The MCU Ranked: ‘The Incredible Hulk’
If you didn’t catch our last instalment in this series you can do so right here. This time around we’re seeing what happened with the big green guy’s first appearance in the MCU.
Movie: The Incredible Hulk (2003)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Heroes: Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Edward Norton)
Villains: Emil Blonsky/The Abomination (Tim Roth), General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (Willaim Hurt)
Support Cast: Betsy Ross (Liv Tyler), Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell)
Cameos: Stan Lee as a man drinking contaminated soda and Lou Ferrigno as a security guard.
Plot: Bruce Banner is in hiding in Brazil when General Ross learns of his location and sets out to capture him. Ross intends to use Banner’s blood to weaponise the Hulk. Banner returns to the States to try and find a permanent solution to his condition before he is hunted down.
Review: Even after the Nick Fury appearance at the end of the Iron Man it still took us a while to fully accept the idea of The Avengers as this multi-part franchise. Factoring into this was The Incredible Hulk being released the same year and being a step backwards. It’s not a bad film, it just wasn’t close to meeting Iron Man on sheer entertainment value.
The biggest problem is in the casting of Bruce Banner. Edward Norton didn’t do a bad job with the character is it is written, the problems lay in the script. If you gave me a non-Hulk scene from this movie and asked me to identify the main character I would not pick Bruce Banner. Banner is usually characterised by an awkward, nervous manner and a degree of social anxiety that can make people uncomfortable. He’s only at home in his lab, where he can get absorbed into his work. Mark Ruffalo sold us on the recasting the moment he was looking out of place on the SHIELD carrier. He was a bundle of nerves.
Edward Norton’s version of Banner, conversely, is commanding, confident and fully at ease in any environment. He’s at peak fitness and can easily parkour around Rio after bedding a beautiful woman. He picks fights with gangs and gives special forces a runaround. He needs to whip out his brainy specs to convince people he’s a scientist (although he does most of the real science scenes without them…which is silly). The idea that this guy is harbouring a pit of suppressed rage aimed at society, more so, and himself isn’t believable.
Not that anger is really a trigger to bringing Big Green to the surface. Using the heart rate monitor as a visual cue isn’t a terrible idea but they linked it so tightly to going Hulk that anger doesn’t factor in at all. He almost goes green during a sex scene because it was pushing up his pulse up – that should be a moment of great self-worth for the guy, not something that makes him angry. If he goes for a good sprint is he going to Hulk up? Actually, no…the parkour didn’t make his heart rate go up enough. It’s both silly and horribly inconsistent.
At this point I might as well get the negativity out of the way. Whilst trying to distance itself from the 2003 Ang Lee film Hulk in style and tone it seems to be assuming that we all saw it. Condensing the origin story down to a montage is fine but there’s no compensating for the lack of time given to Betsy and General Ross. We don’t learn their story or get a feeling for their relationships with both each other and Bruce Banner. They all share very little screen time for what should be the principle cast members, and as a result we don’t feel invested in their story.
The special effects are an important part of this film with the title character needing to be completely convincing. In part due to the limitations of technology and budget at the time some of the effects are not consistent. Most of scenes are fine, but during the extended confrontation with the Abomination we get the occasional bit of cartooniness. This is jarring with the grittier tone of the film overall.
Putting Banner on the run is always a good idea. He works well when there’s a constant risk nipping at his heels, especially when he’s trying to do the right thing. Some of the more interesting parts of the film is seeing how he manages as a fugitive. Emil Blonsky as the Abomination actually gets a reasonable amount of character, establishing him as a serious threat even before he turns into a big-ass monster. The film has a solid supporting cast all round. It’s a shame the film didn’t perform well enough to warrant a sequel, as the ground work gets laid for The Leader to be the next villain. Hulk fending off hordes of hypnotised cultists would’ve been cool.
Credits Scene: General Ross is drinking a weirdly green drink in a bar when Tony Stark turns up to talk about the Avengers. This was awesome at the time, as it really solidified the idea of the connected universe. Sadly it’s now out of place as Hulk only turns up in The Avengers as a whole new character and Ross doesn’t re-appear until Civil War.
Most Notable Easter Egg: Ok, firstly: bollocks to everyone who says it’s not there because I can totally see it. In a deleted scene we see Banner heading into the frozen wilderness to try and kill himself, which leads to an off-screen Hulk causing an avalanche. Keep an eye on the left side of the screen to glimpse a buried and frozen Captain America. This is a cool link that explains why the Cap suddenly gets found at this time in the franchise.
Coolest Moment: Hulk ripping apart the car to use as boxing gloves is a solid favourite.
THE MCU MASTER LIST
Here’s where we place the film under review in the best-to-worst list of MCU adventures. The Incredible Hulk may have had some cool moments, but there’s no competition here.
1. THOR: RAGNAROK
2. IRON MAN
3. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Next we take a diversion to check out the newly released The Punisher!