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Review – Movie – The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

The Incredible Hulk seems to be a really hard hero to get right for movies.  He’s had a few of them and even a live action TV series in the 80s.  The Incredible Hulk is sort of the redheaded stepchild of the MCU.  It came out just after Iron Man.  It’s technically sort of part of the MCU, but no one really remembers or cares that it’s part of the MCU.  Part of this confusion is the change in actors from the movie and his next appearance in The Avengers.  They traded out Edward Norton for Mark Ruffalo.  This particular movie also exists in a weird space since it’s technically a sequel to the 2003 Ang Lee film simply called Hulk.  The rumors and stories I’ve read are that Norton was kind of a bear to work with on the whole thing and had a hand in altering a lot of the script until it was much less of a sequel and more of a reboot.  It doesn’t really directly contradict Ang Lee’s Hulk, but it doesn’t reference it either.  This is also part of why they dropped Norton for Ruffalo.

A lot of the problem with Hulk is that the exciting part, IE the big green monster, is boring and hard from a story perspective.  He’s not really a hero, he doesn’t really go around saving people really, he just gets mad and rages, and hopefully he’s raging against someone more evil than he is.  The part that works for the story, Bruce Banner, is kind of boring from a movie perspective.  It’s not super easy to depict “inner turmoil” on screen, which is part of what makes the Hulk and Banner who they are.

This film also is treated by the greater MCU the same way it treats it’s Ang Lee predecessor.  It’s not really acknowledge, it’s not really rejected.  It does seem to be kind of a goto reference for the TV MCU though.  Ironic since the TV MCU is also ignored by the movies.  Daredevil and Iron Fist make references to the final battle in Harlem, Agents of SHIELD makes references to Emil Blonsky a few times.

It’s an alright film, but I kind of prefer the Ang Lee vision of Hulk and frankly, I don’t really like Edward Norton as Banner.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The plot starts off with Banner working and hiding in Mexico, working at a soda bottling plant.  He’s communicating with Samuel Sterns, a scientist in the states, anonymously working to find a cure for his Hulkness.  During an accident, he accidentally cuts himself and some of his blood lands in one of the sodas which ends up giving Gamma Poisoning to poor Stan Lee.  This leads the military to Banner’s location.  They recruit special forces agent Emil Blonsky to head in and capture Banner.  After some Fitbit advertisements where Banner’s heart rate keeps increasing during his escape from the military, he finally Hulks out and battles it out with the soldiers before making his escape.

Jealous of the Hulk’s power, Blonsky gets injected with some experimental super soldier serum to help beef himself up and help him go up against the unstoppable force that is The Hulk.  Banner returns to the states to meet up with his old girlfriend Betty Ross, daughter of General Ross, who is leading the military charge against him.  Bruce wants to recover the data from the original experiment that transformed him into The Hulk to better help Dr. Sterns  find a cure.  Unfortunately for Banner, the Military has been alerted to his presence.  Hulk rears his raging face again and makes short work of the military forces, including Blonsky, despite his newfound strength.  Hulk flees with Betty after The Hulk “kills” Blonsky.

Bruce and Betty finally meet up with Samuel Sterns, who was able to formulate a cure, but possibly a faulty cure.  They administer the cure to Banner and afterwards General Ross, Blonsky and the military show up yet again and take Banner into custody.  After Ross heads out with Banner, Blonsky forces Dr. Stern to inject him with Banner’s blood.  The super soldier serum and the Hulk blood have a negative interaction and Blonsky is transformed into the classic Hulk nemesis, Abomination, who starts rampaging through Harlem.  General Ross agrees to let Banner go because the Hulk is the only one who can stop The Abomination.  After the two brutes trash out the city, prompting Wilson Fisk to leverage his power to rebuild things in his vision for control (no wait, wrong show), The Abomination is defeated and things come to a close.

Banner is later shown to be living in seclusion again and Tony Stark shows up to talk to General Ross in vague terms about the Avengers.

How it’s Connected

Aside from Robert Downy Jr’s cameo at the end, there’s not a whole lot else that comes up later.  There aren’t any references to The Absorbing Man in the first movie, there aren’t any Infinity Stones or much SHIELD even.  The events that take place in Harlem are mentioned in the Netflix Defenders shows some, primarily because those shows mostly take place in and around Harlem.  Though I find it kind of odd that the major event everyone talks about is Hulk and not, you know, the literal alien invasion and Avengers.  The Super Soldier serum theme is here, that of course relates to Captain America, Agent Carter, and a few bits in Agents of SHIELD.

Thoughts on What’s Next

There hasn’t been a straight followup for The Hulk, he shows up again in the later Avengers films and the upcoming Thor Ragnarok, but nothing new in terms of a solo film.  There is/was clearly some plan though, during the scene when Samuel Sterns turns Blonsky into the Abomination, he too gets infected by the Hulk Blood and his head starts mutating.  In the comics, Samuel Sterns is a smart dude with a big head villain named Leader.  Someone was pushing for this angle, though at this point it’s clearly gone nowhere.

Final Notes

The Incredible Hulk is an ok though pretty forgettable part of the greater MCU.  It’s not an awful movie, it just sort of, is.  Hulk is just sort of a hard guy to really do justice in film.

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