Well, I blinked, and the best part of two years passed since the fourth and penultimate part in my series about The Incredible Hulk. (See also part 1, part 2 and part 3).
For this concluding post I’m finally talking about the MCU proper, in which the Hulk is played by Mark Ruffalo starting with Avengers (2012), as distinct from the 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk which is nominally part of the MCU but tonally and narratively quite different from the rest of it. I’m talking about this guy:
He has brief irrelevant cameos in post-credits scenes in Iron Man 3 and Captain Marvel, which we will ignore, but is a major character in five films: Avengers, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame.
I have much less to say about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk movie than I had to say about 2003’s Hulk, because the film is much less ambitious. It’s a strange thing to say about a superhero movie, but it feels … conservative. Safe.
It’s not a bad film. Apart from making Betty Ross a cipher, a love interest and nothing more, it really doesn’t do anything wrong. It makes a series of competent steps from its premise — that Banner has been living with his condition for five years — to its conclusion. You can’t criticise any of them; but you can’t really get excited about them either.
My friend and colleague Matt Wedel is not a fan of the 2003 Hulk movie. In an email exchange back in 2008, he classified all the then extant superhero movies into four bins and concluded: “You won’t be surprised to hear that I put Ang Lee’s Hulk in the fourth bin”. I was interested earier today to re-read my own response:
I don’t think it belongs in any of those bins. It belongs in bin i, which is at right-angles to the real-integer bins you’ve designated here.
And I think that verdict stands up pretty well. Hulk is simply not trying to do the same thing as other superhero films, and it’s a mistake to judge it a failure on the basis that it doesn’t do what other superhero films do.
I’m watching my way through the first series of The Incredible Hulk, mostly with Fiona. When I’m in the mood for an episode, I invariably invite her to join me in the following way: “Would you care to watch the terrible late-seventies Incredible Hulk TV series?” In part, I suspect I’m unconsciously aping both Andrew Rilstone’s habitual references to “the dreadful Torchwood“ and Bob the Angry Flower’s reference to “Mille Bornes, the terrible French card game“. But the thing is, it really is terrible.
And yet somehow we’re sort of enjoying it.
Posted in Hulk, Reviews, TV
Recently, I’ve been going through a Hulk phase. I thought it would be interesting to compare five different manifestations of the Hulk: the original run of comics starting in the 1960s, the 1970s TV series, the 2003 Ang Lee film, the 2008 proto-MCU film, and the fully developed MCU Hulk. I’ll post each one separately. First, the comics.
The Hulk debuted in May 1962, and it took Marvel quite a while to get him right. Most famously, he was originally grey in the first issue before quietly becoming green. But there’s much more: this, for example, from issue 2 (The Terror of the TOAD MEN!):
What’s the matter, Hulk? Haven’t you heard of SMASH?