HULK (2003) Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Josh Lucas Directed by: Ang Lee Story by: James Schamus Screenplay by: John Turman, Michael France and James Schamus
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell Directed by: Louis Leterrier Screenplay/Screen story by: Zak Penn
Emil Blonsky – “Is that it?Is that all you’ve got?”
It’s difficult to be liked when you’re misunderstood; just ask the Hulk.Marvel were riding high at the box-office with Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), Spider-man (2002), erm...Daredevil (2003) and so it was time for the Jade Giant to flex his Pecs.Thing was, the Hulk was one of Marvel’s most iconic characters and so there were a lot of eyes on him as he lumbered to cinemas.The successful Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno TV show The Incredible Hulk did more for imbedding the Hulk into popular culture than a weekend spent with Max Clifford and so everyone felt as if they knew who he was.Yet, with popularity there were pitfalls and the biggest one was that there were certain expectations for the Hulk to meet.The show had focused on Dr Banner’s search for a cure to his Hulk transformations as well as some serious pant-stretching action and even those who hadn’t seen the series knew all about it.So when it was announced that director Ang Lee was in charge of the film The Hulk (2003) it came as a bit of an odd choice.Lee wasn’t known for making comic-book movies, but the teaser trailers looked promising and so audiences and Hulk fans decided to give it a go.But looks were deceiving because instead of presenting audiences with what they had expected, The Hulk was actually an arty melodrama that on occasion featured an angry green guy.That’s not to say it was a bad film, in fact it wasn’t, it was actually a beautifully shot exploration of pent up anger and frustration; but that was the problem.All that hanging around pushing the anger below the surface for Bruce Banner (Bana) was transferred to the audience who longed for something to happen.
The story moved away from that of the TV series and instead focused on the rocky relationship between Bruce Banner and his estranged father David (Nolte).The transformation of the Hulk still originated from exposure to gamma radiation, but there was also a bit of science based jiggery-pokery courtesy of Bruce’s unhinged daddy.Occasionally there were brief pauses for Hulk outs, Hulk dogs and a spot of interfering from the Military, but there was always the feeling that something was missing.The music was top notch (Danny ‘super hero score’ Elfman), the colour palette of the film was vibrant and it was shot to look like comic-book panels; but as it (slowly) moved towards the finale it was clear what had happened.The Hulk had tried to be an interesting and adult approach to the comic-book material, and it was, but that wasn’t quite right for a summer blockbuster marketed to families.The big showdown between Banner’s JR and SR was a fumbled metaphorical mess, that was not only a tad underwhelming, but also very difficult to see.Anyone watching the film on a TV set during a sunny day will know that the whole epic conclusion is a write-off.Summer cinema goers didn’t care for it and despite being a moderate success, it was considered a flop.Audiences had turned up for a trip down memory lane and instead they left angrier than the Hulk when he’d realised the crotch had gone in his last pair of pants.It was back to the drawing board and as time went by the logical conclusion to giving him a second chance was to reboot the franchise.
For The Incredible Hulk (2008) the director, the cast and pretty much everything else connected to the original movie was jettisoned.It was replaced by a more action orientated, comic-book friendly approach, that borrowed heavily from the TV show (hence the title).For the Hulk’s second shot Bruce Banner (Norton) was returned to his man-on-the-run status, his origin was barely mentioned and a big bad villain was brought in to match the brute strength of the Hulk.The film pitted Norton’s Banner/Hulk against Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky/Abomination, on an engaging and dynamic journey whilst Banner continued his search for a cure.Things were clearly very different and The Incredible Hulk was what audiences had hoped for in 2003; but the excitement for the character had gone.There was a possibility it had arrived too soon, but whatever the reason it failed once again to be the big box-office hit that had been anticipated.Sure it made money and had been the film that The Hulk was criticised for not being, but there was a snag.... people didn’t seem to care.It was a shame, because had The Incredible Hulk been released in 2003 it would have been the start of a series with the potential to be as big as the Spider-man and X-Men franchises.Instead the focus of the year (apart from The Dark Knight (2008)) was on Marvel’s golden boy, Iron Man (2008) and The Incredible Hulk faded into the background.Big, green and ever so mean, the Hulk had become a victim of a misunderstanding and no matter what had happened to change that, he was who he was; an angry bloke no one wanted to be around.
UNLEASH THE BEAST: A guide to ‘The Hulk/The Incredible Hulk’s’ best bits The Hulk GREEN MEN CAN JUMP – After being captured by the military Bruce underwent a Hulk-out and escaped.As he made a break for freedom he was shot at by tanks which he made light work of and then he ‘jumped’ to freedom by bounding miles at a time. JUNGLE ANGER – A year after fighting his father, Bruce fled to the jungle and worked as a medicine man, but his troubles weren’t over as a group of men arrived to take the medicine from the local people.Bruce warned them not to make him angry and as he Hulked-out the film drew to a close as a roar came from the jungle.
The Incredible Hulk SUPER SOLDIER – In order to combat Banner, General Ross gave Blonsky access to a formula that turned him into a super-soldier.When Banner was cornered at a university and he Hulked-out, Blonsky proved he was a match for the Hulk by going toe-to-toe with him.
THE CLAP – As the Hulk and the Abomination clashed on a rooftop, General Ross and his daughter Betty were amongst the crew of a downed helicopter that burst into flames.Thinking on his feet the Hulk turned around and with a powerful clap extinguished the flames and saved everybody.
HULK OUT: *Former Hulk star Lou Ferrigno appeared in both Hulk movies as a security guard.He also provided the voice of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk, for the Creature’s one piece of dialogue.
*Stan Lee also appeared in both movies; as a security guard alongside Ferrigno in The Hulk and as a man who unfortunately drank some of Banner’s gamma irradiated blood.
*A shot of Bill Bixby could be seen on a TV set in Banner’s room in The Incredible Hulk.
*Other connections to the Incredible Hulk TV series in the film The Incredible Hulk, included the use of the ‘Lonely Man’ theme that was played out during each episode and a reference to reporter Jack McGee, who hounded Banner during the entire run of the series.
*The Hulk’s Jennifer Connelly had previously starred in another comic-book movie, Rocketeer (1991) and Sam Elliott went on to appear as a different character in Marvel’s Ghost Rider (2007).
*The Incredible Hulk was part of Marvel Studio’s ongoing ‘connected universe’ approach to some of its movies.Robert Downey JR had a cameo as his Iron Man alter-ego Tony Stark and there were also references to S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury and Captain America’s super-soldier formula.