Dateline v. The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Rated PG-13: For Violence, and Some Sensitive Themes

Running Time: 112 minutes (1 hour and 52 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on June 13, 2008 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios, Valhalla Motion Pictures, and Universal Studios

"The Hulk" Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Writer: Zak Penn

Director: Louis Letterier

  • Edward Norton as Bruce Banner / The Hulk
  • Liv Tyler as Elizabeth "Betty" Ross
  • Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky / The Abomination
  • William Hurt as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity Wars continues with the movie that, for some reason, everyone else forgot about. And also, the only other solo Hulk movie we are ever going to get for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Sigh.)

The movie has been accused of being very boring, and bringing pretty much everything, and not much innovative, that you have come to expect from a movie featuring the Jade Giant, minus a huge chunk of the smashing. With God's grace, we decided to take a look at this tragic black sheep of the M.C.U. film franchise, and see if it really is better off forgotten, or remembered. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and movie court is now in session for the case of Dateline v. The Incredible Hulk!

Also, you would not want to see "Puny Banner" angry, and neither would you like to see spoilers. Hulk will smash people who will complain after not heeding the warning.


What is the movie about?

After an attempt to revive "Project: Rebirth" goes horribly wrong, Bruce Banner, played by Norton (Fight Club), a scientist formerly working on the project, battles to control his inner demons. Whenever he gets tense, he becomes an uncontrollable green-colored colossus known by many as "The Hulk", a towering best of unquenchable fury and brute strength.

On the run from the father of his fiancee, Betty Ross, played by Tyler (Armageddon), General Thunderbolt Ross, played by Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman), who seeks to use The Hulk as a weapon for the government, Banner now only has a matter of time to seek a cure that will forever rid him of The Hulk for good. But before he can do that, Banner must get through Ross' right-hand man, the devious Emil Blonsky, played by Roth (Mr. Right).

    What we think of the movie?

    The Defense:
    • It features a much better, much more visually arresting Hulk.
    This movie carried the burden of attempting to be received better by audiences than Ang Lee's artistic and polarizing Hulk, and one of the most common criticisms aimed at that movie was its mediocre and dated C.G.I. rendering of the titular Green Goliath. That, and the C.G.I. for everything else in that flick also did not come-out right, due to certain technical limitations of the time.

    The Incredible Hulk, now with upgraded software in-hand, is able to fulfill its objective on giving audiences on giving a much more proper visual rendition of The Hulk. Ditching the video game-like appearance in favor of a much more realistic approach, The Hulk is no laughing matter.

    This even goes for the main antagonist of the film Emil Blonsky, who gets a much more skeletal and dinosaur-like appearance in contrast to his more reptilian look from the comics. I have to say though, even if comicbook accuracy should be put into consideration in the making of this film, The Abomination's appearance in this film makes more sense in context, given that people would just be more puzzled at the sudden appearance of a scaly Hulk knockoff. The production team does a neat job in giving a sensible and appealing look for The Abomination.
    • The darker tone is quite the fresh air from the rest of the M.C.U.'s films.
    The Marvel Cinematic Universe has since received fame, or better yet infamy, for its increasingly jokey nature, as evidenced by any post-Avengers installment. With this in mind, it really is nice to see The Incredible Hulk a somewhat darker tone in terms of storytelling, and if you really are seeking a much more serious M.C.U. feature, look no further than this sadly underrated flick, and also the two recent Captain America films. Then again, none of The Hulk's comicbook story-lines actually scream "for kids". While yes, there is about one or two jokes in the film, it nevertheless made the film unbearable to watch.

    What I do admire about this film is that it managed to tackle Banner's inner turmoils, which was exactly what Ang Lee tried to do in Hulk, but that movie undermined its ambitions with not enough action. In this film, we saw Banner as, like all of the other protagonists of the movies that came before and after this flick, a man ravaged by guilt by what he did when he unintentionally paved his road to hell with good intentions. The introductory montage really did help establish Banner's character, and it is a very good set-up for those who are already all too familiar with the story, and for those who are not. The opening sequences of Banner in Rio de Janeiro trying to not "Hulk-out" is, pretty boring in hindsight, but it does a decent job in showing just how broken Banner has been after accidentally landing Betty in a hospital bed.

    While Mark Ruffalo (Collateral) gives a semi-optimistic take on The Hulk, Norton is still able to add something to the table by making this depiction of Bruce Banner a completely paranoid and lonely outlaw, which is the Bruce Banner that we have all grown familiar with in the source material. And Norton is able to portray Banner almost perfectly, thanks in-part to a screenplay that he himself rewrote, leading to a particularly relatable version of Bruce Banner.

    In fairness, with relation to Norton's performance, I would always choose Ruffalo to play The Hulk over Edward Norton. No offense, but I think that Ruffalo generates a much more likable vibe in playing the dorky yet internally struggling brilliant mind that is Bruce Banner. But granted that Edward Norton himself is the type of actor that gives everything that he has, and he usually does deliver like he did here, it leaves room for speculation on just how Norton could have fleshed-out his role even more as an actor had he stuck around for any further installments.

    • The action is basically your average on-screen chaos, but at least it's an entertaining chaos.
    A lot of people tend to criticize the movie for not really delivering on the action front, and I can understand, considering that The Hulk is the type of superhero that likes to cause chaos in his wake. However, many of them tend to overlook that even if we only have about three total action sequences, each of them are still engaging in their own ways, even if I also have to agree that there should at least a little bit more action scenes between The Hulk and The Abomination. However, viewers should be patient considering that a huge amount of the runtime is dedicated to character development.

    We first get to see The Hulk fight against Ross' forces, with Blonsky leading the charge. It pretty much plays-out like your typical chase scene straight out of a Jason Bourne movie, and it does not feature The Hulk that much, it is a nice set-up of things to come.

    After several minutes, we then get to see arguably the best part of this film, which is The Hulk's battle at Culver University against an armada of heavily armed military forces, equipped with Stark Industries-grade sonic-based weaponry, as well as an enhanced pre-Abomination Emil Blonsky, whose enhanced speed and agility are proven to be quite an obstacle for The Hulk, but not too much of an obstacle. Director Louis Letterier made the right decision to shoot of the scenes in this sequence in a single-take format.

    Finally, we get to reach the final battle against The Abomination that just goes as you would expect from an action movie, but dang, it really is one incredible fight!


    The Prosecution:
    • The Abomination is one completely wasted antagonist. (And even the other side-characters are severely lacking in depth.)
    And like all of its other fellow Phase 1 flicks, The Incredible Hulk also fails to make a truly menacing presence in The Abomination. While some flicks like Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger did try to make their antagonists memorable through their actors' performances, not even Tim Roth was given that much to do here. Fine, we can say that this film is all about Banner and his attempts to cure his little condition, but could they have at least given Blonsky a much more interesting backstory instead of just saying that he misses his glory days of murder sprees? I mean, this is The Hulk's only other arch-nemesis and brutish polar opposite we are talking about here, and butchering a character that is so sinister that The Abomination managed to seemingly kill Betty Ross in the comics, out of hatred for Banner for being an unintentional cause for his bitter estrangement from his wife, is just so wrong on so many levels. Hey, they did mention that he is still alive, and early discussions during the making of Avengers: Age of Ultron said that The Abomination was originally slated to appear there, so maybe there is hope that Blonsky could be fleshed-out in future installments, or maybe in Avengers: Infinity War.

    Sad to say also, not even the other characters manage to stand-out. Wow, the M.C.U. really hates making memorable stand-out characters, huh? And not even the actors or actresses portraying them are given anything at all to apply their talents with. From Thunderbolt Ross being the "shady military figure", to Betty Ross being just the "love interest", to Leonard Samson, played by Ty Burrell (Modern Family), being the "overprotective lover" to Betty, the one character who is really wasted in this film is Samuel Sterns, played by Tim Blake Nelson (FANT4STIC), who is "The Leader", The Hulk's most persistent, most intellectual adversary in the comics, and here, he is reduced to the guy who offers Bruce a chance at a cure, and nothing else. Despite a tease at his transformation after a drip of Banner's blood dropped on his forehead wound,  which might have been for the sequel that never came, we never get to see him again, not even at the finale, even if he does manage to survive the events of this film. So many characters, wasted.

    • The movie does not really explore any new territory for the character.

    And finally, I believe that the ultimate reason as to why people tend to overlook this flick's existence is its clear lack of originality. The Hulk has fought several threats, ranging from paranormal forces from beyond the grave, and extraterrestrial beings hellbent on universal domination. And what did this film's plot follow? The exact same premise of running away from the government in order to keep one's powers out of evil hands that has been used to death already, and has been used in all of the movies, all of the animated shows and other appearances, and even the famous Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno show. The two Iron Man films tackled corporate evils with quotable quips, while Captain America: The First Avenger tackled the idea of war through the eyes of a hero-at-heart, and Thor, even if it is really bland, tackled the theme of adjusting to one's surroundings. The Incredible Hulk's theme of mad science is overdone, and even if it is the driving force of the character, it feels and comes-off as uninspired, and it would have been better if the film did make use of other story fantastical elements in order to make itself more distinct in the eyes of the public.

    This, and the stereotyping of all of the other characters, created a story-line so replaceable and forgettable, many tend to overlook the film's other core strengths that we have discussed awhile ago. It is also the film's lack of overall originality that caused many to be bored at the film's sheer predictability. It really is a shame though, since this film, for all of its shortcomings, is still entertaining, and I would even say that it is more entertaining than Thor. (Just saying.)

    The Ruling: Not Guilty!

    While lacking enough reason to justify its own existence outside of franchise-building, The Incredible Hulk remains a worthwhile movie-viewing experience that is lead by Edward Norton's only appearance as the titular hero.

    Man, it really is sad that many tend to forget that this movie is still good. Even if almost none of the other actors, except for William Hurt, returned for the time being, it has a spot in our minds that The Hulk had a good enough of a solo flick. Now, where is that sequel Universal?

    Before you leave, you should know that a lot of people are quite confused by that post-credits scene of Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. (Air America), making it look like that he is planning to capture the Hulk. If you are one of those who are still at a lose, here is a one-shot that should clarify things for you. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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