Invariably, when someone ranks their favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, by some strange circumstance, The Incredible Hulk ends up ranked close to the bottom, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Even upon a rewatch a few years after I watched it the last time, this film ranks it at close to my all time favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It’s nearly perfect, and I struggle to find the gaping holes that others like to poke in it.
The supporting cast, once again, is amazing. Tim Roth as a reimagined Emil Blonsky is spectacular, and I love the little things about his portrayal here, especially his “in between” mode where he has elements of the super soldier serum, but isn’t full blown Abomination yet. He fights The Hulk head on and dares him to fight back in a way that is all at once stupid and ballsy. The scene where he gets kicked into the tree remains hilarious and disturbing. You rarely see the full impact of what a super powered being can do to a normal human straight on like that.
Then, of course, there’s William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, and in perfect MCU fashion, Ross is revisiting the MCU in a huge way in May as one of the lead drivers of the Civil War. This kind of connective tissue is what makes the MCU so spectacular. They don’t drive these characters down our throats, they just show up when they’re needed, and it makes perfect sense. Speaking of supporting characters, Liv Tyler, who has become one of my favorite actresses, mostly due to her role in HBO’s The Leftovers series, shines here, too, portraying Betty Ross and confident, intelligent, and willing to do whatever she can do to help Banner.
As for Ed Norton, he’s a fantastic actor, and there’s no exception to that here, as he manages the balancing act between weak and battered Bruce Banner and the mid-transformation to The Hulk with expertise. Speaking of the Hulk, the effects are pretty great as well, especially for a film released in 2008, and I can really feel the impact of each punch and each dramatic “Hulk Smash”. There were some questionable moments in the big Harlem battle between Hulk and Abomination, but by and large they are well done and convincing.
Since Ang Lee’s film in 2003, the Hulk has felt somewhat like a cursed franchise. Eric Bana seemed to do a good job with Banner in that first run, and Norton absolutely killed it. For whatever reason though, Norton seemed to have creative conflicts with the folks behind the scenes, and was replaced my Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers. Ruffalo, of course, is Bruce Banner personified, and I can’t help but feel out how fortunate MCU fans are that the casting and production is so on point. A dramatic recasting of such a critical character could serve as the death knell of many a film like this, but Marvel handles it beautifully.
One of the most underrated of the MCU films, The Incredible Hulk holds up amazingly well eight years later, and deserves much more respect than it gets. The post credits scene with Robert Downey, Jr. really began establishing this connection point between the films, and the smallest details (like the score being so influenced by the 70s TV series) really puts this film on top. It eschews the typical origin story, showing the Hulk’s creation only in flashbacks, which does a great job of allowing them to carry the story forward without dwelling on the same creation story countless times.
If you haven’t watched it in a while, do yourself a favor and check it out again, if for no other reason than to familiarize yourself with General Ross before he returns and becomes a thorn in the side of more Marvel heroes.
Starting with this film, I’m going to be doing an ongoing rank of the films as I watch them as well, just to see how things change as we move forward.
#2 – Incredible Hulk
#1 – Iron Man
Check out the Other Posts!
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 12 – Ant Man
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 11 – Avengers (Age of Ultron)
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 10 – Guardians of the Galaxy
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 09 – Captain America (Winter Soldier)
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 08 – Thor (The Dark World)
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 7.5 – All Hail the King
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 07 – Iron Man 3
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 6.5 – Item 47 and Agent Carter
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 06 – The Avengers
- Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 05 – Captain America (The First Avenger)