such as The Science of Superheroes by Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg, test the science
depicted in comic books. Some university professors, like James Kakalios of the University of Minnesota in
Minneapolis, even believe the fantastic feats of superheroes are useful for teaching physics.
Kakalios teaches a physics course nicknamed, "Everything I know of science, I learnt from reading comic
books," where final exam projects have posed such questions as: "If you, like the comic book hero the Flash,
were to run around the world in 80 seconds, how much would you have to eat in order to have the calories?"
(Answer: everything in The Joy of Cooking—26 times).
"Students are so busy enjoying their superhero ice cream sundae that they don't notice that I'm sneakily
getting them to lower their guard and eat their spinach at the same time," Kakalios told an American Physical
Society meeting in Austin, Texas, this spring.
Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics
Then there are the self-proclaimed "techno-nerds," who dissect and criticize every technical or scientific detail
in movies. One Web site, "Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics," even reviews movies based on their scientific
Titanic, Pearl Harbor and the first Terminator movie all receive a "PGP" rating for "pretty good physics."
Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Armageddon, and AI: Artificial Intelligence were slapped with
"XP" ratings for containing "physics from an unknown universe." Tom Rogers, an engineer who runs the Web
site, has not seen The Hulk, but based on the trailers and on-line reviews his impression is that its physics are
"pure comic book silliness."
"In theory, a rapid metamorphosis process is possible, but not on the level depicted in the movie," he said.
Rogers believes that, short term, the Hulk's strength could increase by as much as ten times, and the
perceived size could increase by, say, 25 percent.
This could be done by some combination of inhaling and changing to a more upright posture.
"However, it couldn't be done without decreasing density," he said. "The Hulk appears to be at least twice his
normal human height when he first appears.
"This would mean an increase in volume of eight times and an increase in weight of eight times. Where would
all this mass come from?"
Meanwhile, I-Yang Lee, the nuclear scientist at the Berkeley lab, saw the movie. He agrees that it's not
realistic, but says he still liked it.
"At least it had a plot," he said. "Science fiction movies don't always have that."
© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.
Release Date: 2003
Ebert Rating: ***
By Roger Ebert Jun 20, 2003
The Hulk is rare among Marvel superheroes in that his powers are a curse, not an advantage. When
rage overcomes Dr. Bruce Banner and he turns into a green monster many times his original size, it
is not to fight evil or defend the American way, but simply to lash out at his tormentors. Like the
Frankenstein stories that are its predecessors, "Hulk" is a warning about the folly of those who would
toy with the secrets of life. It is about the anguish of having powers you did not seek and do not
desire. "What scares me the most," Banner tells his only friend, Betty Ross, "is that when it happens,
when it comes over me, when I totally lose control, I like it." Ang Lee's "Hulk" (the movie's title drops
"the") is the most talkative and thoughtful recent comic book adaptation. It is not so much about a
green monster as about two wounded adult children of egomaniacs. Banner (Eric Bana) was
fathered by a scientist (Nick Nolte) who has experimented on his own DNA code, and passed along
genes that are transformed by a lab accident into his son's hulkhood. Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly)
is his research partner; they were almost lovers, but it didn't work out, and she speaks wryly of "my
inexplicable fascination with emotionally distant men." Her cold father is General Ross (Sam Elliott),
filled with military bluster and determined to destroy the Hulk.
These two dueling oedipal conflicts are at the heart of "Hulk," and it's touching how in many scenes
we are essentially looking at damaged children. When the Hulk's amazing powers become known,
the military of course tries to kill him (that's the routine solution in most movies about aliens and
monsters), but there's another villain who has a more devious scheme. That's Talbot (Josh Lucas), a
venal entrepreneur who wants to use Banner's secret to manufacture a race of self-repairing
soldiers. Lots of money there.
The movie brings up issues about genetic experimentation, the misuse of scientific research and our
instinctive dislike of misfits, and actually talks about them. Remember that Ang Lee is the director of
films such as "The Ice Storm" and "Sense and Sensibility," as well as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon"; he is trying here to actually deal with the issues in the story of the Hulk, instead of simply
cutting to brainless special effects.
Just as well, too, because the Hulk himself is the least successful element in the film. He's
convincing in closeup but sort of jerky in long shot--oddly, just like his spiritual cousin, King Kong.
There are times when his movements subtly resemble the stop-frame animation used to create
Kong, and I wonder if that's deliberate; there was a kind of eerie oddness about Kong's movement
that was creepier than the slick smoothness of modern computer-generated creatures.
"King Kong" is of course one of Lee's inspirations, in a movie with an unusual number of references
to film classics. "Bride of Frankenstein" is another, as in a scene where Hulk sees his reflection in a
pond. No prizes for identifying "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as the source of the original comics. Other
references include "Citizen Kane" (the Hulk tears apart a laboratory) and "The Right Stuff" (a jet
airplane flies so high the stars are visible). There also is a shade of Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Gen.
Ross, who is played by Elliott in a masterful demonstration of controlled and focused almostoveracting.
The film has its share of large-scale action sequences, as rockets are fired at the Hulk and he
responds by bringing down helicopters. And there are the obligatory famous landmarks, real and
unreal, we expect in a superhero movie; the Golden Gate Bridge, Monument Valley, and of course
an elaborate secret laboratory where Hulk can be trapped in an immersion chamber while his DNA is
But these scenes are secondary in interest to the movie's central dramas, which involve the two sets
of fathers and children. Banner has a repressed memory of a traumatic childhood event, and it is
finally jarred loose after he meets his father again after many years. Nolte, looking like a man in
desperate need of a barber and flea powder, plays Banner's dad as a man who works in the same
laboratory, as a janitor. He uses DNA testing to be sure this is indeed his son, and in one
clandestine conversation tells him, "You're going to have to watch that temper of yours." Connelly's
character also has big issues with her father--she trusts him when she shouldn't--and it's amusing
how much the dilemma of this character resembles the situation of the woman she played in "A
Beautiful Mind." Both times she's in love with a brilliant scientist who's a sweetheart until he goes
haywire, and who thinks he's being pursued by the government.
The movie has an elegant visual strategy; after countless directors have failed, Ang Lee figures out
how split-screen techniques can be made to work. Usually they're an annoying gimmick, but here he
uses moving frame-lines and pictures within pictures to suggest the dynamic storytelling techniques
of comic books. Some shots are astonishing, as foreground and background interact and reveal one
another. There is another technique, more subtle, that reminds me of comics: He often cuts between
different angles in the same closeup--not cutting away, but cutting from one view of a face to
another, as graphic artists do when they need another frame to deal with extended dialogue.
Whether "Hulk" will appeal to its primary audience--teenage science fiction fans--is hard to say. No
doubt it will set the usual box office records over the weekend, but will it reach audiences who will
respond to its dramatic ambition? Ang Lee has boldly taken the broad outlines of a comic book story
and transformed them to his own purposes; this is a comic book movie for people who wouldn't be
caught dead at a comic book movie.
Cast & Credits
Bruce Banner: Eric Bana
Betty Ross: Jennifer Connelly
Father: Nick Nolte
Ross: Sam Elliott
Talbot: Josh Lucas
Young David Banner: Paul Kersey
Universal Pictures Presents A Film Directed By Ang Lee. Written By John Turman, Michael France,
James Schamus, Jack Kirby And Stan Lee. Based On The Story By James Schamus. Running
Time: 138 Minutes. Rated PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Action Violence, Some Disturbing Images And Brief
Partial Nudity).
copyright 2005,
Hulk Vs. Wolverine, 2009
What is the point of this film? We have not discussed Wolverine as a character but I’m sure
many of you are familiar with him. What is the contrast between Hulk and Wolverine?