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