The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Directed by: Louis Leterrier Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hrs. 52 mins.
Studio: Universal Pictures/Marvel Studios Screenwriter: Zak Penn
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth
Explosions. Car throwing. Jumping from choppers without a shoot. Destroying a part of New York. Mass destruction and collateral damage. People running and screaming in the streets. Yep, it must be a Marvel movie!
The Incredible Hulk is the fifth MCU film if you’re watching in logical viewing order. And the second film, in general, to be released. This film starts with snippets of images to convey information and actions to progress the story while the intro credits run. It spends zero time showing you how Bruce Banner (Norton) ends up as ‘The Hulk,’ and it’s better for it. There are plenty of other places in the film that show and tell what gamma radiation/poisoning is and what it does. These snippets are gritty, bloody, and convey a heavy scientific and militaristic tone. This film predates Disney’s acquisition of Marvel.
Even for a Marvel film, The Incredible Hulk has a darker, more sinister feel to it. While there is plenty of violence in any of the MCU films to date, this movie has the unfortunate use of humans and regular weapons. These two factors set it apart from the other MCU characters and their stories because there are no aliens or futuristic technology to act as a visual boundary. The Hulk and his foe aside.
Bruce Banner is a scientist who has an accident in a laboratory experiment, which results in him morphing into a gigantic, green mutation known as the Hulk. When he’s calm, he turns back into Bruce. General Ross (Hurt) always wanted to use Banner’s work and weaponize it. When Banner changed, General Ross felt Bruce was government property to be experimented on and exploited. So, Bruce fled. One of Bruce’s scientific collaborators was Dr. Betty Ross (Tyler), Bruces’s love interest and General Ross’s daughter.
General Ross seeks out where Bruce is hiding for years. Given the plot so far, it wouldn’t be much of a story if the general didn’t locate him at some point. At this junction, the general enlists the help of Emil Blonsky (Roth) to help track and capture Banner. After seeing the Hulk up close, Blonsky wants to be like the Hulk and works towards that goal. Because of this choice, Blonsky ends up the primary foe of the film over General Ross.
The premise overall isn’t flawed; it’s acted well by everyone. Yet…the pace is what trips this film up. It transitions well from scene to scene so that the audience understands the flow of time and such. The problem is the movie relies too much on its action sequences and explosions. Some of which are genuinely unbelievable (that’s not a compliment). Without them, the story would flop around like a fish out of water. There is lots of destruction and violence with an origin story like the Hulks or most stories about him. It’s difficult to tell such an origin story without it. And that’s the root of the problem. The Hulk shouldn’t have his own standalone film. It’s simple enough to convey in other ways and should have been.
This film does show the Hulk doing his ground stomp, makes boxing gloves from cars, performing a thunderclap, and yelling his iconic catchphrase. All these things are utilized and absolutely belong. It’s not enough to make this film stand out. Its failure to captivate is in the limited complexity or nuances that Bruce/Hulk has as an origin story. It’s pretty cut and dry.
While the events depicted in this film are referenced later in the MCU, General Ross (Hurt) is the only actor to ever be seen again. The others are never shown or are recast altogether. There are nods to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s existence in the movie. Still, they come across as confusing afterthoughts that are meaningless in this film. To that end, the only real thing that connects this film to the MCU is in the last minute of the film, where Tony Stark makes an appearance. If it were not for that, this film couldn’t even be considered a part of the MCU.
More than enough comments happen in future films, allowing the audience to understand the Hulk/Bruce Banner’s situation. It’s because of this fact that this movie is totally one you could skip seeing. Keep this off your watchlist and move on to whatever’s next on your list.
*There is no end credit scenes for this film
—a pen lady