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Is the Hulk ready for his close-up? Lou Ferrigno and other experts weigh in on the goliath's new look

Eric Bana, The Hulk | NOT-SO-JOLLY GREEN GIANT Bana (inset) and his CG alter ego
NOT-SO-JOLLY GREEN GIANT Bana (inset) and his CG alter ego
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Eric Bana may not be the biggest star in Hollywood, but his verdant alter ego most assuredly is. At 15 feet tall and a thousand pounds or so, the big-screen Hulk -- as revealed for the first time in Sunday's Super Bowl ad -- could literally eat Tom Cruise for breakfast. ''He's like a futuristic King Kong,'' says an approving Lou Ferrigno, the bodybuilder who donned body paint to play a pre-CGI Hulk on the '70s television show. ''I thought it looked great, close to the comic book character.''

But a few vocal online fans aren't as impressed by the computer-generated goliath, which grafts a distorted version of star Bana's features onto its mint-chocolate-chip-colored head. ''He looked like Shrek with a toupee and purple pants,'' writes ''Otter'' on Aint-it-cool-news.com. Another fan on the same site compares the Hulk's Industrial Light & Magic-created look to that of the title dog in last summer's ''Scooby Doo.''

Still, overall reaction to the Hulk's appearance in the Ang Lee-directed film (which also stars Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte, and hits theaters June 20) seemed to be positive. ''He looks exactly correct,'' says Ain't It Cool editor Harry Knowles. ''There's a big group of people out there who love to say, 'That's not real.' But it's definitely miles nicer than Lou Ferrigno in green paint.''

The movie Hulk may appear identical to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Marvel Comics creation, right down to his torn purple pants. But getting there took awhile. ''I saw the initial design drawings for the movie, and he looked much farther away from the comic book Hulk,'' says Peter David, who wrote ''The Incredible Hulk'' comic book for 12 years and penned the new movie's novelization. ''But as it progressed, it looked more and more like good old Greenskin.''

But as with ''The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers''' groundbreaking Gollum, the real test of the movie Hulk will come not in the scenes of him smashing tanks, but in his quieter interactions with flesh-and-blood characters. ''In the commercial, we don't get a sense of whether the Hulk will emote at all,'' Knowles says.

Given the past work of director Lee (''Sense and Sensibility,'' ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon''), some sensitive Hulk moments seem inevitable, and such scenes could show up when a full-length trailer hits theaters Feb. 14 with prints of ''Daredevil.'' But even without them, one expert already sees the beast's softer side. Says Ferrigno: ''I think he's cute.''

Originally posted Jan 29, 2003