|Hulk (also known as The Hulk) is a 2003 American superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character of the same name. Ang Lee directed the film, which stars Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film explores the origins of the Hulk, which is partially attributed to Banner’s father’s experiments on himself, and on his son.
Development for the film started as far back as 1990. The film was at one point to be directed by Joe Johnston and then Jonathan Hensleigh. More scripts had been written by Hensleigh, John Turman, Michael France, Zak Penn, J. J. Abrams, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Michael Tolkin, and David Hayter before Ang Lee and James Schamus’ involvement. Hulk was shot mostly in California, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The film grossed over $245 million worldwide, higher than its $137 million budget, but still considered somewhat of a disappointment. The film received mixed to very positive reviews from film critics. Many praised the writing, acting, character development of the film, and the music score by Danny Elfman, but criticized the character origins differing from the comics and the dark, depressing story plot. Producer Avi Arad called the film a “windfall” for Marvel at the box office, and that Hulk’s merchandising was successful enough to make a sequel. This eventually led to rebooting with The Incredible Hulk (2008), which is also viewed as a stand-alone sequel as much of the plot of The Incredible Hulk is continuous of Hulk.
David Banner is a genetics researcher who has figured out how to mutate human DNA so that the immune system can be even stronger causing the body to heal quickly from an injury or wound. He wants to use his research to create supersoldiers for the U.S. Army, but is denied permission to do it, so he experiments on himself. Once his wife gives birth to their son Bruce, David realizes his mutant DNA has been passed on and attempts to find a cure for his son’s condition. In 1973, the government, represented by a then-Lieutenant Colonel “Thunderbolt” Ross, shuts down his research after learning of his dangerous experiments. David, in a fit of rage, causes a massive explosion of the facilities’ gamma reactor, and in order to put an end to his fear of Bruce becoming a monster, arrives home to try to kill him, but however accidentally murders his wife when she tries to stop him. Banner, shocked and petrified by her death, is then put into a mental hospital, while 4-year-old Bruce is sent into foster care and adopted, suppressing the memories of his biological parents, believing them both to be deceased. The events surrounding his mother’s death and his father’s violent attack leaves Bruce unable to recall the details of his early childhood. He remembers his childhood in dreams, but never retains these memories after waking.
Years later, Bruce is a bionuclear researcher freshly-graduated at the University of California, Berkeley. The military-industrial complex, represented by Major Talbot, becomes interested in the research of “nanomeds”, to build a serum for regenerating soldiers. David reappears as a mysterious outcast in the city and begins infiltrating Bruce’s life, working as a janitor in the lab building. Ross, now an Army general and the estranged father of Bruce’s ex-girlfriend and co-researcher Betty Ross, also begins to investigate. He becomes concerned both for his daughter’s safety around Bruce and the fact that Bruce is working in the same field as David. After understanding that he is David’s son, he strictly prohibits him to be anywhere near Betty.
Bruce succumbs to an accident during a scientific experiment which exposes him to gamma radiation and the nanomeds, causing them to intertwine with Bruce’s already-altered DNA. That night, his father confronts him, revealing their relationship and hinting at the mutation inside Bruce. Using samples of Bruce’s DNA stolen from stray hair, he begins experimentation on animals. Soon after, the growing rage within Bruce stemming from all of the frustrations and stresses building up around him activates his irradiated DNA, transforming him into a huge,green, and muscular mutated moster (turning to Hulk for the first time).
After he destroys the lab he returns home, where he is found unconscious by Betty the following morning. When questioned by Betty he barely remembers his transformation. Ross arrives, suspicious, and places him under house arrest as well as taking over the lab. That night, David phones Bruce and tells him he has unleashed three mutant dogs to track down and kill Betty, whom he is angry at for being scolded by her about Bruce and only leaves her to be a test of determining further the Hulk. He is already enraged when he is attacked aggressively by Talbot for trying to escape the house, triggering another transformation. After seriously injuring Talbot and the guards, the Hulk heads off to Betty’s cabin out in the woods and fights the three massive, deformed dogs. After Hulk rips them apart, saving Betty, he goes towards the lake to cool down. The next morning, Bruce is tranquilized and taken to a desert underground base. Betty pleads with her father to let her try to help Bruce control his transformations, but Ross remains extremely skeptical, believing Bruce will follow in his father’s footsteps. In the meantime, David breaks into the lab and subjects himself to the nanomeds, gaining the ability to meld with and absorb the properties of anything he can touch (“partake with the essence of all things”) and killing a police officer who interferes.
Talbot, seeing an opportunity to profit from the Hulk’s strength and regenerative capability, tries to anger him and obtain a sample of him in his superhuman form. Talbot puts him in a sensory deprivation tank and induces a nightmare that begins to trigger his repressed memories and transforms him into the Hulk, which leads eventually to Talbot’s death. David appears to Betty at her house and offers to turn himself in, with one condition. In exchange, he wants to speak to Bruce one last time, as father and son and he tells her the whole, cloudy past story behind him, his wife, and Bruce, in which Betty finally understands what triggers his emotional problems. By now, The Hulk has escaped the base and fled into the desert. He battles army forces sent after him, defeating four Abrams tanks, and four Comanche helicopters. The Hulk soon learns to make prodigious leaps (like his comic-book counterpart), an ability that verges on the power of flight. In this manner, he makes his way to San Francisco rampaging the streets to find Betty, where he is confronted by two F-22 Raptors. Betty contacts her father and convinces him to let her meet the Hulk. He refuses to do so, but Betty explains that continuing to attack the Hulk will make him angrier and stronger. Seeing her while entirely surrounded by the army troops, his love for Betty overpowers his rage-induced Hulk state, and he transforms back into human form.
After Ross once again has Bruce imprisoned, David is allowed to visit the base and talk to Bruce, albeit under heavily-armed guard. He has descended into full-blown megalomania by this point, and tells Bruce that he wants his real son, the Hulk; he tries to convince him assertively to surrender his power, but Bruce, who displays his anger towards his father for ruining his life that made him a monster, refuses. A power-lusting David bites off an electrical wire at the base, where he begins to radioactively ingest all its energy and mutate into a large, power-absorbing monster. Bruce then transforms into the Hulk and the two fly to a shore near a lake, where the battle starts. David is beaten by the Hulk repeatedly while trying to absorb his power, but while in the water of the lake, David demonstrates he gets more powerful if the Hulk keeps fighting him. He freezes Hulk in the water and taunts him to release his power. This reaches to a conclusion when Bruce allows his father to absorb his power, which proves too much for the unstable David to control, swelling his body into a huge amorphous form over the water. Ross orders a Gamma Charge Bomb fired on them from the F-22 Raptors, and both are presumed dead when no trace of them is found after the explosion. Bruce, who somehow survives the explosion in which David clearly dies, is unconsciously in his human form, remembering when his father said to him as a child while tucking him in bed, “Sweet dreams”, which probably hints that his father might’ve still loved him.
One year later, Bruce finds exile in the Amazon rainforest as a doctor in a medical camp. When soldiers try to steal some medical supplies from the camp, he confronts the ringleader. He says “Don’t make me angry! You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!”, a well-known quote from the CBS television series. Bruce’s eyes turn green, and above the rainforest canopy, the loud roar of the Hulk can be heard as the screen fades to black.