What a strange specimen, this picture.

Ang Lee is a great director. But he set out to make Hulk look like a living comic book without thinking that maybe the movie should look like a movie instead. His hyperactive use of split-screens, zoom cuts, and superimposed shots actually suggests that he's trying to compensate for an unpolished script, as if the film's comic book veneer could somehow make us forgive its story's plot holes and contrivances simply by playing up the outlandishness of it all. But Hulk takes itself so seriously that the editing effects become more of a distraction than an enhancement.

You know the story: scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana, somewhat generic in his US starring debut) gets pounded by gamma rays and becomes a super-strong green monster whenever he gets angry. Here, Lee and company (including Lee's frequent collaborator, screenwriter/producer James Schamus) invent a reason for Banner's inner rage, a – ho-hum! – repressed memory of something horrible that happened to his mother when he was a child. Do we really need to dredge up this tired old plot device again? Even when the suspicious dad turns out to be a manic Nick Nolte, the story just doesn't feel like it needs him.

But then there's not much else to do other than listen to Banner mope while Jennifer Connelly plays another Endlessly Supportive Love Interest (shame on Lee, who usually has strong female characters in his films). Meanwhile, the audience waits impatiently for the scenes where Banner "Hulks out" and starts smashing up stuff, which are fun. A subplot about an industrialist trying to bottle Hulk's radiated powers provides more comic book kick, but it's over well before the film is, and we're left with a confusing tension between Bana and Nolte which culminates in an extended confrontation scene that for all intents and purposes is filmed theater. Very weird.

Hulk is a mishmash of realism, psychedelia, and computer animation with a surprisingly (for a Hollywood picture) hallucinatory tone that reminds me less of Lee's obvious models King Kong and Frankenstein than of Ken Russell's Altered States. The filmmaker, and his cast and crew, seem totally at sea here. Worth viewing only as a curiosity.