Written By: Rick Masters
The Incredible Hulk movie has always stuck out like a giant green thumb in the MCU, not only is it’s tone and production quality very different from the others but Bruce Banner is the only main character to have changed throughout the series’s 10 year run.
The film wastes no time in establishing the back story of how Banner became the big green monster, aware that his origins have been told countless times before and that 2003’s HULK spent a good few hours taking us slowly through it only 5 years prior.. The film blasts through the experiment gone wrong in it’s short, yet stylish, opening credits.
Cut to five years later, Banner is on the run and hiding in Rio de Janeiro, while searching for a cure for his condition. The military ultimately locate him and so begins the chaos and destruction that is The Incredible Hulk.
At the time of release I recall half enjoying this movie however on what is now my 3rd re-watch I have began to notice a number of glaring issues with it, and many more if we factor in the MCU continuity. It’s very obvious that the MCU hadn’t been entirely mapped out when this film was written and produced and so many plot holes are created within. Now that we’re closing in on the climax of Phase three, is clear they’ll never be explained and for me, this weakens the film if you watch it in the present day. (and most definitely if you’re watching it as part of an MCU marathon)
Ang Lee’s 2003’s Hulk got a pretty bad rap on it’s release but having also watched that one recently I’m inclined to say it was the better film. The extended action scene that starts with Hulk breaking out of a containment chamber in a military base, fighting M1 tanks and helicopters in the desert, then riding an F22 Raptor into the stratosphere, only to be captured on the streets of San Francisco, This was one of the best action sequences ever made for a superhero movie at the time and it really stuck with me. Of course, the ending got really stupid with Bruce Banner’s father turning into some sort of shape-shifting villain but the CGI 2005 Hulk had many more emotional moments that helped convince you that he was real and interacting with his environment.
Skip to 2008 and this Hulk is a lot more plastic, the CGI in this movie is not good. Maybe the Hulk in Ang Lee’s version looked fake at times and cartoonish at others – but it had its convincing moments also. The Incredible Hulk looked mostly ridiculous. The lighting, environment and facial effects didn’t look 5 years newer than Ang Lee’s, they looked worse! And there really is no excuse for that. Sound production is also dreadful, something that should have been shaking my room with bass sounded more like a fly giving birth.
Then there is the human element. After channelling his internally conflicted self in Fight Club, you expect Edward Norton to make a pretty impressive Bruce Banner. What we actually get is an emotionless one-dimensional snoozefest and his love interest with Liv Tyler (who is also incidently completely ignored in future MCU films) is emotionally unconvincing. Swapping him out for the much more interesting Mark Ruffalo was a smart movie, even if it does damage continuity.
The Incredible Hulk does feature some nice little easter eggs however, with numerous winks to the fanboys, including series character cameos, from Tim Blake Nelson’s mad scientist Samuel Stern, The original TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno makes an appearance as a security guard, as does Stan Lee (this has since become the norm). Names such as Nick Fury and Rick Jones can also be seen, as well as blueprints for technology developed by Tony Stark. The only real obvious tie in with the MCU throughout the film though is the very final scene with Tony Stark himself and the general (who reappears in Civil War with no explanation of how he got away with the mess he created in this film.)
The Incredible Hulk is by far the most disconnected MCU film so far with more holes in it than Quicksilver. It feels much darker than the other films and is much weaker on the CGI front than all the others. The plot is particularly poor and the villain is laughable (could they have found a shorter Special Forces guy to fight poor Bruce?). The general’s plan is beyond ridiculous (I own you and so I want you) and it’s all just too stupid to get emotionally invested in. The script lacks any kind of impact or originality, Iron Man brought depth and emotion to the characters involved, something that is sorely missing here.
My advice…. You are more than welcome to skip this, nothing here is needed for your enjoyment of future MCU developments and the Hulk benefits more from his introduction in The Avengers much more than what this film smashes out.
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