Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
I honestly don't know why I am putting this here... This movie was released in 2008. But, because this review includes ideas regarding the entirety of the MCU, I'll slap a spoiler warning here anyway. So... you have been warned, I guess.
The Incredible Hulk
I'm gonna be honest: I sometimes forget this movie belongs to the MCU. I mostly blame the fact that Edward Norton no longer plays Hulk, and watching this movie and not seeing Mark Ruffalo kinda throws me off a little bit.
Marvel has only recently begun re-integrating ideas that this movie set-up into the MCU (mostly by bringing William Hurt back as Thunderbolt Ross), but it is safe to say that there are still a lot of forgetful elements of this movie... and it's all Marvel's fault—they didn't allow us to remember. Where did the Abomination go? No one knows. Whatever happened to Samuel Sterns (a.k.a The Leader)? A tie-in comic sort of explained it, but he has never been brought up again. And let's not forget the most important question: Where the hell is Betty?
But I digress. This movie IS a part of the MCU, which is why I'm covering it. There are just a lot of questions that I have that I hope Marvel answers in future movies/Disney+ shows. But let's get into the nitty-gritty.
I really do like the Hulk. While he may not be the smartest character around (until he actually becomes smart), he is definitely a badass. He's an unstoppable machine (unless you throw Thanos at him). However, I have had my gripes about Hulk solo films. In my personal opinion, Hulk works better as a supporting hero rather than a hero who needs to hold up his own movie. Hulk works so well in the Avengers films and Ragnarok because he is alongside other heroes. The character of Hulk doesn't have the right personality to hold up a movie by himself.
That being said, this movie does not do a bad job with Bruce/Hulk as the central protagonist. It works very well as a character piece about Bruce Banner working to control this inner beast. This is Bruce's movie, not Hulk's, and I definitely stand by the fact that Banner and Hulk are two separate entities (until Endgame). They have different developments in character as the MCU progresses until those developments collide in Endgame, with the final product being Smart Hulk.
Bruce spends most of this movie running, while also trying to control Hulk as much as he can. We get to see how Bruce thinks; how he works; how he handles his life when he is not Hulk. We get to see a lot of character development in Bruce that carries on into The Avengers. We don't get to see much development in Hulk, other than the occasional "sad eyes" he gives to Betty. We don't see Hulk's true development until The Avengers.
But why am I bringing this up? Because, while Marvel did not remind us much about this movie as the MCU progressed, The Incredible Hulk DOES show us how Banner worked to control the Hulk. This movie includes character development that carries over into future movies, and I think that this fact is often overlooked and/or forgotten... as I mentioned in the intro.
I like to say that this movie has multiple villains. First, we have the obvious: The Abomination (Emil Blonsky). After being granted access to get a small dose of a version of the super-solider serum (somehow), he grows power-hungry... and that's his character. He loses to Hulk in, what I must say, is a quite hilarious scene (watching him get kicked into a tree—his body a dislocated mess—is brutal... but oddly entertaining).
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But, as I said, that's mostly his character. He goes too far, grows big and strong (just like a good boy who eats his vegetables), and then loses, never to be seen or heard of again. His final form is far from comic-accurate, but I guess he looks kinda cool.
But who is the other villain? Thunderbolt Ross, of course! A man who wants to weaponize the Hulk, not destroy it for the good of humanity. I don't know how this guy ends up as Secretary of State or how he is allowed to give Blonsky the serum. And now that he is back... well, I'll just say I have a theory about his role in the MCU. Maybe I'll post it at some point if I can get all of my thoughts out in a coherent and understandable way.
What else did I like? The first act is very entertaining, and the Hulk is barely in it. Seeing Banner parkour away from soldiers with guns was oddly fun to watch. It showed that this movie wasn't just gonna be about smashing everything (I emphasize "everything" because there is much smashing later on in the movie). I don't hate the final fight, either. I am a sucker for big final battles (most of the time). I recognize their faults (*cough, cough* Transformers), but I find them entertaining.
What didn't I like? Samuel Sterns was wasted. The relationship between Bruce and Betty seems wasted now because it was mostly forgotten. The final battle, while entertaining, can come off as a bit much. The government does not seem to have a care in the world about what damage THEY cause (I don't know why, but this bothers me).
I am glad that we were able to get a movie that developed Bruce's character, but I honestly don't know if this movie NEEDED to exist. Marvel has not really shown that it does... but maybe they will change that in the future.
These are just a few of my thoughts.
The movie looks great for the most part, and there are no issues with the acting. In relation to the MCU as a whole, I prefer Ruffalo over Norton any day. I enjoy the development that Bruce is given, but there are still a lot of elements of this movie that Marvel has just allowed us to forget.
When watching this movie, the only things that really remind me that this is an MCU movie are the references to Stark and SHIELD, and the Tony Stark cameo at the end. Other than that, this movie just has a completely different vibe than the rest of the MCU movies. I don't know how to explain it... this movie just doesn't scream "MCU!" to me.
I don't hate this movie in the slightest. I actually think it's better than Iron Man 2... is that a bold statement? Either way, I am going to give The Incredible Hulk a 7/10.
Next up is Thor, and then finally... The Avengers! I have really been enjoying this rewatch, and I am glad I have somewhere to share my thoughts. Feel free to comment and start a discussion with me. I would love to chat!
Thanks for reading.
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© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth