Hulk: 2 Disc Special Edition (2003)

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Released 4-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Ang Lee (Director)
Active Subtitle Track-Hulk Cam: Inside The Rage
DVD-ROM Extras
Teaser Trailer-Thunderbirds
Multiple Angles-Hulkification - 'You're Making Me Angry' Scene
Featurette-Evolution Of The Hulk
Featurette-The Incredible Ang Lee
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Dog Fight Scene
Featurette-The Unique Style Of Editing Hulk
Featurette-Making Of-Cast and Crew, Stunts and Physical Effects, ILM, Music
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Superhero Revealed: The Anatomy Of The Hulk (3D Model)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 132:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:20)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ang Lee
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Eric Bana
Jennifer Connelly
Nick Nolte
Sam Elliott
Josh Lucas
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Titling
Active Subtitle Track
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Hulk is one in a now fairly long line of comic book movie adaptations. After seeing Daredevil, my expectations were fairly low when seeing this theatrically. I was definitely not expecting Hulk to be the excellent drama that it actually is. The fact that the pace was not rushed and time was given to develop the characters meant that I was drawn more into this movie than most other comic book adaptations. Of this particular subgenre, my favourites to date would have to be Batman and X-Men (1 &2), and now I can add Hulk to the list of great comic book adaptations, unlike the ridiculous Daredevil.

    The story begins by showing Bruce Banner's father (played well by Nick Nolte) working on human regeneration experiments in the army during the 1960s. Ordered not to perform tests on humans, he begins secretly experimenting with his own body. With the birth of his son, he becomes aware that he has transferred mutant genes that will ultimate change his son. Angered by being stopped from continuing his dangerous research into altering the human immune system, he starts a chain reaction of events that alters the path of his son's life. The story then picks up with Bruce (Eric Bana) working at a research institute with his ex-girlfriend Betty (the beautiful Jennifer Connelly). Their relationship is stalled, but it is obvious that both still have feelings for each other.

    The project that Bruce and Betty are working on deals with similar experiments to those his father conducted years before. Such research draws the attention of the sinister Talbot (Josh Lucas) and Betty's army general father (Sam Elliott). As expected, an accident in the lab unleashes the mutation initiated by the experimentation of Banner's father, who subtly works his way back into Bruce's life. The introduction of the Hulk is amazing to behold, and with the time allowed to develop the characters, by this stage you feel and care for Banner and his inner monster. Once the introduction is made, the pace quickens considerably, with some incredible action sequences, particularly the desert battle. Fortunately, there is still time to show the tender nature behind the Hulk, with a scene almost straight out of King Kong.

    The movie has a number of relationships that are explored: the tension between Betty and her father, the anger between Bruce and his father, and the tenderness between Betty and Bruce. Each is given proper time to develop and give us an understanding as to why the characters feel and act the way they do. Director Ang Lee could have fallen into the trap of wallowing too deeply in these relationships, but he never forgets that this is a comic book adaptation. The ending is perhaps the one letdown in the movie, and to me seems a little contrived and planned to accommodate the inevitable sequels, but this is only a minor issue with the strong acting and story more than making up for it.

    Lee uses some innovative (and at times confusing) editing techniques, including split-screen and various other unique ways of segueing one scene into another. Some people have complained about this technique, but I think it fits in perfectly with the comic book style, and adds a flair missing from other comic book adaptations. The CGI work on the Hulk has also been criticised, but I honestly cannot see what is at fault. At times the CGI is incredible (eg. the way Hulk dodges the ammunition as he rushes towards the tanks, the close-up facial expressions, and skin texture), and at all times blends in seamlessly with the live action around it.

    This initial 2-disc release of Hulk has excellent quality video and audio transfers that will most definitely be demo material for the months ahead. A great movie on a great DVD. Go out and get it!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented here is excellent, with only a couple of minor flaws not really worth mentioning. This is to be expected of such a recent blockbuster.

    The movie is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which matches the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer throughout exhibits exceptional clarity and sharpness. There are some scenes early on that look particularly sharp against close-ups of plants and animals. Grain is undetectable in this transfer, even the intentional type, with white and stark backgrounds showing up as clear as I've ever seen. As expected, black levels are rock solid with not a hint of low level noise. Shadow detail needed to be spot-on too, especially in the dark introduction to the Hulk, and we are not let down. Detail is superb in both dark and bright scenes.

    Colours are sensational in the transfer, and are totally natural. For a comic book movie, there may have been a desire to go for too colourful and campy (eg. Dick Tracy) or slightly muted (eg. X-Men). However, the colours in Hulk are perfect, with no colour bleeding or over-saturation. I could not detect any posterization in the transfer. I could not detect any edge enhancement being applied to this transfer.

    I counted only one film artefact throughout the movie, that being a solitary white fleck on the screen for but a frame. Due to the sharpness of the transfer, aliasing does crop up on a couple of occasions accompanied by some moiré effects. The most prominent example is at 11:45, as Banner talks to his colleague with the horizontally striped shirt. As the man moves, the shirt shimmers and exhibits moiré effects. Aliasing occurs on some blinds and railings too, but isn't distracting.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, with the layer change perfectly placed in a fade-to-black scene with no sound. It occurs at 68:20 and is all but indiscernible.

    In short, Hulk scrubs up very well with this sensational video transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Two outstanding soundtracks accompany the great video transfer: an English DTS 5.1 track encoded at the higher bitrate of 1536 Kb/s, and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kb/s) track. Both are great, with the DTS being the one of choice.

Addendum 7 November 2003: After closer inspection of the DTS bitrate using PowerDVD, it has been found that the DTS track is actually recorded at the lower bitrate of 768Kb/s, not the higher bitrate claimed in the original review.

    Dialogue throughout is crystal clear with no audio synchronisation or bad ADR problems.

    The musical score by Danny Elfman is great, and captures the mood of each scene perfectly. It is mixed into each speaker cleverly, with some very nice panning effects across the soundstage in a similar manner to that used in The Bourne Identity. Of particular note is the start of the musical cue at 94:03, as the score beat circles around you, totally drawing you into the battle that ensues in the desert.

    Of course, surround activity is not restricted to supporting the music. Panning and overhead effects abound, and all manner of Foley and other effects come across clear as a bell from all speakers. The soundstage is completely enveloping, from the major action set pieces to the quieter moments (eg. as Betty goes out in the dark to check the bump in the night).

    The subwoofer certainly has its work cut out for it with this audio transfer. It is used in a subtle manner to support effects such as heartbeats and gamma bombs, while in other areas it is used to its maximum house-rumbling best to support other explosions and general Hulk devastation. The sequence around 93:15 as he escapes from army detention exhibits some of the best subwoofer use that I have come across.

    I listened to the DTS track in its entirety and compared it against the Dolby Digital track in some key sequences. For example, the sequence indicated above highlighted the slight superiority of the DTS track in its more refined use of bass and the higher clarity and spaciousness of the surround soundstage. The DTS track is encoded louder than the Dolby Digital track, but even when compensating for this volume difference, the Dolby Digital track cannot really match the DTS track. This is not to say that the Dolby Digital track is bad, because it is still better than many other Dolby Digital tracks out there (and many DTS tracks for that matter). In fact, I was expecting the higher bitrate DTS track to be a lot better than the lower bitrate Dolby Digital track. The difference is not that great, but is certainly discernible.

Addendum 7 November 2003: Now that the DTS bitrate has been correctly identified as recorded at 768Kb/s, the above comments about the expected performance of a high bitrate DTS track do not really apply. That being said, the DTS track is still slightly superior for the reasons described above.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Extra material is provided on both discs of this DVD release, with most being of decent quality. Both discs feature nice menu animation and transitions. I like the way the live action footage transitions to a comic artwork still for the menus.

Disc 1:

Director's Commentary - Ang Lee

    Director Ang Lee talks through his ideas and visions when confronted with the making of Hulk. He describes his own life views, and does tend to digress a little and then come back and relate what he has said to the movie. At times it is difficult to understand what he has said due to his accent. Overall, this is a fairly interesting commentary, but it does tend to drag a bit.

Hulk-Cam - Inside the Rage

    This feature is similar to the White Rabbit feature on The Matrix DVD where an icon will appear on the screen during the movie to allow you to skip into behind-the-scenes footage. It is convenient that the DVD allows you to skip forward to the exact spot that the features present themselves on the screen. In total there are eleven little featurettes before particular scenes that map out the preparation of that scene. The icon appears at:

DVD-ROM Features

    For some reason, I could not access any DVD-ROM features using my computer.

Thunderbirds Teaser Trailer

    The short teaser trailer shows one of the Thunderbird spacecraft landing in London.

Disc 2:

Hulkification

    This is a nice extra that shows the artwork provided by four different comic book artists for their interpretation of the flight and morphing scene at the house. Biographies of the artists are also provided. The artwork can either be shown on its own or with the footage from the movie side-by-side. The artists are:

Evolution of The Hulk - 16:18

    A documentary (presented full-frame) about the origin and conception of the Hulk and the comic book series. Describes in quite a bit of detail the past history of Marvel comics and the 60s that brought us other heroes such as the X-Men, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four. It was interesting to hear how Stan Lee merged the concepts of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde into the Hulk.

The Incredible Ang Lee - 14:29

    A featurette showing interviews with both cast and crew gushing over how brilliant and amazing working with Ang Lee is. Also includes Ang describing his vision of the Hulk, and his direction of the cast.

The Dog Fight Scene - 10:10

    A featurette showing the preparation and making of the dog fight scene. Shows actual footage of the initial meeting between Ang and the ILM staff. It is incredible that the original storyboards of the sequence had to be almost trimmed to a quarter of its size due to the enormous cost. As it stood, the sequence in the movie cost $16 million alone.

The Unique Style of Editing Hulk - 5:35

    A short featurette describing the use of the very innovative editing style, with the use of split screens and other CG transition effects.

The Making of Hulk - 23:45

    This featurette is broken into four parts:

Deleted Scenes

    Shows a number of deleted scenes one after another. The deleted scenes include:

DVD-ROM Features

    For some reason, I could not access any DVD-ROM features using my computer.

Super Hero Revealed - The Anatomy of the Hulk

    A strange extra that resembles a kid's educational tool. From this extra you can select different body parts from a rotating image of the Hulk and display some trivia about that body part. There is also the option to view some ILM facts and animation as well.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I can gather, the Region 1 version incredibly misses out on the DTS soundtrack, and instead gets additional Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend the Region 4 disc.

Summary

    Hulk is a great movie, let down perhaps by a forced ending paving the way to a sequel. Being of a more serious nature than other recent comic book adaptations, this approach worked well in portraying the inner turmoil and drama behind Bruce Banner and his inner monster. With exceptional digital effects, solid acting, innovative editing, and a good script, I thoroughly enjoyed Hulk at the box office. With sensational video and audio transfers that will delight on DVD, this release is a must-have for all comic book fans (and probably those that are not, too).

    The video quality is sensational, being extremely clear, sharp and detailed.

    The audio quality is equally sensational, with the DTS option being the soundtrack of choice.

    The extras are informative and provide a good insight into the level of effort put into making such a movie.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Chanh-Khai Ly (My biodegradable bio)
Friday, October 31, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP500, using Component output
DisplayRK-32HDP81 HDTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD/DD-EX/DTS/DTS-ES matrix and discrete. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600
SpeakersKef KHT 2005 5.1 Home Theatre System

Other Reviews
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DVD Net - Gavin T

Comments (Add)
Question RE: dts track - REPLY POSTED
Extras -
disappointing - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
"A must have for comic book fans" - REPLY POSTED
Finally...A Positive Review - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Re: disappointing -
Re: "A must have for comic book fans" -
Re: DTS Bitrate - REPLY POSTED
3 disk set -
Hulk is a triumph! But misunderstood. -
DVD-Rom Extras -
Hulk...is one for the collection - Pendergast (Why not take a look at my bio, you might think it stinks.)