Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn
Stars: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
I’ve challenged myself to, over the course of the next 5 weeks, watch the original Avengers individual character arcs over the course of Marvel‘s Infinity Saga, the 22 films Marvel Studios has put out since Iron Man in 2008. With the power of AMC‘s A-List, it’s also an excuse to see Avengers: Endgame at least 5 more times. While I have seen it 3 times already, and have yet to write an official review (there is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already—go see this modern day masterpiece if you haven’t already), I’m curious to see how some of these films and stories hold up after seeing where they end up.
The order in which I’m viewing this character arcs are a tiny bit of a spoiler, as I’m watching them in what I think will carry the most emotional weight from start to finish of our 6 original Avengers. This is, of course, my opinion and will note that I loved how each Avenger was treated in Endgame.
With all that out of the way, let’s kick things off with Bruce Banner and his (literal) inner rage monster, Hulk and his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, The Incredible Hulk. Released in 2008, just over a month after the movie that launched the MCU, Iron Man, stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
I’ve always thought that The Incredible Hulk played very nicely as an unofficial sequel to Ang Lee’s Hulk movie and, in my opinion, is a much better film than it’s 2003 predecessor. At the time, Norton’s Bruce Banner is very good; though William Hurt’s General Ross ends up being the stand out performance in the movie. If Marvel’s play at creating the MCU had turned out to be anything like what Warner Bros. DCEU started out as, I very much see a world where Disney and Universal play nice and we get more solo Hulk movies that continue to hint at a larger world.
Before breaking down what this movie means to the greater MCU in 2019, I want to continue to lift it—the story is enjoyable enough to make me wonder what a sequel would have been like. The story is second to the performances of the entire cast that elevate the story further—Tim Roth makes a wonderful, if not on the nose, villain as Blonsky and Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross pairs off with Norton and Banner incredibly well. So much so, that I’m genuinely curious what happened to Betty in the MCU. Tim Blake Nelson and Ty Burrell are also interesting characters that I would have liked to see return to the MCU—maybe one day!
11 YEARS LATER
Hulk has been around the MCU nearly as long as Tony Start/Iron Man; however The Incredible Hulk doesn’t age as well as Iron Man. While Norton birthed the MCU version of Hulk/Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo gave the character(s) life. There’s something about Norton as Banner I no longer believe—I certainly could never but him as Tony Stark’s science bro, nor could I imagine him telling Cap that his secret in The Avengers. The thing the doesn’t work the most in this movie, compared to the character in the rest of the MCU, is that it truly does feel like a completely different movie.
As it’s own thing, that is actually a huge plus; but when looked at through the lens of the MCU? It’s not good—yes, I want MCU movies to break the mold and feel different, but not in a “this doesn’t feel part of the universe” kind of way. We never see any of these characters again, except for Banner / Hulk and General Ross. I’m all for creating new stories that differ from the comics, but at least give me something to explain why Better isn’t around—they were in love. Maybe we’ll see something in the future, but I would have loved to seen Roth or Nelson return as a villain in the MCU… even if it was in an Avengers movie and it was for just a warm up fight for the heroes.
The Incredible Hulk did work as a film in 2008 and helped build the MCU we know and love today. However, in 2019, it’s likely the weakest link in the 22-film MCU library. There’s very little to Banner’s story that is carried over into future films with the character (except for his fear of letting the monster out). Even the hints of Banner embracing Hulk at the end of The Incredible Hulk seem to be ignored for almost 11 years.
SOLO SCORE: ★★★☆☆
INFINITY SAGA SCORE: 22/22 (I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this for all the films I watch for these character studies, but where I can; I will!)
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