Avengers April: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Back with another installment of Avengers April, in anticipation for Avengers: Age of Ultron, today we look at the only standalone movie dedicated to the Hulk, titled The Incredible Hulk. Starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and the big green guy you won’t like when he’s angry, this film was seen as a correction for the mess that was Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003).
The film was not an origin story, as most people already know that story, due to the popular live-action television show The Incredible Show, which starred Lou Ferrigno as Hulk (but not Banner). As a nod to that cultural icon, Ferrigno voiced the Hulk in his few lines (in fact, I can only remember one… “Hulk Smash!”) and had an additional guest role as a security guard. The film instead picks up five years after the failed gamma ray experiment, with a Banner on the run and in hiding. For the uninitiated, the opening credits montage did recap the origin story.
You can’t talk about this film without talking about Edward Norton’s decision to not reprise the character in The Avengers. It’s a shame, because Norton is a Hulk fan who actually rewrote the script to fit his vision. Yet when casting was underway for The Avengers, Norton declined, and the role was given to Mark Ruffalo. I don’t think anyone but Norton really knows why. Maybe it was money, or lack of control. Maybe he didn’t like Hulk’s part in the film. Norton once she that being in The Avengers would keep him from pursuing other smaller films in the meanwhile, but considering Ruffalo’s ability to still do exactly that, that was an exaggeration.
Ultimately, I think Ruffalo is a better choice anyway. While I did enjoy Norton’s take on the character, I liked Ruffalo’s fit as Banner. I just get more of a “genius scientist” vibe with him. No offense to Norton.
The film centers on the U.S. Military’s efforts to capture Hulk. The commander for these missions, General Thaddeus Ross, was involved in the ill-fated experiment that turned Banner into the Hulk in the first place. Now he wants to capture Banner so he can weaponize the Hulk for military purposes. How exactly he intends to use this weapon, I have no idea. Does he intend to make a bunch of tamed Hulks that he can send out onto the battlefield? Does he want to refine the original experiment in order to continue to pursue the original Super Soldier serum?
To that end, Ross employs British marine Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth. Blonsky starts as the good marine who is shocked by the emergence of the Hulk, and even more surprised that Hulk and Banner are one in the same. To help even the playing field, he agrees to receive a serum that gives him increased speed, strength, agility, and apparently healing power. While it’s not quite the Super Soldier serum, it shows a clear improvement on Blonsky’s abilities. However, it also makes him mad, so that he eventually demands an infusion of Banner’s blood and turns into the Abomination.
In the film’s climax, Hulk and the Abomination battle through the streets and rooftops of Manhattan, with the Hulk eventually subduing Blonsky. He was going to kill him, but was stopped by the pleas of Betty Ross, Banner’s former colleague and girlfriend. While the film doesn’t go out and say so, I assume that Blonsky’s transformation may have put to rest Ross’s pursuit of weaponized the Hulk.
The film was one of the few (if not the only) MCU movie to not feature a mid- or post-credits stinger, instead slapping the final scene before the credits. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, who approached a downtrodden Ross in a bar and tells him that “we’re putting a team together.” While everyone assumes that Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. are inquiring about having Hulk in the Avengers, this was not actually so. In the comics that fill in the gaps between the MCU films, it’s revealed that the World Security Council wants the Abomination for the Avengers Initiative. Knowing that’s a crazy idea, Nick Fury seeks to sabotage the WSC’s efforts. So while he still is required to inquire about the Abomination, S.H.I.E.L.D. intentionally used Stark as its pitch man. Well, Stark succeeds as thoroughly pissing Ross up to the point that there is no way in hell the General will allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to get anywhere near the Abomination. Mission accomplished. Thanks, Tony.