February is almost over, so now would be a good time to announce that March is going to be another event month! Every weekday I will be talking about a different movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it’s MCU March! I’m kicking off this endeavor with a little prologue: 2003’s Hulk movie, which is not actually a part of the MCU as it was produced by Universal Studios before Iron Man started the franchise rolling, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk is a reboot for the character. But it’s an infamous Marvel movie I hadn’t seen, so let’s fix that!
David Banner (Mr. Nick Nolte) was a scientist trying to enhance humans and recklessly tested on himself. His wife, Edith, became pregnant and David believed baby Bruce is the key to his work. But he killed his wife when trying to kill his son so he got institutionalized. He also caused a gamma explosion at a military base, but that’s not at all relevant despite being comic book Hulk’s origin. Years later, Bruce (Eric Banadinović) is the ex-boyfriend of Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) and doing the same work his father did. An accident in the lab with a nobody ends up irradiates him with gamma rays and sure enough, he becomes the Hulk. Sorry, “Angry Man.” A recently released David starts stalking Bruce, eventually recreating his son’s accident to become the Absorbing Man your mom says that you have at home. After “Angry Man” pisses off Betty’s dad, General Ross (Sam Eliott), it all boils down to a fight between Bruce and Brian, who is trying to absorb his son’s gamma powers. But like most villains trying to absorb chaotic energy as part of their master plan, it’s too much for him and he explodes. The movie ends with Bruce hiding out in South America.
This movie gets a bad rap, and I would like to say on the record that… a lot of it is deserved, yeah. This is one of the most “comic book-y” comic book movies ever made with a lot of artistic transitions reminiscent of comic paneling, but they end up being distracting a lot of the time, especially during action sequences. Eric Bana is fine, but putting his conventionally handsome face on the Hulk just doesn’t work for me. He ends up looking like a teen Hulk from some 90’s adaptation. And oh man, the dialogue is stilted as all hell. Too many lines feel awkward and unnatural; for example, “I’m going to have a baby,” is a weird way to tell your husband you’re pregnant. Most of David’s lines at the end are over the top and sound like something Doctor Doom would shout immediately before being defeated.
But my biggest sticking point was David himself. First of all, Bruce’s parents’ names are Brian and Rebecca in the comics, so we start off on a weird foot. There are a lot of similarities between them–both believed their tainted DNA had made a monster out of Bruce, but David had conducted experiments on himself while Brian only believed that exposure to gamma radiation had changed him. David grew to love his son–you know, before he tried to kill him and all that–but Brian always hated Bruce and resented the attention Rebecca gave him. David was an okay dad (again, up to a point), but Brian was always a monster. Plus it just kind of defeats the whole purpose of the character to have him transform into a monster that Hulk can punch. The threat of Brian Banner is, in part, that he’s not a supervillain–he’s just your regular, everyday monster that you kill by knocking him down so he hits his head on his wife’s gravestone, snapping his neck.
COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! Oh yeah, I’m brining fun facts back. Brian Banner returned in comics recently in the current Hulk title, The Immortal Hulk. He was sent to the Below-All–what is effectively Super Hell–where he becomes a puppet of The One Below All–effectively the evil counterpoint to God, or as the comic suggests, “God’s Hulk.” Turns out gamma radiation has supernatural properties and serves as a connection to the Below-All through the Green Door, a way gamma powered individuals can return to life, hence the Immortal in the title. The comic is spooky with plenty of body horror, theological musings, and psychological action. I recommend checking it out!
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