There is a scene toward the conclusion of The Hulk that plays out like theatre.Bruce Banner, secured firmly to a metal chair, faces down his father, David, across the blackness of a military hanger. Two opposing chairs, each lit in the glow of a massive floodlight, set the scene for a confrontation that seems fit for Broadway.

Sparse and powerfully acted, void of music or cinematic frills, the sequence is the perfect enactment of Ang Lee's vision -- that of The Hulk as Grecian Drama.And the film flows accordingly, its plot crawling painfully slow from confrontation to confrontation, each set of characters endlessly rehashing the film's supply of dime-store psychobabble. Familial power-grabs and inner demons abound. Not quite Oedipal, but not far off. From repressed memories to inner rage, Lee has made a study of emotional triggers, coupling childhood trauma with genetic mutation to create one towering, green emotional scar.

Unfortunately, that kind of introspective drama simply can't sustain a comic book film, or at least not the one in question. And, to be honest, comic book adaptations are a kind of art film, requiring the delicate balance of stylistic action with the realistic character development that defines its title role. The hero for every alter-ego. Too much of either can ruin an honest attempt, which is why X-Men and Spiderman have done so very well.

But here Lee tips his hat, spilling over into dangerous territory. There simply isn't a deep enough story to justify the high-art drama, leaving the audience to squirm through the talk in anticipation of some "Hulk Smash" action, which doesn't fully arrive until the final half hour. This makes the character of the Hulk seem strangely like an afterthought, a rather tremendous spot of action thrown uncomfortably into a big-budget indie film. And just after what might have been the final large-scale battle, Lee squeezes in a ridiculous super-hero / super-villain confrontation that makes very little sense, pushing believable science into brow-raising fantasy.Sadly, though, the film is crafted so extraordinarily well, from the beautiful photography to a truly ingenious editing style, utilizing lush transitions with multi-panel displays. All of this makes the film, stylistically, the best comic-to-screen translation since God created Stan Lee and Avi Arad. Which makes the altogether absence of the Hulk and the overabundance of drama so painfully disappointing.

Overall, The Hulk is a visually stunning film to be seen for two brief Hulk sequences and one thrilling, twenty-minute climax. Aside from that, what's offered simply isn't up to par with our appetite.

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