Considering what Marvel has given us, and what we are looking forward to, what we saw in 2008 seems so quaint, now. Now, Iron Man is a great film, and on-screen Tony Stark is perhaps the greatest character of the millennium, but today I want to talk about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton. It’s easy to forget that this was the second chapter in the illustrious Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering the films that came after it, the almost ten years ago it came out, and the replacement of Edward Norton, but I think it is not only one of the best films in the Marvel catalog, but a perfect adaptation of a comic book property.
While Iron Man was one of the most talked about movies of the year, The Incredible Hulk had just as big an impact on the MCU as Tony Stark did. Maybe not in terms of how Robert Downey Jr. essentially created the Marvel brand, but it introduced us to the super soldier serum and Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The Hulk/puny Banner is the dark horse of the MCU. He was the highlight of The Avengers, he has been a focal point of several Marvel films, and, perhaps because he never got a proper sequel, he has been among the most requested character to appear in future MCU films.
Introductions out of the way, let’s talk about the film, itself. Like Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Incredible Hulk benefits, very greatly, from not being an origin story. Unlike the films X-Men, Batman or Blade, which forgo the origin entirely, T.I. Hulk gives us the origin through the opening credits. The biggest problem with the Marvel films, or comic book movies in general, is the superhero origin. They really are all the same, as far as plot and character progression, but here we have all of that fat cut out, and what we get is lean, mean, character driven story.
It is a tradition among the Marvel films, and most modern nerd properties to sprinkle in Easter eggs, here and there, but TIH perfects it. Rogue One, was a sloppy mess that substituted story with references that it hits you over the head with, but TIH slips in the most subtle and clever references and Easter eggs, of any property, to date. From the lonely man theme, to the purple pants, as well as Doc Samson and the Leader. This isn’t just an adaptation of the comic book series, it’s also a loving tribute to the Bill Bixby TV series, from the opening credits, to the David Banner nod at the very end.
So The Incredible Hulk isn’t my favorite of the MCU (I’ll get to that one, shortly) but it is one of the leanest and most entertaining watches of the bunch. While Marvel suffers from third act syndrome, in which the film has to stop so the good guy can fight a bad guy in a dumb action sequence. Yes, the third act ends with Hulk fighting a bad Hulk, but it is pure, adrenaline fueled brutality, that never becomes over indulgent, but features 2 of the best moments in the MCU: the thunder clap, and the line that always gives me goosebumps, “Hulk, SMASH!”. It is unfortunate that Ed Norton never got another crack at the Hulk, because he did a very good job, but I like Mark Ruffalo. He made the role his own, and he’s one of the better actors on the big screen. Hulk is easily one of the best parts of the MCU, and, considering all that has come and gone, it’s easy to forget that it all started in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk.