Back in 2008 the Marvel Cinematic Universe came in with its second movie, the Incredible Hulk. Nowadays it’s regarded as one of the biggest missteps in the MCU and is often forgotten in the shadow of other movies that preceded it. After Mark Ruffalo took up the character in the Avengers, that was the last time anyone ever gave a thought to the movie as little to none of the events that transpired in it tie into the universe. But if one looks closely there are hints of incredible that few MCU fans would have thought of.
Now for those who are unaware, back when the whole MCU was but a dream, there was another Hulk movie in 2003 directed by Ang Lee which turned out to be incredibly misguided as it was too dramatic, slow paced, and overall just made a giant smashing green monster boring. However this film has a brilliant opening credit sequence regarding Bruce’s origin story about how he’s a scientist working on a gamma radiation experiment, how it went wrong and endangered his girlfriend Elizabeth Ross who’s the daughter of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, how he was chased by the military, and eventually fled to the Amazon. That is the exact same plot set up of the 2003 movie but it’s changed around enough to avoid connection with that movie. Even if one didn’t see the 2003 movie they could look at the opening and associate it with the Hulk’s origin story. This is the only movie to utilize such a technique in origin story-telling and it’s one that ought to be used more often (looking at you Fantastic Four). There’s no narration in it. Just the visuals and musical score help you understand the story.
Edward Norton was a good choice as Bruce Banner. He has shown doing well in playing characters with two-sided personalities in movies like Fight Club. Mark Ruffalo has done a good job of portraying the character’s struggle and coming to terms with the beast inside of him. But Norton also gave a performance that had the movie been better could easily mesh with the rest of the MCU. A lot of the struggle he goes through, his connections to other characters, etc. is done effectively through his expressions. The way he sees characters like the General and Betty you can sense he’s known these people for a long time. He doesn’t have that much memorable dialogue but when he does you really believe in what he’s saying. To the movie’s credit we do get some good moments of Hulk in action. There’s the scene at the factory where they slowly build him up and the second action sequence at the university where we see the Hulk go all out. The main problem with all this is that while we see the Hulk we don’t experience the Hulk. In later movies such as the Avengers and so forth we experienced the power, damage, and emotional struggle of Banner and Hulk through the enemies he fought. Here, we see the action but don’t experience any of these things as the movie showcases more of Banner’s struggle and less of how it ties into the Hulk.
Tim Blake Nelson as Mr. Blue/Dr. Samuel Sterns despite him only appearing for a few minutes in the last third gives a lot of weight to his performance. His dialogue generates a lot of mystery and fascination to his character. His performance gives a lot of wonder as to whether he’s an evil mad scientist or whether he’s just eccentric. Towards the end he gets exposed to some of Banner’s blood and he begins to mutate into another monster, which could have led to some interesting development. Maybe the blood could have awakened the mad scientist within or something but he’s never or mentioned again. Even the main villain Blonsky is mentioned to be in a cell.
The Incredible Hulk does portray the Hulk far better than Ang Lee did 5 years prior. It’s not a horrid movie per se but considering what we have now it’s just disappointing that the Hulk will probably never get any real redemption. There’s certainly some incredible stuff about the movie but the titular hero deserves another chance.