'Avengers': The Hulk will be motion-captured, might finally look better than awful

Ang Lee’s Hulk and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk are very different movies. Lee turned the story of Bruce Banner’s anger problems into a splitscreen-happy Freudian psychodrama. Leterrier’s version was more of a straight action movie. Lee’s version is underrated, and Leterrier’s version is correctly-rated…which is to say, they’re both perfectly mediocre, because neither could make up for the fact that the star of the movie looked like a big green rubber muppet. Third time might be the charm, though: Mark Ruffalo, who’s playing the Hulk in the upcoming Avengers movie, told Vulture that the Big Green Guy will be created using Avatar-esque stop-motion capture. “So I’ll actually play the Hulk,” explains the actor. “That’ll be fun.”

This is great news. For one thing, human-like characters created using motion-capture are about twenty billion times more believable-looking than the (ahhhh!) alternative. Consider Andy Serkis’ performances as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the great ape in King Kong, or the Na’Vi in Avatar, or the surprisingly ecstatic dance moves in Happy Feet. On a more actor-friendly note, motion-capture will actually allow Ruffalo to inhabit both sides of his role — whereas Eric Bana and Ed Norton were stuck just playing good ol’ Bruce Banner.

PopWatchers, are you excited by the notion of a Hulk who actually moves like a semi-realistic creature? Do you think Ruffalo will be able to pull off the Angry Green Giant’s physicality? I should note that all the good things I’m saying about motion-capture animation do not apply to Robert Zemeckis’ Plastic-Android trilogy. Not even the Uncanny Valley can give Ray Winstone a believable six-pack.

Read more:
‘Avengers’: New Hulk Mark Ruffalo on replacing Edward Norton, plus Oscar buzz for ‘The Kids Are All Right’

Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • Jay

    Firstly… can someone enlighten me as to what trilogy of Zemeckis’ the writer is referring to?
    Secondly… this is great news for a Hulk fan!! I couldn’t agree more with the opinion that the first is under-rated, but both are mediocre films. Daddy issues ruined the first one (along with Nolte looking like a hobo), and the second one was a better film for action buffs, but not really superior, per se.

    I liked Norton better than Bana, and thought he should’ve been given the nod for Avengers, but I can understand wanting to try again…. 3rd times the charm right?

    • Chuck

      Jay, I think he’s referring to the three films where Zemeckis tried, and failed, to make motion-capture look slightly less-than-creepy (POLAR EXPRESS, BEOWULF and A CHRISTMAS CAROL). They’re technically not a “trilogy”; I’m pretty sure Mr. Franich was exercising some sarcastic license, there.

    • Grubi

      Its not really a trilogy. He’s just talking about the last three CGI movies that Zemeckis made. They include The Polar Express, Beowolf, and A Christmas Carol and they all had creepy android-like characters.

      • Grubi

        Damn. Chuck beat me to it but mere seconds.

  • therealeverton

    Hulk was fine in The Incredible Hulk and his facial expressions etc were “captured” from Ed Norton’s acting.

    • Brian

      Agreed. Incredible Hulk was pretty perfect, IMO.

  • therealeverton

    Polar Express
    Beowulf (underrated)
    A Christmas Carol (souless garbage)

    • Nerwen Aldarion

      God no! Beowulf was an AWFUL film! I loved the original poem and what they did was turn Beowulf into a whiny jerk rather than the true portrayal of epic heroism.

      • therealeverton

        That’s a criticism of it as an adaption of the poem, which they were very clear from the start, wasn’t their aim. The aim was to make a blood & thunder action fantasy, with a hint of morality fable thrown int. On those terms it was a success. I won’t arguer your point about it being a shadow of the poem in a grander scheme of things but we’re not talking Last Airbender here: where the aim was to make a straight movie of the story. It failed both as an adaption and as a movie. Beowulf, for me & others, was a good movie first and a poor “literal” adaption of Beowulf 2nd. Many people have argued the same about Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, The Two Towers especially, which is an exciting action fantasy with good drama, but in many ways it increases the roles of the action heroes at the expense of the Hobbits, who were really the main point of the book. Oh and no, I am not saying I think Beowulf is as good as The Rings. :)

  • Kvivik

    This one I have to see before I can judge. The first two movies were ruined for me because of the ‘super sized’ Hulk.
    Make him somewhat smaller than gargantuan, and it will be more believeable.

    • Brian

      But he’s supposed to be giant…
      We’re talking about a dude who turns green and super-strong when he gets angry. Why should size be any more unbelievable than that?

      • Brian

        Besides, this is still in continuity with “Incredible Hulk,” so shrinking him now would make no sense.

      • therealeverton

        Indeed it would. I don’t know if it’s just because he’s green but hulk didn’t look cartoony to me in Incredible Hulk, not at all. Certainly no more so than Goullum or Kong. He could do with being stronger though. I always hated that he was so weak inthe TV show, I get that it was cheaper that way but I just kept thinking, not only does he look like a big guy painted green he doesn’t seem that much stronger than a steroid pumping lady hammer thrower.

    • therealeverton

      They almost halved his size for Incredible Hulk, I actually thought he was a little too small and “weak” but accepted that you have to make changes to comic book characters to make them fit into a movie but any smaller and he’s just not credible, let alone incredible.

  • Kikstad

    therealeverton is correct — some motion-capture was already used for the facial expressions in the first two Hulk films. The Hulk’s face was modeled after Bana and after Norton. However, this full motion capture sounds promising. I still think they should cast a human being to play SOME of the Hulk’s performance through practical makeup and effects and then ENHANCE that with CGI — that’s the only way right now to really add realism to it.

  • TQB

    GAAH, if anything, Lee’s Hulk is still overrated. Terrible, terrible movie that made me loathe everyone in it. It took Munich to restore Eric Bana for me, and I’m still mad at Jennifer Connolly.

    • Jay

      What? Bana didn’t redeem himself as Nero in the new Star Trek?

      • Brian

        Munich came out before Star Trek, so he would’ve already been redeemed in TQB’s eyes.

  • David

    I worry that there’s just something about the Hulk that’s never going to be able to fully translated to film. You accept things in the context of a comic book that just seem silly in a movie, something that doomed the FF movies (plus the fact that they were dumb). I hope the motion capture element does the trick.

  • KC

    If Ruffalo can’t pull off Hulk’s rage, just substitute any one of the Norton fans that Marvel slapped in the face by replacing him…

  • doopey

    The Hulk was mo-capped in Ang Lee’s film too. Lee did the motion capture performance himself.

    • BG 17

      I remember seeing the videos of Lee in the Hulk special features – it was humourous to see a middle aged flabby director making angry stances in a black leotard with the motion capture sensors attached…

  • Rock Golf

    So Avengers will be Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye & Black Widow vs Hulk? Or will there be a bigger bad?
    Loki? Leader (hinted at in Incredible Hulk)? Kang?

    • Big Walt

      Why is Hulk the bad in your version?

      • therealeverton

        Probably because whilst he was a founding member of The Avengers he was tricked into attacking civilians (a train) by Loki Thor Iron Man et al arrive to stop him and eventually figure out it was all Loki’s doing and gang up on him instead. After defeating Loki they form The Avengers.

        The more “intelligent” hulk was nicely hinted out at the end of the second movie where we see Edward Norton’s Banner apparently able to transform into the Hulk at will, the implication being that to do so he most probably feels he can also control The Hulk once transformed.

  • Cameron Yarde Jnr

    Just paint a guy green and CGI the things that he flings around. The Hulk always looks like a cartoon in the movies and that’s why it just never worked.

  • Peter Vee

    I hope it works. My suspicion, though, is that a big green musclebound humanoid with purple pants is inherently silly looking.

  • B-

    The Hulk is a character that doesn’t really work well in a full film that is solely about him. He gets Angry, gets huge and green and smashes stuff. If anything the Edward Norton reboot had the character better than Ang Lee’s version which is NOT underrated. It is boring, period. The Hulk will be the best in this film because the focus isn’t all on him, but on the team. My biggest reservation about the whole thing is still Whedon. Can he handle all of this? Can he bring all these characters together to make them work effectively? Can he direct action on this scale that has a sense of geography? Can he direct with a visual style that doesn’t look like a film and not a TV show? I love the guy and am wishing him well, but this movie sounds like a serious undertaking reserved for someone bigger.

    • B-

      Correction: Can he direct with a visual style that makes it look like a film and not a TV show?

      • Mole

        We may disagree on this point, but I thought Serenity had a nice filmic look to it. And I don’t know how you felt about Astonishing X-Men, but I thought it was one of the better handlings of the characters.

    • Nick

      Serenity, though from a TV show, definitely felt like a film. It also took a large cast of characters (the crew of Serenity) and wove all of their storylines together nicely. He’ll make it happen.

  • Stacie

    Not a big Ruffalo fan. I find him incredibly boring on screen. He better drink some Red Bull or something before they attach those sensors to his boring face.

  • redvector

    What ruined Beowulf was the eyes. They didn’t blink and had no expression to them like doll eyes.

    • therealeverton

      They were better than Polar Express, but yeah still kind of shark like. It didn’t really bother me in Beowulf but I can certainly appreciate that others would find it too much of a problem.

      I hope Avatar has put this kind of mo-cap to bed as Zemeckis wants to make all of his films mo-cap and his tech doesn’t seem to be improving enough from film to film. Of course his abysmal version of A Christmas Carol wouldn’t have been saved by any amount of visual wizardry.

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