Netflix Sci-Fi Thriller Turns Fan Favorite Superhero Into Horror Nightmare

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

Long before Mark Ruffalo debuted as Bruce Banner in the MCU, Hulk leaned into the iconic character’s horror elements. Directed by Ang Lee, the Hulk movie on Netflix is a unique take on the character with flashes of brilliance and depth marred by dated CGI and bad pacing. Despite never receiving a sequel and being largely forgotten in pop culture, it’s a fascinating relic of the 2000s superhero genre. 

A Proper Hulk Origin Story

Released in 2003, Hulk is an origin story for Bruce Banner and his monstrous counterpart. It presents Bruce’s transformation as being caused by the schemes of his abusive, geneticist father, David Banner, the movie’s primary villain. After the accident, Bruce is hunted by the military before coming face to face with his father, who absorbs his radiation, leading to a final super-powered battle between father and son. 

A Perfect Story And Cast

What makes Hulk worth watching on Netflix today is how Ang Lee infuses the movie with horror visuals in homage to the character’s primary inspiration, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bruce’s transformations are presented as physically and psychologically tortuous, connected directly to Bruce’s traumatic memories of his father. This sets the movie apart from later MCU movies featuring the character, which all ignore Bruce’s back story and horror motifs. 

Another reason to pick Hulk as your next Netflix watch is the fantastic cast. Eric Banna plays Bruce Banner with the brilliant Jennifer Connelly as his love interest, Betty Ross. Sam Elliott as General Thunderbolt Ross and Nick Nolte as David Banner are great, scene-stealing villains.

Loses Points For CGI and Pacing


While the performances, themes, horror elements, and Ang Lee’s visual style are all great, Hulk does have some shortcomings. The CGI in Hulk, which was heavily criticized even in 2003, is hard to take seriously when watching it on Netflix in 2024. Pacing is the movie’s other big problem, with 138 minutes of run time that needlessly stretch out the middle of the film, then an abrupt final act.

Hulk received mixed reviews when it came out in 2003, with many critics praising the direction and acting while panning the writing and special effects. It has a 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes among critics and a much lower audience score. The movie wasn’t a complete bomb at the box office, bringing in $245 million against a $137 million budget. 

Refreshing Lack Of Franchise Building

While there are numerous hard-to-ignore flaws with Hulk as a film, it’s a great Netflix watch and a reminder of how different the superhero movies of the early 2000s were. Much like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, the director’s distinct visual style is on full display, which rarely happens in today’s superhero movies. The lack of tie-ins to a larger universe is also refreshing when compared to the MCU era where every movie is tasked with building up to larger franchise plans. 

A Blast From The Past


Some fans are tired of superhero movies, but Ang Lee’s horror-infused take on the genre is an interesting departure from the genre’s modern style. If you can look past dated effects and bad pacing, there are fascinating ideas just beneath the surface of this wonderfully weird superhero movie from over 20 years ago. Stream Hulk on Netflix for a fascinating call back to the pre-MCU world of Superhero movies.

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