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Sunday July 22nd 2018

Hulk | 2003

Hulk film location: Vallejo Street, San Francisco
Hulk location: Hulk is cornered by the military in San Francisco: Vallejo Street, San Francisco

Ang Lee continues to confound genre expectations, from Sense And Sensibility to The Ice Storm to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With Danny Elfman’s thunderous score, Lee brings an expressive comic book dynamic to the legendary Marvel story, and prefigures the current spate of serious origins stories. There are the, by now, regulation cameos: from creator Stan Lee and TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno as a couple of security guards on the university campus.

The ‘Berkeley Nuclear Biotechnology Institute’, at which nerdy Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) experiments with nanomeds, is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (with filming for the first time at the lab’s Advanced Light Source, a giant contraption opened in 1993, which creates a huge microscope by accelerating electrons to nearly the speed of light) at the Berkeley Hills campus, to the east of Berkeley across the Bay from San Francisco. The Hulk rips a copy of the lab’s Gammasphere (a gamma-ray detector, though presented in the film as a gamma-ray source) from its connections and hurls it through the famous dome of the ALS.

The wonderful-looking abandoned ice-cream parlor, where Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) remembers traumatic events, was a set built alongside the old Googie-style International Cafe, which stood at 36023 Calico Road, immediately south of I-15, the Barstow Freeway, at Yermo, in the Mojave Desert, California. The set was dismantled after filming and, in 2009, the cafe itself burned down, although the elevated ‘Cafe’ sign remains (for the moment).

Bruce’s father’s (Nick Nolte) funky neighbourhood is an industrial area of Oakland, to the south of Berkeley, while Betty’s house was found on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot – it can also be seen in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Many of the interiors were filmed in hangars on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, and the artificially-created island also supplied the 'restaurant' in which Betty meets her father, General Ross (Sam Elliott), allowing that fantastic view of the city skyline. The man-made landform was built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and later used as a naval base. More recently the island’s hangars have regularly found use as film soundstages.

Betty’s forest cabin, where Hulk fights off three mutant dogs, was built (and dismantled after filming) alongside Hendrick Pond on Balch County Road in Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees on Route 190, east of Porterville in the southern Sierra Nevadas, California. This grove of giants, by the way, includes the seventh largest tree in the world.

Banner is taken from the cabin to the army desert facility. The entrance is that of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, 1 Administration Circle, China Lake, north of Ridgecrest, California, but its cavernous underground bunker is the huge Stage 12 at Universal Studios, one of the largest in Los Angeles.

Hulk filming location: Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
Hulk location: Hulk bounds through the desert: Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah | Photograph: wikimedia / Tiziano Lombardi

Escaping the army compound, Hulk heads toward San Francisco, although the helicopters seem to be tracking him across the desert area around Lake Powell, to the north of Page, Arizona. They catch up with him as he bounds across the spectacular red rock formations of Arches National Park, Utah, leaping from the spectacular Double Arch and chased by General Ross and his ’copters around the sandstone bowl beneath Delicate Arch. You can see the same landscapes in the Young Indy opening sequence of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Hulk leaps and vaults his way back to San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge, before ripping up the tarmac along Vallejo Street in the posh Telegraph Hill district. He’s cornered by the military at the corner of Montgomery and Vallejo Streets, a location chosen for the view down to the Oakland Bay Bridge. The local residents had to be evacuated during filming as the ‘copters came in at a height of a mere 75 feet, which is way below the standard regulation 500 feet.

The airport and barracks, where Bruce is unhappily reunited with his father, are the abandoned Wendover Airfield, Airport Way, off I-80 east of Wendover, Utah, at the Nevada border. This is where the atom bomb-carrying Enola Gay was based toward the end of WWII, and there are projects to restore it. The deserted location was also used for Independence Day, Con Air, The Core and Mulholland Falls.