When Iron Man had it’s 10th year anniversary last May it was highly celebrated by Marvel Studios, but not much was said when The Incredible Hulk became ten years old last June. Granted, Marvel celebrated the 10th year anniversary of Marvel Studios as a whole and not specifically Iron Man, but I still think that there should have been some attention on this. Now that The Incredible Hulk is more than ten years old, I’d like to take this time to revisit the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially since it is one of the least critically and commercially successful MCU films.
- As it was back then, I still think that The Incredible Hulk is a good enough movie and I’m still in disbelief at how it only managed to get a 67% over at Rotten Tomatoes – which is still considered “fresh”, but is low by MCU standards (this is one of only two MCU films that didn’t exceed a 70% rating). This movie isn’t even in the Top Ten highest grossing films list for that year! I guess the Marvel Studios brand isn’t as strong back then as it is now, and I bet Ang Lee’s Hulk also had an impact on how audiences accepted this movie.
- But yes, I think that The Incredible Hulk was good, better than it’s reputation says it is. I found the main plot of Bruce Banner trying his best to get rid of the monstrous Hulk within largely on his own, only to realize that the Hulk is a part of him that he needs, to be very compelling. All this accomplished while skipping the hero origin story – I’d say The Incredible Hulk proved that you can do a superhero movie reboot without needing to tell the origin story all over again, something that Spider-Man: Homecoming would also succeed at several years later.
- I don’t have much to say about Edward Norton. I mean, he did a good job in the Bruce Banner role – he’s a great actor after all – but his performance in this film wasn’t memorable to me at all. It’s unfair to compare Norton to Robert Downey Jr. who completely owned the character of Tony Stark on his first attempt, especially since it took the other MCU actors (Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Johansson) several attempts before I started to feel them really owning their roles. I guess what I can say is, I really don’t mind that Norton left and got replaced. Still, I’m curious as to how the Stark/Banner bromance would play out if Norton remained with the franchise.
- MCU films used to get criticized for having lackluster villains, but I liked both Thunderbolt Ross (it was such a treat to see the character return in Civil War and Infinity War) and Emil Blonsky. Sure, they were pretty one-dimensional, but their motivations were very clear and understandable: Ross is your typical military leader figure who wants to use everything for military use, while Blonsky is a hunter-type persona who started just wanting to be better than his perceived prey, which slowly.turned into an obsession that made him want to turn into a monster himself. These two are definitely more memorable than a Malekith or a Ronan, in my opinion.
- I’ve seen a lot of criticism about how Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross wasn’t much of a character and was more of a plot device to help Banner’s story progress but is her role any different from Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer? I don’t see how much more Betty Ross could have done given how this story played out.
- I think the weakest part of The Incredible Hulk is how Banner’s journey was resolved at the end. He risked almost everything to rid himself of the Hulk and he sacrificed that for what exactly? To save the streets of Harlem from the hands of the Abomination? A quick and clean rewrite that I would have done is to give Banner a compelling truly reason to want to turn into the Hulk – maybe have Abomination get the helicopter that had Banner and the father/daughter pair to go and crash. Banner, wanting to save Betty, would need to turn himself back into the more powerful Hulk to save her life. The film as it is right now doesn’t really do a good job of selling why Banner suddenly accepted that he can’t get rid of his Hulk alter ego.
- Also, The Incredible Hulk received criticism for being more concerned about setting up future MCU installments but aside from the Samuel Sterns/Leader hint (the Leader is a Hulk supervillain in the comics, with a gamma irradiated brain that makes him hyper intelligent and is a direct contrast of Hulk) and the Tony Stark cameo at the end, I really didn’t get that feeling here. I thought this film was really focused on showing another take on the Bruce Banner character, and it did that job quite well.
After rewatching The Incredible Hulk, I still think that it isn’t as bad as Thor: The Dark World was. I feel the same way about this film as I did with Ant-Man and the Wasp – a good movie with the potential to be a great film but failed to reach that because of a weak ending. While it has not and is unlikely to get any sequels, I’m glad that Marvel Studio’s didn’t abandon the Bruce Banner character, giving him much needed development and progression in the Avengers films.