Ang Lee’s Unused ‘Hulk’ Robot

Before eventual Oscar-winning director Ang Lee decided on going full CGI for his 2003 superhero film Hulk, the production  experimented with a fully animatronic version of the character. How do we know? Steve Johnson, of course.

The special effects master who has been blowing the doors off superhero pre-production is back again. This time, though, he has more than photos. While Johnson has been using Facebook of late to show some of the hundreds of thousands of still photographs he possesses from his 30 plus years of Hollywood effects work, he also has a fairly active YouTube channel. That’s where he chose to debut this footage of tests done for Ang Lee’s Hulk.

Johnson also promises to continue to reveal tens of thousands of hours of footage from his 30 year career both on YouTube and in special behind-the-scenes DVDs he’s beginning to sell. Check out the video and more after the break.

Thanks to io9 and Comics Alliance for the heads up.

First thing’s first. This video shows how the transformation from Bruce Banner to Hulk might have looked and also how the hand might have worked. Based on those two things, do you really think this robot could have looked better than the actual CGI? I’m all for using practical effects when it makes sense, and I agree that Ang Lee’s CGI Hulk had some issues, but I just don’t see how this robot could have looked better than what we eventually saw.

Andy Khouri of Comics Alliance says that “the unused robot appears to eclipse the middling quality of the CGI version we ultimately saw.” I simply have to disagree. Is this robot impressive? Undoubtedly. Would it have been improved upon before it finally went to camera? Absolutely. But there’s a reason Ang Lee chose to go CGI and basically throw away however many hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to create that robot. I’m guessing it’s the face. The Hulk is all about emotion and while we still haven’t nailed emotion from a computer, I think we’re closer than we ever were with a animatroic robot.

What are your thoughts on this video? Would you have preferred to see robot Hulk instead of multi-sized CGI Hulk?

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