Ang Lee and the ‘Hulk’: when east and west collide

By Collin Bird

This big green monster has been relegated to the small screen for the past half decade but Ebert thinks the controversial film ‘Hulk’ deserves another chance to grow giant on the big screen. Ang Lee was the film’s director and after a near two hour reacquaintance with the piece, Ang Lee spoke a little about his overall experience.

Ang Lee’s inclusion in Ebertfest is especially momentous based not solely on his notoriety, but because Champaign-Urbana was the fledging beginning of Lee’s career. Judge Chaz Hammelsmith (Ebert’s Wife) made reference to that fact and surprised Ang Lee with a riveting a cappella performance featuring the Illini loyalty song.

Lee spent two years at the University getting a bachelors in theater. He called his time at the University “eye-opening”. As a University student he joined several film clubs and watched 5-7 movies each week.

“I engulfed myself in western culture by taking in western theater. It was an amazing culture shock,” said Lee referring to his Illini past.

Meeting Ang Lee in the flesh, what would strike you the most is his humbling nature. He stands slightly hunched with his hands clinching too the mike-he looked nervous. That may have had a little to do with the morning showing of ‘Hulk.’

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‘Hulk’ was Ang Lee’s most negatively criticized film and it wasn’t a box-office hit either. In light of this, the whole franchise is being rebooted with different actors, storyline and (obviously) a different director.

Ang Lee knows a thing or two about humility and he would be the first to tell you that the Hulk gives him “nightmares.” Lee says he was unprepared for the “hostility” that came from critics and the public.

Unfortunately for himself, Lee said, “a movie called Spiderman came out a year before and that is what everyone was looking for in my film. The movie was so expensive I don’t think Universal knew what to do with it. This is really a specialized film, all my films are specialized, and this [wasn’t supposed to be] a big blockbuster like Spiderman.”

As time passes Lee identifies more with the film’s misunderstood fictional character.

“What I realized this time watching the film is something I have been trying to fight off-and that is the cultural differences between East and West and how that may affect my writing,” Lee said.

His East-West experience is also what makes Ang Lee such a phenomenal superstar with films like ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’, which were affected by his cross-cultural experiences.

In the end, Lee said ‘Hulk’ was the “ultimate indulgence,” that he is “very proud of the film, regardless of its immediate success.”