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MCU Re-View #2: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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This July, the Marvel Cinematic Universe clocks up its 16th film when Spider-Man: Homecoming swings in Cineworld, bringing with it our first proper look at Tom Holland as the new web-slinger.

But do you remember when the MCU first became A Thing? Only two months after Iron Man came The Incredible Hulk and suddenly we were watching a SERIES. But The Incredible Hulk is, in many ways, the forgotten MCU movie, which we think is a massive shame...


The background

While there’s a lot to love about Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film, it’s fair to say it didn’t exactly light up the box office. When the rights reverted back to Marvel in the mid-noughties, however, the newly formed studio were determined to get their green-skinned rage-monster back on the big screen.

Their film, titled The Incredible Hulk, would completely ignore the 2002 movie and would introduce a brand new Hulk in the shape of Edward Norton.

From the poster – of a lonely looking Bruce Banner walking with his head bowed – to the bars of its theme tune which cameo in the movie, it’s clear that The Incredible Hulk was aiming for some of the look and feel of the original 1970s Hulk TV series.

And yes, it’s an altogether better Hulk film for it. Louis Leterrier’s movie is leaner, meaner and more propulsive than Lee’s contemplative character study, with a much better cast too.

Sadly, The Incredible Hulk would be Edward Norton’s only movie for Marvel. It’s rumoured that the actor clashed with the studio and Leterrier about the script (which Norton had drastically rewritten).

When Marvel announced that they had recast the role for Avengers Assemble, they pointed out that it wasn’t a question of money.

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers," Marvel’s statement read. "Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members."

Astonishingly, given how much of an improvement The Incredible Hulk was over Hulk, it still didn’t do the box office that Marvel were hoping for, and it remains the studio’s most underperforming movie.

So it was decided after that that Hulk would be a character that would pop up in other characters’ movies or as an Avenger (he can next be seen in this year’s Thor: Ragnarok, as played for the third time by Mark Ruffalo). A tragedy, as we’d love to see another solo Hulk outing.


Standout performance

It’s a damn shame that Edward Norton fell out with Marvel, as his Bruce Banner here is just knockout. As much as we love Mark Ruffalo, it would have been nice to see Norton rubbing shoulders with Downey and co in The Avengers. There’s something definitely a bit Bill Bixby (the lead actor in the 1970s Incredible Hulk series) about Norton’s performance here, and his obvious love for the character shines through.


Honorary shout-out

Tim Roth is an electrifying actor, and he’s quite brilliant here as the marine who eventually gets turned into the Abomination.


Best scene

It’s got to be the park-set scene where the Hulk does battle with the army and a pre-Abomination Tim Roth. Cracking CGI too.


Best quote

Bruce Banner: [in a poor Portuguese] "Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry."


Easter eggs

In one scene, Betty Ross buys Bruce some purple pants. In the comics, the Hulk is almost always seen wearing purple pants.

Paul Soles who portrays "Stanley", the owner of the pizza shop, provided the voice for Dr. Bruce Banner in the 1960s Hulk animated series.

Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the 1970s TV series, cameos as a security guard.


At one point, we see Bruce Banner watching the 1969 film The Courtship of Eddie's Father on television. The actor in the clip is Bill Bixby who played Banner on the 1970s TV series.

In the market scene in Guatemala, the listen out for "Lonely Man" theme from the television series, which played whenever David Banner was on the road traveling from one place to another.


The Stan Lee cameo

A blink and you’ll it cameo for Stan in this one, as an old man poisoned by one of the soft drinks contaminated with Banner’s blood. Still, you nailed it as well, Stan!


The post-credits scene

Tony Stark became the first Marvel character to cameo in another character’s movie when he popped up, post-credits, to inform Thaddeus Ross that he was putting a team together in the second MCU movie.


Did you know?

William Hurt reprised his role as Thaddeus Ross in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.


Hulk has a total of six words, all provided by 70s Hulk, Lou Ferrigno: "Leave Me Alone", "Hulk Smash", and "Betty".

This is the only Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One film that Nick Fury does not appear in.


What the critics said

"Never taking itself too seriously - just witness Lou Ferrigno's cheeky cameo - The Incredible Hulk delivers some of the finest visceral thrills in recent times, barely allowing us to draw breath as the bulbous hero tackles threat after threat." Digital Spy

"A franchise rebooted with efficiency, energy and sporadic invention, although Hulk 2.0 hardly smashes it out of the park." Empire

"The Incredible Hulk is exactly what it should be: An all-out action romp that resets the comic book icon's big screen continuity and paves the way for future instalments in the newly unified Marvel movie universe." IGN

"The first thing to say about director Louis Leterrier’s blockbuster monster-movie is that it’s more a stripped-down rerun of Ang Lee’s 2003 outing than a sequel to it. And all the better for it, too. If Leterrier has done a rethink, it is only to simplify and to streamline." Time Out


What's next in our MCU Re-view?

Stay tuned to the blog for the return of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.