The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

  • Directed by Bill Bixby
  • Produced by Bixby-Brandon Productions, New World Television, and Marvel Comics
  • May 7, 1989
  • NBC

David gets framed for a crime he did not commit and now must prove his innocence with the help of lawyer Matt Murdock without revealing his secret to the world.

Bill Bixby returns to the role of David Banner. Following the events of the previous film David is once again wondering around the country and doing his best to stay under the radar while controlling the thing inside of him and hoping to find a cure. And as usual no matter how hard he tries he cannot remain entirely under the radar.

The television version of the Hulk, from the TV series to the TV movies, was pure Bill Bixby. Even now with Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo and Eric Bana all having played him on the big screen, when I and quite possibly a whole particular generation think of the Incredible Hulk we think of Bill Bixby. There was much more nuance and depth to his portrayal. He was a much more sophisticated character than what we have today. David was tormented by the power within him and felt guilt. He was also a man with heart who despite wanting to avoid trouble and focus on his own needs was forced by circumstance and conscience to become involved.

And of course Lou Ferrigno shows up as everybody’s favorite green skinned good guy. Can you believe Kenneth Johnson wanted to make his skin red at one point? Ferrigno made the Hulk a character. There was expression in his face. You could see confusion or rage at a villain or empathy for another.

The Incredible Hulk series as well as the films were very much a product of its time. More often than not it leaned towards being socially conscious or simply mimicking popular entertainment. The character driven, socially conscious aspects carried over mostly from the series to the films-at least as socially conscious as a one off adventure could be where the title character solves the problem largely with random violence.

Much like its predecessor, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was essentially a backdoor pilot for a series that never happened. This time around it was for a Daredevil series though the character did eventually get one after a poorly received live action movie. Rex Smith plays Matt Murdock and this version is pretty similar to what we get from the comics at least as a character. He is a lawyer blinded in an accident as a child and left with heightened senses.

The costume they saddled him with was a generic black ninja type thing that looks more like somebody altered a very cheap morph suit. I don’t mind the all black look of it but the design was rather lazy to the point of there not really being a design. Given the era I was not expecting spectacular but I was expecting effort.

Still though at the time it was very cool to see another superhero show up in the Hulk universe. Given that there was a lack of super powered individuals present from the first live action appearance it was great to see things expand.

In this film we also get a version of the Kingpin. Here he is played by John Rhys-Davies and is businessman Wilson Fisk who engages in crime. I do not recall the “Kingpin” moniker being used here. Would it really hurt to do that?

Wilson Fisk is not nearly as diabolical or dangerous here as he is in the comics. He is a bit goofy actually and Rhys-Davies’s performance borders on camp. He felt like less a threat and more like a serious nuisance.

A jewel robbery that Fisk masterminds at the beginning of the movie is what sends David on a collision course to encountering Daredevil. David attempts to help a woman (Marta Dubois) whom some of the robbers have decided to assault on the subway after they escape and as per usual in the ensuing confrontation David loses his shit and changes. One of the highlights of any Hulk live action story was the Hulkout. You got this excited feel like something big was going to happen and the payoff was always the same but always so very good.

People get hurt and David gets blamed for assaulting the woman, but no one seems to realize that David and the Hulk are the same person. In the past most of the scenarios, if you weren’t paying attention, you could almost believe that somehow the Hulk came up on the scene but I’m not sure how you can come to that conclusion here. This happened on a subway and no witnesses saw this green dude walk on in and nobody puts things together. But who cares?

Interestingly, despite its title, there is no actual trial that occurs. The closest we get is a dream sequence that precedes David’s jailbreak. I think this is also the first time we get a Stan Lee cameo in a Marvel movie. He can be seen as the jury foreman. With this film a cinematic cameo legend was born.

Joseph “Stefano DiMera” Mascolo shows up as Dep. Chief Albert G. Tendelli who is Daredevil’s contact/ally in the local police department. What city is this anyway? For me it was a cool bit of casting when I was younger because I knew who the actor was and it showed he could do so much more than be evil. DiMera was among the best daytime villains of the era and it was all thanks to Mascolo.

Much like its predecessor this movie was an event film for me. The Incredible Hulk was no longer a TV series but still held a special place in my heart. Still does. It was great to see Bill Bixby in the role that made him an icon to many. The issue though is that David is less important to the story here as he was in the last film or even the series.

Bixby took over the director’s chair here. I know he directed plenty of television shows later in life. The only one though that comes to mind is Blossom so it’s a bit of a shock that in my opinion he helmed an iteration of his television character. A quick look at his directing credits shows he did so much more than that though.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is not a pretentious film. There are no deeper meanings or attempts at such. It’s just a fun character driven story. Banner is a tortured soul. Murdoch is a lawyer seeking justice in a corrupt city the only way he truly has. This was fun and enjoyable and exciting.

There are a few points when you can tell me they sped up the camera to heighten the action and I don’t like that. Other than that, it’s not bad when it comes to the action. The fights are entertaining enough and Daredevil does have a few good one-liners.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is an enjoyable superhero movie from a simpler time in live action superhero history. It’s a serious bit of material that has nothing deeper to it. It is good for fans of the show as well as the casual viewer. This is definitely a watch it!

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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