I was always a fan of the Hulk, as I could sympathize with the torture of a man who just wants to do good, but whose emotions only lead him to cause destruction (and turn into an enormous green rage monster, but that’s no biggie). I wasn’t happy with the depiction of Hulk in the 2003 Ang Lee film, but it has been quite a few years since I’ve seen it, so I’ll hold off on talking about it.
It was only in 2010 when I found out there was a new Hulk movie, and better yet, a reboot that shared the same universe as Iron Man (the popular superhero at the time), so I watched it, and I absolutely loved it. It was better than an attempt, it was actually a really good movie that captured what I loved about the Hulk, so to this day, I’m confused as to why most people really dislike, even hate, this movie. It’s seems that I have to put on my red-tinted glasses and grab my walking stick, because, like Matt Murdock, I’ll have to defend The Incredible Hulk.
Right out of the gate, The Incredible Hulk differentiated itself from most comic book origin stories and series reboots with a 2-3 minute opening title credits that detailed the Hulk’s entire origin story, while also setting up the conflict and character motivation. There’s no dialogue, just a series of clips and shots of newspaper clippings. It’s quick, simple, smart, and something I respect the filmmakers for doing.
Following this, you’re given a day in the life of Bruce Banner. You see what he does in order to contain the Hulk and his lifestyle while he’s in hiding. Edward Norton had a lock on the character. He wasn’t playing mild-mannered Banner from the early comic, he was playing the early 2000s version of the character that was street smart and cautious, as he used his intelligence to help him survive while on the run.
Not long into the movie, we get the first appearance of the Hulk that is shot and crafted quite unexpectedly. The Hulk’s first physical appearance in the film comes when General Ross and his soldiers invade Rio de Janeiro and corner Banner in a soda factory. Banner turns into the Hulk when his anxiety levels increase, but when he does, the perspective changes to the audience following the soldiers as they try to take down/flee from the Hulk. It was intense and scary, but I found this really wrong at first, depicting Hulk as the monster and the soldiers as the incompetent prey, but then Hulk muffles the phrase “leave me alone…”, and it’s made clear, Hulk is just as innocent prey as Banner was.
Following this, Banner reverts back to himself and goes on the run. This is when we get more scenes with General Ross and Emil Blonsky, played masterfully by William Hurt and Tim Ross. We learn of Ross’ intentions to contain the Hulk (we later find out he’s lying), and gets Blonsky to inject some of the super soldier serum in him. Speaking of, this is a great companion piece to Captain America: The First Aveger. Abraham Erskine’s (Stanley Tucci) talk about bad men with power means more bad, but good men with power will always prevail. This comes into fruition in that film and a the end of this film as well.
Banner is eventually reunited with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler plays another character with daddy issues), and this is honestly where the movie slows down for me. It’s less of thriller, but we do get a sense of what Banner is fighting for and why he wants to cure the Hulk, and the aforementioned explanation of how Ross is lying and the bad guy.
Halfway through the movie, we’re given the Hulk in full form. Here, Banner is directly attacked by the military and he unleashes the Hulk. The battle is not all fun-and-games, as we get many shots of characters looking in horror, watching the Hulk smash. However, towars the end, it’s cemented while Blonsky shows his pride and inner monster. Even Ross shows his unrelenting drive towards taking down the Hulk, with Betty’s (ex-)boyfriend even calling him out on it.
The next highlight of the film would be the finale already, as Blonsky becomes the Abomination and terrorizes through Harlem, which brings us to the incredible scene of Banner dropping out of a helicopter, willingly deciding to turn into the Hulk, after having tried his final attempt at curing him moments before. It’s when the monster becomes a hero, and I love every second of it. The battle between the two monsters is intense, with Abomination taunting Hulk every chance he gets, while Hulk, like the underdog boxer, barely manages to stay up towards the end of the fight. He finally brings down Abomination (without killing him, mind you), but goes into running again, as it’s his first instinct to do. What should be the final shot of the film shows Banner hiding out, but this time, he’s actively trying to control the Hulk in order to save lives.
The Incredible Hulk is actually one of my favorite comic book films, and it’s definitely my favorite standalone film of Phase 1 of Marvel Cinematic Universe. I used to call it a”guilty pleasure”, but then I realized I should be actively covincing people to give this film another shot. It’s thrilling and fun, and it does wonders with the character. It’s time to give this monster some love.