This is part of a series of blog posts, discussing my rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe FOLLOWING my viewing Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend. If you HAVE NOT seen Endgame, I suggest you wait to read these posts as I will be mentioning and referencing plot points from the most recent film(s) including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
2. Incredible Hulk (2008)
As a kid, the Hulk was always one of my favorite superheroes. I loved other “monster” heroes like Swamp Thing as well, but I especially enjoyed when the Hulk/Banner combo would unite to give us Professor Hulk, Joe Fixit and all his other “speaking” personalities with overwhelming brutish strength.
The idea of having one of the smartest minds in the world (which Banner was almost always portrayed as in my time as a reader) ALSO share the space with the largest concentration of physical strength in the world was fascinating to me. Top all this off with the fact that as a child of the 80’s and 90’s I had a fondness for and familiarity with the Bill Bixby TV show and TV movies that not only featured the Hulk, but other Marvel characters like Thor and Daredevil. At one time, that WAS the MCU.
I say all this to say that in the summer of 2008, it was THIS movie that I was excited about, and Iron Man was the icing on the cake I’d heard someone was baking me. The fact that Iron Man had hit SOOOO hard had my expectations through the roof. While I felt it wasn’t as complete a success as IM when I saw it first, I did think it would get a sequel and I couldn’t WAIT to see the Leader in TIH2.
But of course, that never came. Now, the reality of WHY it never came is complicated by two things primarily. Contract deals with Universal (When Disney bought Marvel in 2009 Universal was unwilling to part with the Hulk completely and hasn’t been amenable to a deal since that would allow for a solo Hulk film), AND disagreement with the star of this piece, Edward Norton.
”I don’t want to control it. I want to get rid of it.” - Bruce Banner, played by Ed Norton.
Norton’s performance is solid, ESPECIALLY if you like the Bill Bixby take on this character. He’s tortured, he’s desperate to save the world from this “monster” he’s created, and unwilling to consider any possibility of its “usefullness”.
The word is that behind the scenes, though, Norton was unwilling to play ball at least as much as the rest of the players in the MCU have been expected to. He rewrote the script, demanded more money, didn’t want to do press and more.
Part of me wonders if they didn’t know that going into it, as this Hulk looks less like the actor portraying him than any other representation from Marvel Studios since. What DOES look great is the fluidity of his movement, even in this first take from Feige and company. They got the Hulk right, even amongst the things they missed on. The final battle in particular is amazing, but every action sequence plays like the perfect combo of superhero and King Kong movie, That’s what I always want from the Hulk. Moments like when he wears the cop car like boxing gloves and when he uses his hands to make the concussive wind blast put out the fire are things I had waited to see in motion my whole life. They satisfied then and they hold up now, 11 years later.
We dismiss this movie in some ways since it never got a direct continuation, Liv Tyler never reprised her role, the Abomination is just sitting out there in the Raft locked up still, never to be seen again. But Thunderbolt Ross (as portrayed in this film) ended up being one of the bad guys of Civil War and was still running things (or involved in running things) in Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, so this film continues to have ramifications for the rest of the MCU.
Here’s hoping to a motley crew of characters like the Hulk and Namor (whose rights are also tangled up with Universal) could team up in a movie under a different title so as not to bother the contracts, and we could get a Hulk-led story again soon.
And don’t forget, THIS movie had a post-movie scene, NOT a post-credit scene. As soon as we see Banner now has control of the beast in Canada somewhere, the scene flips to Thunderbolt Ross, drowning his sorrows in a bar when he’s joined by a very well-dressed man with a goatee.
”What if I told you, we were putting a team together?” - Tony Stark in what is one of the biggest nonsense moments that had to be retconned after the fact in the entire MCU.