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The Hulk

I'm probably going to see The Hulk. Maybe this weekend, maybe next. It's the kind of summer movie that I'd practically go to anyway, but I read about it in "Newsweek" and "Premiere" and "Entertainment Weekly" and I liked a lot of what Ang Lee is purportedly trying to do with the film. In fact, I just like the idea of asking Ang Lee to direct it.

Well, as a result of not seeing it opening weekend, I become subjected to the opinions of others before I can form my own. My friend Joe admonished me against seeing The Hulk and I told him that based on my reading I would probably still see it.

His response:

Exactly what have you been reading? The back of a box of "Hulk" cereal?

I'm telling you, it's "Waterworld" bad. Not that "Waterworld" was anywhere as near as bad as "The Hulk," but, I'm comparing them in the sense that "The Hulk" is soon to become a punch line. Don't give up other plans to see it, is all I'll say.

It's not like it's just me.

Well, true. Plenty have expressed disappointment. However, on Rotten Tomatoes (it's kind of a pool for movie reviews), the film is doing better than the 60% threshold between rotten and fresh. I've only read two reviews. The "Entertainment Weekly" one was sitting on the sofa next to me, and I sought out Manohla Dargis's review ("L.A. Times") as a more informed opinion. ("EW"'s Schwarzbaum is only slightly more reliable than Gleiberman; both are terrible critics with nothing interesting to say, and both frequently miss the point of every movie, big or small.) Schwarzbaum disliked the film, but had nothing informative to say by way of supporting that conclusion. Dargis seemed almost perfectly split between intrigued and disappointed. And she explained both conclusions eloquently, which is why she's good.

I probably will have my problems with it as well. But that's kind of a shame. (Plus, I think Waterworld got a bad rap. It's a fascinating concept and I think the film explored it in an interesting and entertaining way. I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I think the pre-release press about the ballooning budget and Costner's diva behavior hurt it more than any audience reaction to the film itself.) What worries me about the concept of "Hulk sucks" circulating by word-of-mouth is that I think it was probably pretty difficult for Universal to hand over such a big summer tentpole to someone like Ang Lee. And to stand behind some of his decisions about how to make it. So, my concern is that this will only become more difficult and our summer movies will continue to get worse.

Now, if The Hulk really is so terrible, obviously you don't want to encourage more bad movies. (It's not like Bringing Down The House, which I wanted to do well no matter what in order to cement Steve Martin's "bankability" and ensure him future autonomy.) If the popular response is "No thanks," I think that should resonate fairly clearly. $61 million isn't terrible for a first weekend, but with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle out on Friday, that total will drop unless audiences really love The Hulk. I guess I just don't have a lot of faith in the entertainment industry getting the subtle message of "The Hulk was bad, but trying new approaches to the popcorn-movie format it still a good idea." Besides, I'm curious. I'm not trying heroin out of curiosity, but I don't see the harm in giving The Hulk a chance.