The Incredible Hulk (2008)

the incredible hulk IMDb

The Incredible Hulk is by far the weakest link in the Marvel Universe. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s just that Bruce Banner/Hulk is not that interesting of a character. Everything there is to his personality and story has been covered in this film. There’s really nowhere else for him to go, making him perfect for ensemble pictures (like The Avengers), but boring on his own. That sense of finality permeates this movie, making it less compelling than the rest of Marvel’s film line up.

Technically, this movie is good, but I struggle to really like it. I’ve never seen Ang Lee’s take on Hulk, so I can’t compare this movie to that one (which I’ve heard was terrible). This time around Banner is played by Edward Norton, an actor who never really comes across as likable. He’s great at the drama, funny when he needs to be, and delivers his witty quips well, but he just never seems nice. This is a big problem. The audience should empathize with Banner’s struggle to rid himself of his inner monster. They should feel sorry that he is relentlessly pursued by men who want to kill him. But I find this so hard to do when Norton is playing the character. I don’t know if it’s my preconceived notion of him as a person or if he’s bringing a harder edge to Banner that I don’t think should be there. To me, Norton is just not Bruce Banner.

The rest of this film fits the Marvel mold, but again, it doesn’t grab me the way their other movies do. There is plenty of action, which still looks great given the fact that the CGI used to create The Hulk has advanced miles since 2008. The humor is on point, though there is less of it here than in other Marvel films. The story itself is good, introducing the villain Abomination, excellently played by Tim Roth.

All of the elements are there, but I’m just not that interested. By the time the movie ends I’m done with Hulk. Instead of anticipating what comes next for him, I’m wondering why he got a movie of his own to begin with (Two, actually. And a television show in the 70s.). He’s just not that interesting of a character, in my opinion. Even with an actor better suited to the Bruce Banner role (Mark Ruffalo is pretty perfect.), I don’t think his story and personality is strong enough to stand on its own. I can see the push to establish him as a solo character– all the other Avengers got their spotlight– but I don’t think he’s well suited to this treatment. Bring Banner in to help the others with science stuff, and have him hulk out when something needs smashing. He’s good at that. But don’t ask him to take the lead when he’s clearly a supporting character.

Rating: C+

This is one of the few Marvel movies I don’t love. It has nothing to do with the quality of the film, which is fine. I just have never found the character of Hulk that interesting. I put him in the same boat as Superman because I find both of them to be boring characters that struggle to carry their own movie. Hulk is terrific in small doses, as evidenced by his fun appearance in the Avengers. When that film came out, dumb fanboys were crying out for another solo Hulk flick, but I just don’t think he works on his own. The Hulk character is fine as part of an ensemble, but Bruce Banner is not able to carry an entire movie on his own. The two attempts to do so have shown this. Both Hulk films had a terrific cast and set of people behind the scenes, and both have struggled to be really good films. I’m not sure another Hulk film, even one headlined by Mark Ruffalo, would necessarily fare any better than those first two did.

The Incredible Hulk is the second instalment in the Marvel cinematic universe and a reboot of sorts for the character of Hulk. Bruce Banner is now played by Edward Norton and is on the run from the US government, who believe that Banner’s radiated body, and the giant green menace he turns into when he gets mad, belongs to them. Banner is hiding out in Brazil, hoping to find a cure for his hulking out problem. After a mishap at his job at a local soft drink bottling plant, the army is soon on their way to hunt him down and bring him back to America to be studied. Led by General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt), the army tries to capture Banner before he can turn into the big green menace. Spoiler Alert! They fail. Banner has developed relaxing techniques to prevent himself from turning into the Hulk, but even these cannot prevent it when he is attacked. The only person to witness Banner’s transformation is the soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). After he is defeated by the Hulk, he volunteers to be given a newly rediscovered ‘super soldier’ serum to give him the strength he needs to bring down the Hulk once and for good. Meanwhile, now that his cover in Brazil is blown, Banner returns to America to find his lady love, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and hopes to contact one of the scientists he’d been discussing his condition with to try and reverse it. Eventually the ‘super soldier’ serum turns Blonsky into a giant abomination and only Hulk can stop him, and potentially take all of New York with them.

This movie is fine. I don’t love it like I do nearly every other Marvel movie, but I’ve explained why above. This movie does a good job of reintroducing the Hulk character after he was so poorly portrayed by Eric Bana in the Ang Lee directed origin story. On that, whoever decided to let the director of Brokeback Mountain make a Hulk movie needs their head tested. Edward Norton is good as Banner, I was disappointed when it was announced he would not be returning for the Avengers. From what I’ve heard, Norton was incredibly difficult on set and wanted to make massive script changes and edit the film himself. Marvel would not allow this so Norton walked away unhappy. It is a shame because I would have liked to see the Avengers have the same continuity, but the Ruffalo was so good as Banner in Avengers, so Norton was quickly forgotten.

Hulk is a good superhero film. It is probably the worst of the films that Marvel has produced, but that is still pretty good.

Rating: B-

One thought on “The Incredible Hulk (2008)

  1. Pingback: Thor (2011) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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