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‘The Incredible Hulk’ Ain’t That Bad – Mars’ Retro Roast

4 Minute Read
May 25 2022
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With Abomination showing up in the She-Hulk trailer, I thought it time to revisit his MCU origin story. The Incredible Hulk is not half bad.

The 2008 origin of the Hulk seems to be something that Marvel Studios would rather forget. The movie is linked to the MCU through two of its actors/characters – Tim Roth’s Abomination and the late William Hurt’s General Ross. But its lead actor and the movie itself didn’t make it out. For good reason.

Let’s take another look at this forgotten step-child.

A Little Recent Hulk History

In 2003 Ang Lee’s Hulk came out. This was before Marvel Studios, so to make the movie Marvel had to partner with a studio – Universal financed and distributed the movie. They got character and distribution rights as part of the deal. Marvel Studios secured the character rights in 2008, but the distribution rights remain with Universal. They control how and when a solo movie could hit theaters.

This is one of the big reasons why there hasn’t been a Mark Ruffalo solo movie. And why this movie has a Universal logo on it.

Ok, that explained… I managed to find The Incredible Hulk lurking on HBOMax (nope, not on Disney+). I spent the next hour and fifty-two minutes realizing it’s not the horrible movie I remembered seeing in theaters. But it’s not great, either.

There are major spoilers below the trailer, if you care.

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The Incredible Hulk – Not That Bad, Honestly

There’s something about the fact that this movie is ignored make it seem like it’s total crap. It’s not. The Incredible Hulk is a perfectly serviceable superhero movie. It doesn’t really present anything new. It also doesn’t have all of the MCU hallmarks due to when it was made, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. It’s got 2008 CG and not the best big guy character design, but the story is solid (if formulaic).

It puts the origin we all know in the open credits, taking no time to jump in to Bruce Banner’s life in self-imposed exile (he is the moral one). He is working with a mysterious person online to find a cure for his gamma radiation poisoning when his blood makes it into a soda which makes it into Stan Lee. His location is blown.

via Universal

General Ross (representing the military industrial complex), who was in charge of the program that made the Hulk, sends a team to capture him. Things get thrown around in a big dark warehouse. It fails, but the attack convinces Banner to head back to the states to get research material. And gets Emil Blonsky (the immoral one) interested in being pumped full of super serum that’s not called super serum.

What follows is a rivalry of gigantic proportions caused by an arrogant general who doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing. The two monsters endure experimentation that contrasts their moral/immoral paths. There are big fights with big guys and a bunch of soldiers with useless firepower. Moral and just Hulk that proves he’s not just a monster wins the day.

Plus magical stretching pants that I kinda want a pair of.

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Ok, So It’s That Bad Sometimes

Edward Norton is not a convincing Bruce Banner or Hulk. He does as well as he can. Name recognition was important at the time, but he’s just not a good fit.

The CG tries to work through the full movie, but you can tell where they spent their time and money. You just have to keep reminding yourself that it was 14 years ago. There’s no attempt to bring Roth and Norton’s faces onto their monstrous forms, which I found disappointing given that mocap was a thing at that point.

Liv Tyler as Betty Ross is best when she’s the sidekick (who is a smart and capable scientist) and not acting as motivation for her male costars. There’s a love interest plot line between her and Banner (I know it’s from the comics), but it’s badly executed.

via Universal

Should You Rewatch It?

Yeah. It’s got rewatch value.

Abomination is going to be popping up in the MCU’s Phase Four. He showed up in a cage match in Shang-Chi with Wong and as a defendant in the new She-Hulk trailer. He’s popular now. Even with the weird neck/shoulder combo thing. At least his goomba-looking head has been upgraded.

via Universal

It also gives MCU fans a look at the start (it came out a month after Iron Man) of the MCU juggernaut. A look at the first one that failed – you can see what lessons were learned and what moved on into more successful movies. This one is better than the attempts we saw in the late 1990s, but it’s still a comic book movie made with old ideas.

It’s a fun, uncomplicated superhero movie that goes from point A to B with almost the right amount of action and story. And, let’s be honest,  it’s tons better than the 2003 mess with Eric Bana.

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