My first instinct was to decline reviewing The Amazing Bulk (2012) directed by Lewis Schoenbrun. I would love to be a classy movie reviewer like Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael, reviewers who would be reluctant to explicate a film they were somehow associated with. Ebert offered some observations for Film Comment on his screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) directed by Russ Meyer, but felt “it would not be appropriate for me to review it or give it a star rating.” Times, however, have changed. The language of film is spoken by many more people now. Digital filmmaking, social media, online advertising, affordability of equipment, the sharing of knowledge, streaming and much more have all placed the art and the language of film into the hands of anybody and everybody, anywhere and nearly any age. You reading this right now, if you’re not actually a filmmaker or an aspiring filmmaker then you probably know someone who is working on a film. Who doesn’t? And I think the intimacy of that relationship—the mass intelligence of film language—is something that can and should be explored in this venue. I worked in Los Angeles on low budget film crews in the mid-2000s, so I’ve worked with a few of the actors in The Amazing Bulk, I am Facebook friends with the screenwriter though we don’t talk much, and I count the director as one of my close friends. I was aware of this film at various stages throughout its production, but I wasn’t able to contribute as a crew member or writer. I think it’s not only important for me to be transparent with you, but I think that my connection to the film is important to a modern audience, to you. Disclaimer over. Now, let’s see if this Bulk is truly amazing. Our movie opens with a streetwalker, well, walking the streets and then a back alley where a thug sticks a gun into her mouth and kills her—pretty gruesome opening. He, however, is being watched by the titular character who now confronts him. The thug shoots, but meets his death. Our monster superhero runs away. We then get a graphic arts extravaganza of a title sequence we could have done without, that really just tells us that science is involved in this movie. When the movie returns, two detectives are on the case, Lisa Tuttle (Diedre V. Lyons) and Ray Garton (Jed Rowen), but their only real clue is a wallet belonging to Henry Howard and some purple blood. Henry (Jordan Lawson), called Hank here, and another scientist experiment with one more version of Hank’s serum on a lab rat “a serum to enhance the human body, tightening the immune system, increasing speed and strength,” but the rat disintegrates in a blue cloud of dust. The girlfriend, Hannah Darwin (Shevaun Kastl), shows up, and they go out, “no shop talk,” and spend some quality time together. As an experiment in writing this article, I think the first ten minutes suffices to focus mainly on story. After all, we get it. It’s a typical low budget superhero monster movie that blatantly copies an existing mythos, but that’s no secret with that title. So what exactly am I holding back? Well, read this paragraph slowly, maybe twice. Everything was shot in green screen with CGI, some stock footage, and virtual sets that come in multiple angles. I’m not talking about twenty-first-century video game graphics that sometimes blow your mind they’re so real. I’m talking about CG backgrounds that look like Blue’s Clues, live people on top of CG backgrounds very limited in 3-dimension-ality or just plain flat. Just let that soak in. The city streets in the first two scenes, the science lab, a car drive and some frolicking with the girlfriend—all flat CG virtual sets with actors shot on green screen. One or two particular shots of the streetwalker (Meghan Falcone, beautiful but underused) is reminiscent of a similar scene in Sin City, THE green screen textbook really. The running scenes look like running-in-place scenes of which there are several and one of which the two people look like they’re running at different speeds. The car drive scene with the two main characters, Hank and Hannah, because of the flatness of the scene and the color scheme looks like a clip from South Park. Even the Amazing Bulk is 99% low-quality CG—except for one purple glove used at least twice. The Bulk, however, looks like someone stuffed grape jelly in a Tor Johnson suit. But it is kind of funny watching him run away naked. Some of what happens next is obvious, some interesting, and some ridiculous. Hank finds the right formula for the serum and injects himself, transforming him into the Amazing Bulk. The two detectives investigate until they confront the monster. Our hero works for General Darwin (Terence Lording) who is also his girlfriend Hannah’s father. Mad scientist Dr. Werner von Kantlove (Randal Malone) and his wife Lolita (Juliette Angeli) mad science for a bit, and after a nice big twist everything comes actually pretty nicely packaged by the end. We all love bad films sometimes. For the longest time, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space was considered the worst film ever. I have, however, sat through Begotten, Troll 2 and Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman’s Ishtar, and Troll 2 is the only one I would watch again as long as refreshments are provided – which is the usual way to go in a case like that. I have a soft spot in my heart and soul for films and filmmakers who try big stuff even if they fail and still wind up with a decent film, the greatest example of which is Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (which only failed via marketing and box office); the least known is Cory McAbee’s work of genius, American Astronaut; and I’m not just a Roger Corman acolyte—I’m the guy who pulls out the hearts of the sacrificial victims in the name of Corman, the god… whew, I may have gone too far with that analogy—championing his work no one ever knows about when they make fun of him, like his post-apocalypse satire Gassss (1970), his black comedy brilliance A Bucket of Blood (1959), and his black and white desegregation film The Intruder (1962)—yeah, I just typed that. I cannot, however, champion Bulk—certainly not that much anyway. Suffice it to say in an analogy I’ll expand upon a bit further on, Bulk is like a teenager who doesn’t really know itself till later. Overall, Bulk seems to miss some opportunities within its own technology-based genre of green-screen-on-a-budget, and should’ve followed the comic book styles of Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) or the amazing Romero/King combo Creepshow (1982), or somewhere near the live-action-characters-over-CG style films Cool World (1992) or Speed Racer (2008). Okay, what else? The monster’s intro falls flat film-wise—no musical sting, no walking out of a shadow—he’s just there. Animated segues appear between scenes. I’m not sure what the catalyst is for the Bulk to change. It can’t be anger. Hank is always angry. The movie lacks a variety of angles and distances. We open with the Bulk, so part of the movie should be a flashback until Hank turns into the Bulk for the first time, but I couldn’t piece it together in my head because the two detectives seem to be in a completely linear film. The major problem with Bulk, however, is its tone, the director’s attitude toward the work. The first few scenes seem to be played straight, the hooker/thug scene is partly gruesome, the detective scene is well-acted but typical and serious, and the scene with Hank and the other scientist is intense. As a matter of fact, Jordan Lawson chews the scenery like the DeNiro of the ultra-low budget world, but he pulls it all off pretty well. Then we bring on the bad guys. The bewigged Lolita enters prancingly, distracting two guards in Halloween armor, and talking in a New York twang, and she’s followed by Werner von Kantlove, a Bond parody bad guy—“No, Dr. [can’t love], I mean [kaunt-love] sir”—who lets Lolita blow up stock footage world monuments. All of a sudden, Bulk borders on parody, lampoon, and satire, and this is what I meant—Bulk is like a teenager growing up who doesn’t really know itself until later. The film crescendos into not just hilarity but a zany, slapstick, absurd comedy, and the film you started with is a world apart from what you end with. Kantlove sends a missile to blow up the moon. The missile though is a mix of live-action stock footage and a CG design that looks like it’s from Flash Gordon. Hank is dropped by chopper near Kantlove’s hidden castle and—hang in there—passes a cartoon golfer shooting for a hole, a leprechaun sitting by his pot of gold and more. Then after a very well done twist, and to Rossinni’ s William Tell Overture—the Lone Ranger theme to some of us—the Bulk starts running. He is shot at by a tank, the Red Barron in his tri-plane, a pirate ship, and Zeus—I gotta stop there. I think that’s enough. But I did save you a lot. It’s obvious that Schoenbrun ends the film in a cacophony of virtual sets and CG backgrounds, whatever he could get his hands on, and what results is a hilarious ending to a film that could parody films of its types if they existed as a type, but it only parodies itself. What results is a hilarious and watchable second half, but a film as a whole that doesn’t know itself, and would probably be turned off in the first half. The best way to watch would be with liquid refreshment and some discussion and about the time the pizza guy arrives everything will get more and more interesting. The Amazing Bulk could be a minor footnote in film history. It’s certainly a curiosity. I’m sure hundreds of films exist like this. It’s an interesting concept for filmmakers, but the look of something as ridiculous as these virtual sets with live-action characters must be combined with the right style and the proper and consistent tone. It’s a good experiment if you have a small crew and enough room to shoot green screen. The modern affordability of filmmaking makes me wonder what else might be out there nowadays for filmmakers to utilize. Schoenbrun isn’t new to the industry. He was assistant editor or first assistant editor on Mystic Pizza (1988), Bull Durham (1988), UHF (1989), Kalifornia (1993), and then moved on to directing with Dr. Chopper (2005), Slaughterhouse Phi (2006), Queen Cobra (2007) and Aliens vs Avatars (2011). Bulk is certainly not genius, nor does it claim to be so. It won’t be a successful experiment or curiosity or footnote until we see what else Lewis Schoenbrun can do. The gauntlet has been thrown, sir. See larger image Amazing Bulk, The One of the most talked about cult Superhero movie mockbusters ever made! Henry Howard is an ambitious young scientist who takes an experimental serum for building muscle mass and is transformed into the Bulk, sending him on a bizarre and destructive rampage of revenge from which he may never return, in a world that does not understand him and wants to destroy him. Bonus Materials New 2014 Director’s Commentary Behind the scenes footage Storyboards Deleted Scenes Previews Bonus features include: Previews, Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Behind the scenes footage, New 2014 Director’s Commentary New From: $10.45 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.