The Big Damn MCU Rewatch: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
After the spectacular success of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk was a pretty big mis-step for Marvel, even though they proclaimed it a commercial success. Part of the problem was the casting of Edward Norton, who just seems too quiet and diminutive for the role of Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo probably isn’t much bigger physically, but he dominates the space around him with a force or personality Norton just doesn’t have. The movie made $263 million worldwide off a $150 million budget, by far the lowest take of any MCU movie, and only a little more than Hulk (2003) which made $245 million off a $137 million budget.
The other part of the problem is that the story just didn’t start at the beginning. That whole sequence at the beginning of stills and short clips telling the story of the ‘transformation’ - that’s the interesting bit of the Hulk story, and the movie jumps right over it. However, it’s kind of understandable why when you realize it was only 5 years since Hulk was released, directed by Ang Lee and starring Eric Bana, which DID tell the origin story. Apparently, 70 minutes of footage was cut from The Incredible Hulk because test audiences found it too similar to Hulk, and edited into that opening montage. And I know a lot of people hated Hulk, but honestly? I preferred it to this version, and I never quite got why Marvel didn’t just retcon that one into the MCU and make this Hulk 2. Eric Bana, IMO, made a pretty damn good Bruce Banner.
So The Incredible Hulk is Bruce on the run, hiding out in Brazil and being hunted by General Ross (William Hurt, who returned to play Secretary Ross in Civil War). Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross, Bruce’s love interest, and she is a big loss to the MCU, in my opinion. But then Marvel have never been known for paying their female stars what they’re worth or treating them well, as I’m sure Natalie Portman can attest.
The Incredible Hulk suffers from a lot of pacing problems. There’s really no need to see Liv Tyler driving her car around in the rain. We jump from long sequences where people hardly speak to long smashy action sections, and I much preferred Ang Lee’s thoughtful dramatic treatment of the story to this. Coming after the wit and brilliance of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk suffers dreadfully in comparison, being neither witty nor brilliant.
Favourite moment: Connor says it’s “Hulk Smash”. I think it’s Betty losing her shit at the world’s most insane taxi driver and Bruce offering to teach her anger management techniques. That was the only time I laughed in the whole film.
Best one-liner: Um. There really weren’t any. Best we could come up with was Bruce speaking bad Portuguese, saying “Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”
Least favourite moment: Kieran and Connor both say it’s the kissing bits. You, uh, may discern a theme with what these two don’t like. For me it’s Emil Blonsky’s desire to be made into a monster. Men really don’t make sense sometimes.
Overall star rating: 2/10. A leading man who doesn’t have the charisma and a complete lack of the signature witty one-liners which make the MCU movies so much fun made this one fall utterly flat.