Five years ago, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) was exposed to high levels of gamma radiation, turning him into the super-strong Hulk and has since been on the run from the US army and General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. In order to catch the Hulk, Ross injects Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) with a formula to make him stronger. But when Blonsky wants more power, he becomes uncontrollable and the Hulk is the only one strong enough to stop him.
When Marvel Studios launched their Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, it was much more grounded than previous Marvel superhero films. Next, Marvel tries to see if it can get away with something a little less realistic with The Incredible Hulk.
This isn’t an origin story. No, this film starts five years after Bruce Banner became the Hulk. I liked this for two reasons: 1) The Hulk’s origin was already told in the disappointing Hulk from Ang Lee in 2003 and didn’t need to be explained again, and 2) it gave the film a chance to jump right into the story without much set up. A montage during the opening credits and exposition from General Ross part way into the film give the details about how the Hulk came to be. If it was made as an origin movie, there would be much less Hulk, which let’s face it, is really the reason everyone watches this movie.
If less Hulk was seen, there would have hardly been any Hulk at all. Granted the movie is named after him, but he is treated like some sort of monster from a horror movie. He isn’t really seen in full until about halfway through the film. It’s an interesting move considering the world, including Banner, think of the Hulk as a monster.
Edward Norton was great as Bruce Banner. Physically, he looks so unassuming that he is suppressing this powerful rage-fueled monster. I’m not sure exactly how to explain it, but he just worked in the role. Liv Tyler, on the other hand, I wasn’t too fond of as Betty Ross. She seemed flat and not very dynamic. I did like William Hurt and Tim Roth as General Ross and Emil Blonsky.
When your hero is as strong as the Hulk, there aren’t many villain options available to you. So really, the Abomination is one of the few viable options for the Hulk to fight. He’s the Hulk’s Hulk. But at the same time, he was good to demonstrate the Hulk’s ability to get stronger and be a physical powerhouse besides ripping apart tanks.
There are several similarities between The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. First, Iron Man showed Tony Stark’s mechanical skill by having a scene where he works on his hot rod. This movie made a similar move by showing Banner is a scientist by having an early scene with him doing science-y stuff (Sorry to be so technical). The big bad isn’t seen until the very end, too. The character was around for the entire movie, however, they don’t become the supervillain until the last action scene. There were others but those were the two that stood out the most. They share similar plot formulas and it ends up working for both.
One thing I didn’t like was Banner’s heart rate triggering his transformation. His powers are based on his anger, which was eluded to, but his heart rate seemed more like what caused his change into the Hulk. I don’t always correlate heart rate with anger, and it took away from his other, uh, extracurricular activities, so it was a weird trigger to me.
Starting their combined cinematic universe with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk tries to see if the audience can handle a character a little less realistic. Without a doubt, the movie works and proved that Marvel doesn’t need a completely grounded character at the center of their films for audiences to get invested and have a good time.
Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Cast & Crew
Louis Leterrier – Director
Zak Penn – Writer
Craig Armstrong – Composer
Edward Norton – Bruce Banner
Liv Tyler – Betty Ross
Tim Roth – Emil Blonsky
William Hurt – General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross
Tim Blake Nelson – Samuel Sterns
Ty Burrell – Leonard
Christina Cabot – Major Kathleen Sparr
Peter Mensah – General Joe Greller
Lou Ferigno – The Incredible Hulk (voice) / Security Guard
Paul Soles – Stanley
Such an under rated movie. I always loved it, and it honestly makes me very sad that they haven’t made more Hulk films. I really hope they can adapt Planet Hulk and World War Hulk eventually, maybe after phase 3. Ruffalo is definitely the best Bruce Banner, but I did like Edward Norton. This movie really did do a good jb and I like your “less realistic” points. This seemed like the logical 2nd step for the MCU. If this movie didn’t work, Thor might not have either.
This is why I’m not actually worried about DC. They are skipping over all the solo films and just kind of jumping into teaming up with other heroes. They’re so far behind that that’s their only real way to find success. If they had all these solo movies beforehand during a time period where people are starting to worry about superhero fatigue, it probably wouldn’t end well. So it’s good that they’re not straight up copying Marvel’s strategy.
I feel like The Incredible Hulk is the forgotten step-child of the MCU. It’s there, but no one really cares about it. Except for me and you, it seems. 😀
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I think people forget because none of the cast even matches up to the rest of the movies. So it doesn’t help with general audiences for sure
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I agree. It is one of my favorites of Phase 1. I often see it towards the bottom of MCU movie rankings, which is unfortunate. I wish they would have made more Hulk films, too. I don’t know if you heard, but Ruffallo recently revealed that Universal still holds the distribution rights to Hulk films, which is a factor why there haven’t been more. There were rumors a while ago that the next Hulk film would be Planet Hulk and then the Avengers of that Phase would be World War Hulk (this was before their huge Phase 3 announcement). That would have been (would be if it’s in Phase 4) something to see.
I’m disappointed DC isn’t utilizing their TV dominance more and create a shared universe between their small screen and big screen projects. What they should do is use television series to tell stories about their characters, like they are with Arrow and The Flash, and have the movies for team ups and their bigger characters, like Batman or Superman. This would allow them to tell more stories, flesh out their characters, and do something that is unprecedented and different than Marvel, rather than trying to play catch up.
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That’s a great point with DC. I hate that the shows aren’t connected. I’d be totally down to just watch batman, superman, wonder women, and team up movies while everyone else just gets a tv show.
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I can never really get behind the Hulk. I’m never going to be fully absorbed by a superhero movie, but Edward Norton didn’t quite do it for me, and I dislike Ruffalo and it just hits the brakes for me every time.
I understand Hulk isn’t for everyone, but you are one of the first I’ve heard say they don’t really like Ruffalo.