- Directed by Louis Leterrier
- June 8, 2008 (Gibson Amphitheatre) / June 13, 2008 (US)
Bruce Banner is on the run from the government and seeking a cure for his gamma ray induced condition.
I will say this-and I know it will be heresy to a great many Marvel fans-but Edward Norton is far superior in his portrayal of Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk than Mark Ruffalo could ever dream to be. Ruffalo delivers his lines like he is reading the script for the first time. Norton is actually acting and creating a character.
It’s rather unfortunate that Edward Norton is apparently a dick and couldn’t work well enough with people to maintain his casting in the part. He gave complexity to Banner. There is a genuine internal struggle going on as Banner attempts to come to terms if not outright get rid of this creature of pure emotion and unbridled rage within him.
The Incredible Hulk is not exactly an origin film though it does briefly cover how The Hulk came to be and how his origins tie into then beginning MCU. Specifically in this case it is implied to be an attempt to re-create the super soldier serum of Captain America. Much of that origin’s inspiration is taken from the great 70s Bill Bixby series.
There are also a few nods to that very show sprinkled throughout this film. Bixby appears on a TV screen in a clip from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. Lou Ferrigno shows up as a security guard. There are graphics and images that are directly inspired by the series. And the emotionally impactful closing credits song “The Lonely Man” can be heard at a few points. We also get a joke aimed at the purple pants which Hulk regularly sported in the comics. All done lovingly and appreciatively.
At the time I thought the Hulk looked great and it was definitely an improvement over The Hulk in the preceding Ang Lee film. While the Ang Lee version looked good in distance shots it didn’t look good in a close-up. The version we get here is much more realistic looking though as with anything CGI time has taken away some of its sheen.
And what’s a hero without a villain? Our first villain is General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) who pursues Banner with an obsession mixed with hatred. He is so blinded by his desire to get an ultimate weapon that he forgets there’s a human being there. Though as the film goes along his stance softens though not entirely changes.
Our second villain is a Russian-born officer in the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines Commandos loaned to Ross named Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). They jump through a lot of hoops to explain everything. Blonsky is a dedicated soldier who wants a big challenge to take on but he bites off a little more than you can chew when he undergoes the yet not perfected process that gave Banner his transformation which makes him into The Abomination.
Unlike many in the current slate, the whole movie moves towards the finale from the start. Not perfectly but The Incredible Hulk is a much more aimed progression than more efforts. Banner is just trying to go on the run but Ross discovers Banner’s location and starts pursuing him. Blonsky starts developing a twisted hatred for Banner as he is bested repeatedly. Event after event leads to the finale. It’s not a meandering story where they get to the end and have to wrap everything up in a big just to run the credits. It’s an epic throwdown there’s been building between the two forces since early on.
My main complaint about this movie is why did Banner have to go to Brazil? It just seemed like a long way off to start the movie. You could’ve had the same story and kept it within the US. I bring this up because in the film Banner is communicating with a scientist he calls Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns) in an effort to come up with a cure for his condition. I would think he would want to try and stay close by should a cure be created.
It is implied that Banner’s travels are the result of the Hulk’s fleeing after transforming. I would think reports of a big green goliath making appearances all the way to Brazil would reach Ross. How did Ross not know what country to look in?
I know this was extremely early in the MCU but one benefit this had going for it is that there were no extraneous guest stars crowding out the title character. It allowed the movie to focus on Banner and his condition and the story rather than finding ways to justify any number of individuals popping by. Too often now they shoehorn in characters from other Marvel films with the title character ultimately becoming a guest star in their own film.
The Incredible Hulk is a great and sadly one-off Hulk film starring the superior of the recent actors that took on the role. It’s a great action film and just a great Hulk story. You’ll thoroughly enjoy this. However after seeing it you’ll probably be disappointed by other versions of the Hulk in the MCU.