(This entry is part of “Monster May,” a look at classic and iconic monster movies all leading up to the United States premiere of Godzilla on May 16. For more on what’s going on this month, check out our original post here.)
The Monster: Bruce Banner’s “smashing” alter ego, The Incredible Hulk.
Average Size: Height, 9 ft; Weight, about 1040 lbs.
Claim to fame: Two words: Hulk Smash!
When it comes to crazy larger than life characters, Marvel wins everytime. Not only do they have an Asgardian Viking god, a man in a robotic suit, and a Super Soldier from WWII, they also go all Robert Louis Stevenson and introduce a super-powered Jekyll and Hyde. After a gamma-radiation inspired accident occurs, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) finds he can physically transform into a big green rage monster known as the Hulk.
Thankfully, Marvel understood that if the last movie that came out featuring a character was a mere 5 years prior, you don’t have to have another origin story. And if you want to change the mythos to fit your interpretation, you can do it all in the opening credits without having to craft an entire new back story and show the audience how someone became the superhero they are. Because, as was just said, the last movie was a mere 5 years prior. You don’t need a new origin story.
When our story begins (that sounded like one of those Winnie-the-Pooh story tapes didn’t it?), Bruce Banner is in Brazil working at a soda bottling company on a cash-only basis because like, the government is looking for him in the person of General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). In between working hours, Bruce is being productive and finding out how to control his anger and also trying to “cure” himself by messaging with a mysterious Mr. Blue and trying experiments on himself. Since, you know, experimenting on himself has always proven to work out fine.
Well one day at the factory he stabs his finger and a drop of his blood falls into a bottle of this soda which leads to Stan Lee getting a heart attack (however the fact he was 86 at the time might’ve also contributed to the heart attack). Well as soon as General Ross hears about it, instantly assumes it’s Banner and sends in a team to Brazil to extract him and return him to the US Government. Because Brazil is totally part of the US’s jurisdiction.
Well Banner finds out about it in the nick of time, which leads to a chase scene that ends up with Banner Hulking up and smashing things, including scaring the pants off of General Ross’ special ops leader, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Well banner wakes up from a Hulk hangover and finds out he managed to get from Brazil to Guatemala without anyone calling the cops or starting a cult about him.
Well after his Hulk out he becomes homeless and decides to go back to the States to try and find a cure. Except he finds that the love of his life, Arwen (Liv Tyler) uhh… I mean Betty (still Liv Tyler) is dating someone that’s not him. Because women are totally supposed to wait for the man, especially when he leaves suddenly without telling anyone where he’s going or when he’ll come back right? Well thanks to some blabbermouth, Gen. Ross follows him and triggers another attack, with the Hulk ripping through the University where Betty works and generally Hulking everything up.
Oh yea, except since he remembers the terrible creature gamma experiments turned Banner into, Gen. Ross decides to do the same experiment, albiet a little smaller in scale, so Blonsky, who’s still kinda crapping his pants from seeing the Hulk that first time. So now Blonsky is all super-powered too, and decides he’s man enough to go mano-a-hulko alone. Obviously he gets his butt handed to him on a green platter, and is hospitalized while Banner runs away, stretchy pants in tow, trying to “cure” himself.
Thankfully Bruce finds his mysterious friend Mr. Blue, who is actually a researcher named Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), who wants to see the great big green man in action. Like every other genius in this movie, Sterns decides the only thing they can do is trigger an episode and try out his anti-Hulk serum, which makes total sense, so they strap down Banner and make him angry by insulting his mother and telling him his hair is uncool or something, and you get to see Banner actually transform into the Hulk. So that’s pretty cool.
Scared for his life, Sterns shoots the serum into Banner/Hulk, and it totally works… unfortunately at that moment a revived Blonsky and the US army come in and take the Hulk down, even though he just got cured of the Hulk. Well Blonsky is suffering from major super-soldier-gamma addiction, and demands that Sterns shoot him up with some more Gamma radiation.
Of course he does, and Blonsky gets turned into a surgeon’s nightmare, and starts rampaging down Harlem wanting to take down the Hulk because he’s got major self-esteem issues and he needs to bully others in order to feel superior.
Hearing the aptly dubbed “Abomination” rampaging down Harlem, General Ross makes a quick decision to let Banner try and Hulk out by throwing himself out of a plane and hoping evolution takes the “fight” technique, despite not knowing if he’s even going to be able to transform anymore. Well PLOT TWIST, he does and proceeds to take down Blonsky and subsequently wreck “half of Harlem”.
Now what makes this movie interesting is that it’s the fourth in the saga of the cursed Hulk phenomena. Since it’s first live-action incarnation in the 70’s, the Hulk has been portrayed by 4 actors, and none of the recent attempts have lasted more than one movie. Basically, the role of the Hulk is the Professor of Dark Arts in the Marvel Universe.
In fact, everyone was super happy when Norton took the role because, I mean come on, the dude is awesome. But he totally wasn’t feeling the role and ditched just before The Avengers made a couple Billion at the box office.
Also, it had a weird vibe. I mean we get it, the Hulk is green. But do you have to make EVERYTHING green? From the soda drinks at the beginning, the cells in Banner’s body, Banner’s code name (Mr. Green? Come on), his blood, every elixer and potion that’s made, and even the freaking clothes he wears are all green. We get it!
But that aside, The Incredible Hulk was Marvel Studios second attempt at a movie, so they were still on their baby legs when it came to quality movies. And compared to the other movies in the MCU, Incredible Hulk really didn’t leave that much of a dent. In fact, most people forget it until someone brings it up, then it’s like an “oh yea, I saw that! … what was it about again?” Coupled with some less-than-smart character beats and trying to cram as many Marvel Easter eggs as possible led to a kinda mediocre film. But hey, at least Robert Downey Jr. shows up in the post credits scene!
Rating: Paste. It’s an okay movie if you want to see things get smashed, and Norton is a pretty impressive Banner. But while it isn’t as bad as say, Iron Man 2, it’s still not the best Marvel has to offer.
(Animals normally aren’t considered “Monsters” on their own.. but what happens when two feared creatures of the deep are fused together?? Check back tomorrow to see!)