Contrary to the terrible reviews, The Hulk is an inspired comic-book film--just not much of a crowd-pleaser because it's so damn melancholy. Danny Elfman's somber Middle Eastern score sets a mood, and the kinetic use of digital collage, splitscreen, and unpredictable cutaways is more alienating (in a good way) than seat-gripping. The shots of ol' Greenskin bouncing across the western desert like a 20-ton grasshopper take your breath away, no matter how silly, and there's another wonderful effect where his howling visage is superimposed on lightning-impregnated thunderclouds. Right before that barely comprehensible passage, Nick Nolte and Hulk-as-human Eric Bana do a strange little one act play about morality and Oedipal conflict on a starkly-lit dais between giant Defense Dept. electromagnets--Nolte literally chews the scenery by biting into a live cable and turning into a roiling anime demon. 33 years ago special effects guy Dennis Muren brought an unforgettable flying devil to life in the Jack Woods drive-in howler Equinox; it's great to see he's still accessing his inner Harryhausen in the digital age. Ang Lee continues to look East for ideas and atmosphere: substitute science for the supernatural and The Hulk isn't that far from Onmyoji, a live-action Japanese sorcery film that enjoyed a minuscule theatrical run a few weeks back. Major beef: it's time to retire the "recovered childhood trauma" theme. Hitchcock's Spellbound premiered in 1945 and screenwriters are still revisiting it!
You were right, it was much better than the reviews. I thought the use of washes, split screens and superimpositions was terrific. Way better than anything Robert Aldrich ever did. I want to watch the film again to see how some of the transitions were done. For example, in one scene Bruce Banner flips open some venetian blinds to see evil government agents outside. He shuts them briefly and, when he re-opens them, we see Betty Ross in the lab.
True, if you're gonna have a primal scene it doesn't get much more intense than that. The reverberating animal growls in the early playing of that scene were also pretty disturbing. I remember how strongly movies affected me at that age (e.g., the scene in Fearless Vampire Killers where Koukol takes the wolf over the hill and comes back with his mouth all bloody). Give John a hug for me.