Book Review – “Hulk” movie novelization

I’ve tried to keep the review as spoiler free as possible. If you really want to avoid all spoilers for as long as possible, rest assured that I will be in line for this movie on opening night.

General Information

Title: Hulk
Author: Peter David, based on the screenplay by James Schamus
Original Publication Date: 2003
ISBN: 0-345-45967-9
Cover Price: $6.99US, $10.99Can
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Adapting one of Marvel Comics’ best known properties for the big
screen, this tells the story of a weak and peaceful scientist
transformed into something very different.

High Point

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Low Point

The resolution with David Banner. As written, I’m not sure it’ll be
clear what’s going on when it appears on the big screen.

The Adaptation

This is not the origin of the comic book Hulk. For one thing, in the
Lee and Kirby era, U.S. military soldiers were often uninformed, but
they were always noble enough to odo what they thought was best for
the country with little thought for themselves. For another, the
actual origin of the Hulk himself is new. It’s most similar to the
origin used in the old live action TV series. It is, however, closer
to the 1962 comic origin than the origin of the Ultimate Hulk in
Marvel’s recently created Ultimate Universe. In spite of these
differences, the personalities of Bruce Banner, the Hulk, Betty Ross,
and T-Bolt Ross are all very close to the comic book characters.

Don’t assume that this will be a bad movie because it’s not a perfect
adaptation. This is more cerebral than most summer blockbusters, to
be sure, and it’s actually quite good. I plan to be in line on
opening night. Although it’s not as artistic as Blade
, regarding this adaptation with the same open-mindedness
required when viewing Blade Runner as an adaptation of Do
Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
will pay off in the long run.

As one final note, the IMDB page for the movie lists James Schamus
with story credit and two others with the screenplay. Brooke Langton
is listed playing a character I don’t remember at all from the book,
so there may have been some significant changes between the script
that was novelized and the script that was filmed.

The Scores

It’s hard to be original with an adaptation of other work,
especially when the adaptation is being novelized by the writer who is
often regarded as the best writer the source material has ever seen.
Still, the modifications in the origin, and the resistance to treat
this as a typical superhero flick both pay off. I give it 4 out of

The imagery is well written, describing things in more detail
than a movie script probably would. Some moments are still a bit
vague, though. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story has some surprising depth. In Spider-Man
and Superman, the superhero’s origin is described in one
plotline, while the interaction with the villain is handled in a
virtually unrelated plotline. In Hulk, the hero and villain
are so deeply intertwined that it’s really a single plotline, with a
far stronger bond than we saw in, say, Tim Burton’s Batman.
The result is a single, rich plotline that keeps the reader guessing
about how any particular piece of information will fit into the big
picture. There are a few mysteries in this, many of which are not
solved until the last few pages. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is at the core of the book. The only
confusion I had was caused by trying to match a character in here with
the familiar character from the comics. Once I realized what was
causing my confusion, I pushed the comics from my mind, and found that
the novel presented a clear and consistent view of that character. At
the core of the story is the interacting psychologies of Bruce, Betty,
and the Hulk, which are extremely rich and involved. I expect this
will make a better movie than X2, but it won’t make as much
money, simply because mass audiences don’t seem to do a lot of repeat
viewings of movies that expect them to think. I give the
characterization 6 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was more than just
bringing out my inner Hulk fan. By the end of page two, I was ready
to hate the primary villain with a passion. There are more than a few
moments that really work on their own, and should work for people who
have managed to grow old enough to learn how to read without ever
being exposed to the character before. I give it 5 out of 6.

The editing could have been better. Some of the inner
dialogues are a bit longer than needed, and the movie references were
sometimes awkward. (The one in particular that could have worked but
didn’t was the one with Betty Ross, who will be played by Jennifer
Connelly, describing A Beautiful Mind rather than simply
naming it. The punchline is visible far too soon for the joke to pay
off.) I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this was a good read, and should make one heck of a
summer blockbuster. This isn’t a superhero story, or a monster
story. This is a story about how a person deals with the knowledge
that he could be the star of a monster movie. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, the Hulk movie novelization receives 33 out of 42.