The Incredible Hulk (Avengers Countdown)
May 5, 2012
“You’re making me angry… You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Synopsis: Bruce Banner is one of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet, but after an overdose of Gamma Radiation turned him into the Hulk he’s been a fugitive pursued by the US Government. This sequel/reboot follows Bruce Banner as he struggles to control his transformations, dodges the military’s attempts at capture, and seeks a cure for the Hulk. Meanwhile, General Ross deploys untested super-soldier Emil Blonsky in an attempt to capture Hulk, and inadvertently creates a monster.
The Incredible Hulk was Marvel Studios’ second foray into major-motion-pictures and a successful sequel/reboot to the notoriously awful 2003 Hulk (starring Eric Bana and Jennifer Connely). Incredible Hulk returns the series to the heart of the Banner/Hulk character: Bruce Banner as a fugitive. Banner is constantly on the road; always searching for a cure, always avoiding capture, and always fighting his inner demons.
Edward Norton is perfect as Dr. Bruce Banner, a brilliant and honorable scientist who is desperately trying to protect the world from the monster inside of him. The tendency is to play Banner as pathetic and whiny (‘why does this always happen to me?’) but Edward Norton carries the role with genuine emotion. Liv Tyler steps in beautifully as Betty Ross, breaking our heart for the romance that can never be. Tim Blake Nelson makes a surprising appearance as Samuel Sterns (Mr. Blue) and opens the door for a (possible) villainous return.
Most of the film features the conflict between General Ross (William Hurt) and fugitive Bruce Banner. Ross is trying to capture and weaponize Hulk and Bruce Banner resists, insisting that the Hulk cannot be controlled. In an attempt to finally catch Banner, Ross injects mercenary Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) with an untested super-soldier serum (foreshadowing Captain America!) and ends up creating the monster Abomination. This hunter-prey, action-packed drama sets the perfect pacing and tone for a Hulk film.
Themes: Self-Control, Respect for Power, Sacrifice
Hulk has always been a metaphorical character, representing the continual struggle to control the darker and destructive things inside of us. I believe that all of us can identify with Banner’s struggle to protect others from the monster within. – Unfortunately, this “I can’t control the monster” idea has been ripped off and poorly executed so many times (*cough cough* Twilight) that it feels well-trodden.
Responsibility often includes sacrifice. In order to protect the world from the uncontrollable Hulk, Banner has sacrificed everything: his life, career, freedom, and even his romance with Betty. Seeing Bruce encounter his old life, especially reuniting with Betty, is a painful reminder of everything he has left behind. As audience members, we yearn for justice. We want so badly for Bruce to be exhonorated and start a life with Betty. Most superheroes make sacrifices for a short period of time (or until the villain of that particular storyline is dead) but Bruce is destined to return to the road as a fugitive. Sometimes acting with integrity and responsibility means long-term, unending sacrifice.
Typical of the Prometheus and Frankenstein mythos, Incredible Hulk teaches us something about respect for power beyond our control or understanding. General Ross sees the Hulk as a weapon to be tamed, but Banner knows it is pure, uncontrollable rage. It is this careless misuse of power by Ross and the lust for power by Blonsky that creates the real monster, the bloodthirsty Abomination. At the end of the film, Hulk defeats Abomination and tosses the creature at the feet of General Ross. In this brilliant and silent moment, Hulk glares at Ross as if to say ‘you wanted a weapon, here he is. This is the legacy you have tried to build, and this is exactly what I have been protecting you from.’ It is human nature to lust for power greater than we can control, and Incredible Hulk warns us of the danger in yielding to those desires.
Action packed and boasting a solid cast, The Incredible Hulk was a pretty impressive film… in 2008. It didn’t stand the test of time nearly as well as I had hoped. The cgi rendering of Hulk and Abomination look a little cheesy compared to recent developments like Michael Bay’s Transformers3. Couple this with the resurgence of werewolves, and this film’s “beast within” bit doesn’t stand out like it used to.
If you get the chance, watch the 2003 Hulk by Ang Lee before watching The Incredible Hulk. While the sequel reiterates everything you need to know, its makes you appreciate just how difficult it is to make a good movie about a giant green monster whose catchphrase is “Hulk Smash!”