MCU March continues with The Incredible Hulk, the reboot to the Hulk movie released 5 years earlier. Gotta say, it’s pretty gutsy to make a reboot that soon after the previous version, but this was also before Sony rebooted Spider-Man twice in a 5 year period. Superhero movies are strange beasts. But anyway, let’s begin!
An opening montage reinforces that this is not a continuation from Hulk by showing the new way Bruce Banner (Mr. Edward Norton) got his powers. Now hiding in Brazil, an accident at his factory job inadvertently reveals his location to the US government and specifically General Ross (William Hurt). Needing to escape, Bruce decides to head back to America to meet up with the mysterious “Mr. Blue” who had been helping him. Back more-or-less home, he runs into his ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), and the two instantly reconnect. Sucks for her boyfriend, Leonard (Ty Burrell), who tells Betty’s dad–General Ross for thos keeping score at home–that Bruce is back. While that’s going on, Ross revives some super soldier experiments and tests them on an eager soldier, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth playing a Russian character born in England so he doesn’t have to change his accent). The two stories collide when the army attacks Hulk, but they can’t match the strength of the jade giant. Blonsky holds his own for a while but his ego sees him getting just about every bone in his body broken. He gets better thanks to the experimental serum, so they give him… more? Oh, that’s a bad idea. On the run yet again, Bruce and Betty meet up with “Mr. Blue,” revealed to be Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson). He helps in an effort to cure Bruce of the Hulk, but he’s one of those scientists little-to-no ethics when he reveals he’s been experimenting with Hulk blood for a while. Blonsky shows up and demands some of the blood, turning into a monster that we the know as Abomination. Sterns also gets some Hulk blood to an open wound on his head, leading to… I’ll get to that. But Bruce’s cure didn’t work, so Hulk and Abomination beat the crap out of each other in Harlem. Hulk almost kills Abomination but is stopped by Betty. Before the film is over we see General Ross–drinking away the shame of letting the Hulk go–is joined by Tony Stark. This takes the place of what just about all the other MCU movies would have as a mid- or -post credits scene, but the crossover continues to build!
In the grand scheme of things, this movie tends to be forgotten. A lot of the early MCU movies have this “problem,” mostly because the later entries refine the filmmaking process and are generally better. But I love Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. Eric Bana was too pretty and while I genuinely do enjoy Mark Ruffalo, he just doesn’t have the same energy Norton has. I believe not only that he’s a scientist, but one tortured by the situation he’s in. It’s just a shame that he got let go due to financial reasons. Or let go because he was a pain to work with. Or that he voluntarily quit. The story changes depending on who you talk to and when.
As for lasting repercussions, this movie is a little lacking. Sure, the Hulk will become a key member of the Avengers, but the rest of the cast didn’t get much love. General Ross will have a few more appearances and Abomination has been announced as returning for the She-Hulk series, but Betty never appears again and Leonard was a forgettable character (and a reference to longtime Hulk ally Dr. Leonard Samson). As for Samuel Sterns, AKA the super intelligent Hulk villain, the Leader… Well, you would think that’s just a dropped plot thread, but according to The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week digital comic, Sterns was immediately picked up by Black Widow and was last seen in a SHIELD laboratory. Yup, according to that comic the events of The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor happened all in the same week. The movies don’t really contradict that, so it is defacto canon!
COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! Everybody knows that the Hulk’s alter-ego is Bruce Banner, but in the comics his name is actually Robert Bruce Banner. Why the difference? He was introduced as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk #1 (1962)–written by Stan Lee–but was called “Bob Banner” in Fantastic Four #25 (1964)–also written by Stan Lee. Whoops! When the mistake was pointed out, Stan took–and I quote–“the cowardly way out” and officially renamed the character Robert Bruce Banner. To add more confusion, the character in The Incredible Hulk TV series from the late 70’s was David Bruce Banner, either to honor the deceased son of an executive producer or–as most people hear the story told by Lou Ferrigno–because “CBS felt that the name Bruce sounded too gayish.” Charming.
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