The Hulk is tough to translate to the big screen, so when director Ang Lee started work on his Hulk (2003) he knew that he needed to dig deep to find the real drama behind the character. Unfortunately, what he eventually came up with was a crazy Nick Nolte running around being crazy for two hours. Also, radioactive monster poodles:
Careful! They're hypoallergenic!
The really sad part is that underneath all of the movie's problems there actually is a really good story about the reason behind Bruce Banner's violent anger issues: disturbing childhood trauma.
According to the movie, Hulk is "created" after his father, David (Paul Kersey/Nick Nolte), tries to develop some kind of super vaccine, which he tests on himself to no effect. However, it turns out that his body loaded all of that syringe-science into his Ph.Dick and fired it up his wife's uterus, where it pre-Hulked baby Bruce. Fearing that he's created a monster (which, let's be honest, is something that science does on a pretty regular basis) David Banner eventually loses it and tries to stab his son but kills his wife in the process, mentally scarring Bruce for life.
However, while "crazy parent" is more standard superhero equipment than bright, somehow-genitalia-obscuring tights, it isn't as simple with David Banner, who doesn't start off as a bad guy. In the beginning, he's a genius scientist who wants to save soldiers' lives, and when he finds out what he's done to his son, he literally goes crazy trying to find a cure for it while we get to witness his slow descent into madness.
The sad progression of Showthemallitis.
During the opening, the movie drops subtle clues that things haven't always been peachy in the Banner household. For example, when Bruce's mother first tells David that she is pregnant, she approaches the topic with the same level of caution she would have if she were confessing to totaling the car while backing out of her lover's driveway.
I'm not suggesting that there is domestic abuse in that house, but things are definitely tense there, which explains why in the short time that we see him on screen, young Bruce acts like a normal child only when he's away from his parents. Combine that with the trauma of seeing his mother die, and you come up with a very realistic, tragic origin of a character who could best be described as the unholy lovechild of Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Jolly Green Giant.
Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox
Looking back at it now, the worst thing about the Star Wars prequels has to be the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, which even when spread across three entire movies still feels rushed and nonsensical. In Revenge of the Sith, it seems that all it takes for Anakin to abandon his training, betray Obi-Wan Kenobi, and slaughter innocent Jedi children is a weird dream where his wife maybe died and the vague promises of being taught Super Magic by Darth Uncle-Bad-Touch.
Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox
When you think about it, though, that's not when Anakin's journey into the Dark Side really begins. It actually goes back to the second movie, Attack of the Clones, where Anakin dreams that something bad has happened to his mother, Shmi, whom he never bothered to free from slavery after getting off Tatooine, but whatever. Upon arriving on the planet, he discovers that, holy predestination, Batman, his mom has been kidnapped by Tusken Raiders, aka Sand People. Anakin sets out to free her. Sadly, he's too late. By the time he infiltrates the Tusken village, Shmi is already dying after weeks of torture. Holding her in his arms, Anakin is forced to watch his delirious mother quietly fade away, and in that instant you can almost hear something in his mind just snap.
Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox
"*twitch* Hello, I'm Anakin Skywalker, and *twitch* welcome to the Sith O'clock News!"
In the next second, he's out slaughtering every Raider in sight, including women and children, while Liam Neeson yells at him: "This isn't what I've sacrificed my life for, you rat-tail turdnado!" We don't actually get to see most of the killing, but we do see its consequences, because that slaughter is when Darth Vader is truly born.
It establishes that Anakin's dreams (like the one where Padme died) really can come true, which is an important part of him believing Palpatine's lies and starting to resent Obi-Wan, who repeatedly tells his young padawan to just eat more fiber for all those totally normal, definitely-not-prophetic dreams to go away on their own. Most important of all, though, the scene explains the ease with which Anakin exterminates that Jedi elementary school full of kids in the next movie.
See, killing kids is like squeezing into a gimp suit, and not just because the latter usually precedes the former. I mean that you have to slowly ease into it, and killing a bunch of barely sentient desert torturers and their young is actually a pretty great way to prepare mentally for massive childrencide. At the very least, it sets up some sort of precedent for Anakin's homicidal behavior, elevating Attack of the Clones from the cinema-equivalent of a botched circumcision, to maybe something closer to an infected hangnail. And I think that's beautiful.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more cinematic surprises, check out The 7 Most Irritating Characters From Otherwise Great Movies and 8 Hilarious Moments (From Otherwise Terrible Movies).
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