Like most of you who also saw The Incredible Hulk back in 2008, I was confused by the premise of this film. Was it a continuation of the film Hulk that was released back in 2003 or something different? When I was watching it, though, it did provide me clarity that this was its own thing and I was to ignore the 2003 version, which was easy for me because I actually have never seen it. To me, this is the film that I feel like it’s the one entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that most people forget about. It could be the fact that in this film it has Edward Norton playing the titular character rather than Mark Ruffalo, and there’s only one Hulk film in the MCU. That said, did I enjoy this version of everyone’s favorite green giant? Let’s find out. Also, there will be spoilers.
In The Incredible Hulk that’s not a continuation of The Hulk, we follow Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), a scientist who is ordered by the U.S. Military to experiment with gamma radiation, as we see during the montage in the opening credits. The reason for this is so he can recreate the same results from super-Soldier program that made Steve Rodgers into Captain America. Unfortunately, this backfires on him and as a result he turns into a destructive giant green monster known as the Hulk whenever his heart rate reaches 200 beats per minute. Five years later and now a fugitive from the US military, Bruce now lives in Brazil working at a bottling company, while at the same time trying to find a cure for his condition. After an accident occurs at his workplace, news starts to spread and catches the U.S. military’s attention, particularly Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) and Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Having to be on the run again, Bruce flees back to the U.S. in order to attempt to find a cure with the research he did during his five-year isolation.
On the whole, The Incredible Hulk is not a bad film whatsoever. In fact, it is a quite enjoyable film that anyone can appreciate if they’re not aware of who the Hulk is. But when comparing it to other films in the MCU, it feels like a filler episode of a show. I’ll elaborate more on that.
Whenever I think of the MCU, I like to imagine it as one long story with each film contributing to that. To me The Incredible Hulk feels like an extra piece of the puzzle. Maybe it’s because they have a different actor than the one to which we are accustomed. After all, Mark Ruffalo has done an amazing job portraying the iconic character and seeing Edward Norton (who does a great job, mind you), it doesn’t quite fit within this universe. Granted this is a complaint that’s only valid due to the history of the character in the films, but the change of cast is a bit of disappointment. That’s what happens, though, when actors want more money for a role, which was the case for Edward Norton. Gotta love greed, right?
As stated earlier, The Incredible Hulk feels like filler rather than a stand-alone film. The only actor to ever return to the MCU is William Hurt who appears in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films. Without him The Incredible Hulk could be considered a non-cannon film if you don’t count Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) appearing in the end credits. Another thing that makes this less memorable is the Hulk himself. We’ve seen in The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok and briefly one scene in Avengers: Infinity War that the Hulk is a force with which to be reckoned. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though this was the first MCU film to feature the Hulk, I prefer him more in the other films that I mentioned. I will say, though, that there was one moment in here that I deeply enjoyed that wasn’t present anywhere else. During the climactic battle you get to hear the famous words “HULK SMASH!” and given the context of that scene, it was a moment that gave me goosebumps. It’s too bad that they couldn’t replicate that phrase down the road. Oh well.
When I first watched The Incredible Hulk back in 2008, I didn’t notice any Christian messages, but after re-watching it last year before Avengers: Endgame I was able to spot one. Towards the end of the film it is shown that not only is Bruce not cured of his condition, but rather he accepts his new life as a man with dual personalities. This reminded me of The Serenity Prayer, which states “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I can’t say for sure that’s what was going through Bruce’s head when he accedes to the Hulk as being a part of him, but it’s a good reminder that whatever change happens to us it’s part of God’s plan.
It may seem like I didn’t enjoy The Incredible Hulk as much as other people did, but on the contrary it is a fun film with great action scenes here and there and has message of accepting things we cannot change in our lives. It’s just that compared to what we see in later installments it feels overwhelming at this point. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see it, by all means please do so. Unfortunately, it’s not on Disney+ at the moment but if you get the chance to see it, I don’t think you’ll regret it.