Stryker’s Cinema Series- Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk Trailer (2008)

The Sophomore film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, widely considered to be the red-headed stepchild of the franchise, is 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. From bizarre casting choices to odd characterizations, this film feels the most disjointed from the rest of the well-oiled machine that is the rest of the MCU.

The Incredible Hulk was directed by Louis Leterrier and produced by Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd, and of course Kevin Fiege.  The film stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler and Betty Ross, and William Hurt as General Ross. The only person who makes it out of this film and into the rest of the MCU is William Hurt. The budget for this film was $150 Million and took in $263.4 Million dollars at the Box office, so it was a moderate success in terms of the rest of the MCU’s box office numbers.

The casting of Edward Norton in the role of Bruce Banner feels very out of place now. Watching this film again, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I would rather have seen Mark Ruffalo in this movie. I’ll get more into Ruffalo’s portrayal of Banner when he makes his official debut in Avengers. Norton plays Banner with a more timid and muted approach. It feels more like a blank slate walking through the motions and a character with any real emotional depth. There are conflicting reports as to why this was Norton’s only film, but rumors range from him not wanting to be a part of a franchise, to Kevin Fiege finding him to be too difficult to work with and thus wanting to replace him. Ultimately, I don’t care much for the Hollywood politics, but the choice to part ways ultimately proved to be the correct one.

This film picks and chooses how it fits into the MCU. While most of the film doesn’t build into the grander Universe, two characters introduced during this film end up factoring into the grand landscape.  The obvious one being Bruce Banner, his status as an Avenger is well documented. The other is General Ross. While he doesn’t become a major player in the overall MCU plot, he does, however, come along and affect key character moments that we’ll get to later.

This film is pretty forgettable overall. While it sets up how Bruce Banner became The Hulk, it feels like a poor representation of the character. Banner lacks any emotional depth beyond wanting to get rid of The Hulk, and Hulk feels more like Frankenstein’s monster. While we don’t see Hulk at his fullest until well into the movie, his silence throughout feels off and in turn, makes the heroic monster lose a lot of the relatability that we grow attached to later on.  Even “end credit scene” feels just a little off. It takes place after the completion of the main story, and sees Tony Stark talking to General Ross about forming a team. He alludes to who he’s building the team with, but never actually comes out and says “Nick Fury.” It doesn’t make sense and looking back doesn’t fit flush into the rest of the Avengers narrative.

If you’re looking for a movie to skip in the MCU, The Incredible Hulk is definitely the one.  While not the worst movie in the line up, it is by far the least memorable. With poor casting and terrible writing, The Incredible Hulk is the poorest representation of its title character than any of the other Marvel films. While the Hulk redeems himself in future films, you can give this one a pass as you catch up on the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe leading up to Captain Marvel’s release in March 2019. What do you think about the solo Hulk outing? Should the MCU have stuck with Edward Norton? Let me know in the comments below, or contact me on twitter @LiamNAI.

Stan Lee Cameo: Dies after drinking a soda tainted with Banner’s blood.

After Credit Scene: Doesn’t have one.

Next Film: Iron Man 2