“The Incredible Hulk” is the second entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, a scientist who partakes in an experiment that can supposedly make humans immune to gamma radiation. The experiment goes wrong with the exposure to gamma resulting in Banner transforming into the Hulk every time his heart rate rises drastically and now he’s on the run from the military lead by General Ross, who wants to weaponize the Hulk.
If you talk about some of the more memorable MCU films, this one doesn’t seem to be in the conversation very much. This is a forgotten movie in this universe and that’s understandable given that it’s overshadowed by the likes of “The Avengers” and the Captain America trilogy. It’s also still incredibly early in the MCU, but I wish that more people would latch onto this movie because after rewatching it recently, I find this to be a pretty solid origin story for the Hulk.
The character of Bruce Banner is very interesting in this movie, mainly because I like him in stark contrast to Tony Stark, the hero of the previous MCU film. He’s a brilliant scientist for sure, but he’s not as easygoing or arrogant. There’s always pressure on him to keep the Hulk at bay and you see that pressure every time he’s doing his thing. Whether it be him trying relaxation techniques or simply trying to lay low from the government, you feel the presence of the Hulk lurking deep inside him and it makes for an interesting character piece for Bruce Banner, who’s played very well by Edward Norton.
I also really like this movie’s decision to keep the actual creation of the Hulk limited to just a montage during the opening credits. This movie is focused solely on Banner running from the military while also trying to cure himself. Had the movie tried to do that along with an origin in the first half, the movie would’ve been too long and it would’ve suffered in terms of pacing. In other words, we would’ve gotten a remake of that boring Hulk movie directed by Ang Lee, so it’s nice to see the movie jump right into the action.
Liv Tyler as Betty Ross makes for a very likable love interest in this movie. Not only does she share good chemistry with Banner, but it also adds a lot to her character that she’s at odds with her own father in General Ross. Liv Tyler plays the part of a vulnerable and conflicted character really well and it’s actually quite tragic to see how her and Banner can never catch a break. Banner is stuck with being the Hulk and his life on the run ensures that they can never be together. Hell, they can’t even have sex because of his heart rate. If you want to talk about a relationship that’s simply not meant to be, here it is in a nutshell, and it’s genuinely sad to see.
The one character in this movie that sticks out like a sore thumb is that of Mr. Blue, a fellow scientist in New York. He’s a bit over-the-top and there’s some setup with him that has yet to be addressed in the MCU to this date. There’s a part in the film when he gets a cut on his forehead and some of Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood seeps into said cut. He smiles at the camera as he begins to mutate a little bit, but then we cut away and not only do we not see more of him in this movie, but we see no more of him in the MCU as a whole. Granted, he could be brought back in future movies, but as it stands not, it’s a bit jarring to see such obvious setup with no payoff yet.
By the climax, we have the main antagonist in Tim Roth’s Blonsky getting injected with Banner’s blood, but the combination of that with the super-solider serum (a nice little hint to Captain America) could turn him into more than just another Hulk. In fact, it turns him into the Abomination, another monster who equals Hulk in size and strength. Yet again, we get a villain who is basically an evil version of the hero. It happened in “Iron Man” with the Iron Monger and it’s happening now in a giant brawl in Harlem.
The action in this movie, for the most part, is entertaining. The highlight for me is in the middle of the film when the Hulk is fighting the military on a campus college. It’s brutal and filled with all sorts of carnage and it’s everything you want to see in a Hulk movie. But with the climax, I found it to be a little tedious. It starts off as fun to watch, what with Hulk and Abomination absolutely going at each other and tearing everything to pieces, but it gets a little repetitive after a while and it quickly becomes the least interesting part in the movie. That’s just the unfortunate downside of having such an interesting character piece; there’s inevitably going to be a part of the film that’s not as engaging to watch and in this case, it’s the end fight scene.
Overall, I think “The Incredible Hulk” is an underrated movie. Edward Norton is a solid Bruce Banner, the romance works very well for the story, most of the action is very entertaining, and it’s an interesting look at the life of Bruce Banner. It’s certainly better than Ang Lee’s Hulk film and I think in terms of an origin story for the Hulk, the MCU gave us a solid movie.
Rating: Full Price!