Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Liv Tyler as Betty Ross
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination
Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns
Ty Burrell as Leonard Samson
William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Director: Louis Leterrier
Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) desperately seeks a cure for the gamma radiation that contaminated his cells and turned him into The Hulk. Cut off from his true love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and forced to hide from his nemesis, Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), Banner soon comes face-to-face with a new threat: a supremely powerful enemy known as The Abomination (Tim Roth).
I’ve seen every MCU movie released before 2015 at least twice, the exception being The Incredible Hulk, which is a movie I’ve been meaning to rewatch for the longest time (I think I’ve only seen it in 2008 prior to recently). Saying that The Incredible Hulk gets a bad wrap would be an understatement, it seemed to be completely forgotten by the rest of the MCU bar one character, even Thor: The Dark World seemed to be held in higher regard by some people. I was really curious as to how I would feel about it, and I’m glad to say that I liked watching it, even though it’s nothing all that great. It was at least better than the 2003 Hulk movie.
Most of the movie isn’t anything special but it does some really interesting and effective things. First thing I’ll say is that its opening credits is among the best from the superhero movies I’ve seen, it does the origin story of the Hulk and conveys a lot within a couple minutes. It means the movie doesn’t have to spend a lot of time retelling the origin story. Making a Hulk movie is not easy by any means, which you can tell by looking at both this movie and the 2003 film. While the first Hulk movie was an experimental and very slow burn of a movie, The Incredible Hulk is more of a standard action movie, but it overall works better. The film takes a more horror movie approach to how it treats the Hulk. They really make the Hulk feel like this unstoppable force that Banner is trying to get rid of and avoid. The first Avengers might’ve had a bit of that, but outside of that there wasn’t this struggle, so it was at least interesting to see that here. The third act goes into a standard two large characters fighting each other and causing a lot of destruction type of climax, and it’s at this point that the film kind of loses you. Not that it’s terrible, just wasn’t as interesting as what came beforehand. It also really wraps things up really quickly. Parts of the movie can be a little cheesy but that’s I guess it’s a little unavoidable (because again, it’s a movie about the Hulk). While you might’ve enjoyed what you saw for the past hour and 50 minutes, you sort of forgot what you just watched. In fact it’s probably the most forgettable movie in the MCU.
Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/Hulk, I’m not going to go into whether he should’ve been kept for the later MCU movies, but I do think he did a really good job. He really sells the idea of Banner as a fugitive hiding from the government and wanting to find a cure. He doesn’t really go through much development, but Norton elevates his role quite a bit. What I will say is that in this movie, Bruce Banner seemed to be more of an action hero kind of character instead of the scientist, and it might’ve been nice to see a little more of the latter, because on the whole he seemed to fit the role a lot more than Ruffalo did. Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross and she was really good, the moments that Norton and Tyler get together are effective enough. Even though I know that Mark Ruffalo is now playing Banner and nothing that happened in this movie is referenced in the other movies, it would’ve been nice to see Betty appear again somewhere in the MCU. William Hurt was good as General Ross, who’s really going after Banner/Hulk for a large portion of the movie. He’s also the only actor from this movie to make it into other MCU movies. Tim Blake Nelson is good in the brief role, he’s hinted at becoming a significant character from the comic (that I’m not familiar with), though as you probably guessed it never amounted to anything in the future movies. Tim Roth is the main antagonist, firstly as Emil Blonsky and later as Abomination. As Blonsky, Roth is really effective as a power hungry soldier really going after Banner, the character himself doesn’t have a lot to him but it’s his performance that made him work very well. When he becomes Abomination, he becomes more of a standard monster for Hulk to fight but as previously mentioned, was at least enough of a physical challenge.
Louis Leterrier’s direction of The Incredible Hulk worked well enough for what it is. It really does feel like a superhero movie from the 2000s, it’s rough and grimy and like the first Iron Man doesn’t feel like it’s in the MCU. Most of the action scenes worked well. The parts with Edward Norton being front and centre in the action scenes instead of the Hulk were good, especially one where he has to escape while keeping his heart rate down so he doesn’t Hulk out. The action scenes involving Hulk were mostly decent. The visuals haven’t exactly held up well but parts of it are alright. The design of the Hulk is a bit of a mixed bag and the visual effects on him can be a bit hit or miss. On the other hand, the ugliness really worked for this monstrous take on him. On the other hand he can look really dated (still much better looking than the Ang Lee Hulk however). As for the design of the Abomination, it was a departure from the comics but considering how silly looking the comic version was, it’s not surprising they made the change. I just wish they made the design a little more interesting as it was very generic looking. The score by Craig Armstrong was also quite good.
The Incredible Hulk is for sure one of the weakest movies in the MCU. If it came to marathoning the Marvel movies before Endgame and you had to skip one movie, it would be this one. It’s not bad, just nothing really that special and a little forgettable. With that said, The Incredible Hulk was still entertaining enough, and it was at least interesting to see how they handled the Hulk here. Outside of its datedness, this is probably the best that a Hulk movie could really be. Worth a watch if you’re curious about it but by no means essential viewing.