VIDEO: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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It’s the first of Ursa’s character studies of the members of Marvel’s Avengers! In order to do a thorough study of the Hulk (and Bruce Banner), Ursa had to watch Ang Lee’s Hulk and The Incredible Hulk starring Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. She hopes you appreciate the sacrifice. And yes, she still loves Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce best.

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Tag: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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  • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

    I still don’t know why the two movies had to stray so far from the show that make the Hulk work the best, the original series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno.  It personally worked really well although I agree with you, Mark Ruffalo did a great job as a dry humored Banner that knows he has to coexist with the Hulk, so they have a mutual respect aspect of their dynamic.  I honestly don’t know if the Hulk is a strong enough character to hold a movie on his own, but having him in a team certainly takes away that problem (so Hulk in Defenders movie?  That works for me).

  • edharris1178

    Interesting video, though I did enjoy the 2008 movie.  If nothing else it’s more lively than the 2003 one.  It works for me the same way X-Men Origins: Wolverine worked-a fun, stupid action movie.

  • Carlos Rivas

    Joss whedon could have done the hulk better, and given dimension to the leading lady.  like he did in firefly and others including avengers!

    • Animikean

       I do hope Whedon does not make a Hulk movie. The Incredible Hulk was a Fugitive-esque take on the Hulk mythos made by a director and star who appreciated the character. (and I must disagree on humor, it was there but quiet. i.e. – You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry)

      But hey I didn’t like Action figures: the movie, aka The Avengers.

  • TheScottCSmith

    I saw both Hulk movies and you know what, I can barely remember what happened in either of them.  That’s not a good sign.  I do remember appreciating Ang Lee’s comic book style, but beyond that…you’re so right on in suggesting a new Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo, that could be done well.

  • Muthsarah

    Re: “an hour goes by until the first joke”…Do you think every movie should have comedic moments, or just every comic book movie?  While I know that it’s odd for big movies to not have some comic relief, I find that most recent Hollywood flicks don’t use them well: they tend to be shoehorned into films, distract from the main plot, make long movies longer, and are usually very lazily written and/or intended for a completely different type of audience as the rest of the movie.  See also: Pirates of the Caribbean (TWO pairs of bickering idiots who are given whole scenes that desperately needed to be cut), any use of humor in Transformers, and of course, Jar Jar.  Even the Raimi Spidermans didn’t get non-Bruce humor right; it’s a good thing Batman never attempted it.  It just adds a whole new dimension for the filmmakers to screw up.

    The Hulk movies were kinda dark and serious, but I think that’s a good thing, since it means the movie keeps a fairly consistent tone; taking a movie about a guy wrestling with himself and the outside world at the same time and inserting wisecracks would be pretty jarring.  Since you saw The Avengers first, maybe you were already expecting moments of levity.  Or do you expect that of any movie you see?  I know by now that I’m a total fuddy-duddy, so I don’t assume anyone would agree with me on this or anything else, I’d just like to know what kind of standards you were setting for the films going in.

    NOTE: None of this applies to Whedon, as he’s actually good at writing humor.

    • Jill Bearup

      I was judging it by the standards of its contemporaries. The Avengers is a special case, but Iron Man (and the sequel, which I rather liked), Captain America and Thor were all fun without being over-the-top. Even Chris Nolan’s Batman movies have more humour! (Note I haven’t seen TDKR yet, but still.) The first two films had comedic moments. They didn’t need comedic scenes solely containing comic relief (hai, Pirates), they just needed a touch of dry acknowledgement that the situation is possibly hopeless/ridiculous, but we’re doing it anyway because…you know, heroes.

      “You know how it is, Mr. Fox: you’re at a party, someone’s passing around the weaponised hallucinogen…”

      What the Hulk movies needed to make me feel less like that was four hours of my life I’ll never get back was: a) coherence, b) better dialogue, and c) for Bruce to be less of a wooden stick. Aaaaaangst is all very well, but removing everything funny doesn’t really help keep the tone consistent, because the tone jumps straight from AAAAANGST to SMASH! and back again so much anyway.

      Also, I think every relatively mainstream movie should have at least some humour (not a lot, but a little). If the Shawshank Redemption can manage it, so can the Incredible Hulk. :)

  • Phazer8472

    Maybe it comes from not having seen the Ed Norton movie, but Bruce’s character development in Avengers felt kind of cheap to me. When we first see him he’s in hiding, he’s suicidal, he’s practically beginning them to not drag him into the fray.

    He comes on the ship and has a handful of conversations with Tony (which take place *before* he Hulks out during the attack and is all afraid of hurting an innocent, mind) and then all of a sudden he’s mister in control, “I’m always angry?”

    It just wasn’t very believable to me. It felt like there was a whole movie’s worth of character development that I missed in between him falling through that barn roof and when he shows up on the motorcycle.

  • Thomas Stockel

    I agree that both Hulk movies were terminally un-funny. I liked Ang Lee’s use of comic book style split screening, it was fun.  And I thought
    Sam Elliot did an awesome job as General Ross.  But outside of that? 
    Yeah, meh.  As for the second, I think they did a much better job
    concerning action but other than that I was not blown away at all.

    It was a great analysis of both Hulk movies, but I don’t think we will be seeing another one any time soon.

  • Liam Barrett

    I believe it’s something to do with the medium myself. In the comics, a mixture of psychoanalysis and bone-crushing violence somehow works. Whereas in movies, it always comes across as a bit, well, pretentious. Which is my big issue with the Ang Lee movie. The second one (I’ve just realised I have no idea who directed that) is the same, although I thought the action scenes were a lot better, which helped.

    I was also very disappointed with Edward Norton as Banner, although if reports are to believed he barely wanted to be there. Eric Bana was at least enthusiastic in his performance, he just had sub-par material to work with. And seeing the clips of the other films again really hammered home how good Hulk looked in The Avengers. I always hated the way he looked in his own films. It was like he was made out of Play-Dough.

    • Jill Bearup

      CGI Hulks past have been…um…somewhat lacking. 

      And yes, I think the comic medium, and written or drawn media in general, tend to work better with that chase-thinking-smash!-introspection contrast. When you can’t see or hear the characters’ inner monolgue, so to speak, conveying mood can come off badly.

  • I agree that the Avengers movie was the best cinematic take on the character so far, but I really think your selling the Ang Lee version far short. It’s a flawed but fascinating work, wholey unique in the superhero film genre, and far better than the generic, pandering second film. 

    Remember it came out in 2003, and for a good decade after the history making failure of Batman & Robin, the genre was trying to distance itself as much as possible from any appearance of that film. So from 1997 to 2007-08, dark and serious was the name of the game. Not the most balanced approach in the end (I already talked at length about it’s disadvantages), but the upside was people were willing to do take more risks and put more care and respect into making a superhero film than they were previously. I mean, think about how unheard of this film would’ve been ten years prior. Ang Lee, an Oscar award-winning respected auteur, made an artistic drama out of funny books about a nerd who turns into the jolly green giant whenever her stubs his toe. Oversimplification perhaps, but no less impressive.

    And yes, tortured sadsack Eric Bana is nowhere near as endearing as sly, zen Mark Ruffalo. But then again, the thing that makes Ruffalo’s take so fascinating is the fact that he WAS once the tortured sadsack. Bruce Banner could not have been the great Ruffalo he is if he had not once been Bana. One of his greatest character moments is when he briefly slips into a more Bana-esque persona while under the influence of the sceptre, and recalls his lowest point when he tried to commit suicide. He had to hit that low point to become the man he is. It’s two distinct stages in the life of one man. And in some respects, the ending to Ang Lee’s Hulk kind’ve implies he’s become that second man, confident in his ability to summon the Hulk to do good. It’s a character driven drama about a man coming to terms with his own anger. Honestly, I think it’s among the best superhero films ever made. Not Avengers good, but worthy of respect.

    • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

      I actually think Ang Lee’s Hulk movie would’ve been better received had it not been tied to the Hulk name and legacy.  Had it been Ang Lee’s take on a monster, within its own universe it would’ve been probably a lot better received.  Even an obscure character like Pitt or Lobo would’ve made for a more interesting psychological analysis and would’ve probably have better received because they didn’t have that already mainstream ideas about the character to begin with. 

      But if you take out the name Hulk and put in Meany Greeny, it means the same thing.  It’s an exploration of Banner’s mentality not the Hulk Smash, and the two meshed so poorly (plus having the Absorbing Man be the villain didn’t help either; everyone expected Abomination), that is the reason it is a panned hero movie to this day.

      • Jill Bearup

        That makes sense, Joshua. Going way overboard on the seriousness probably seemed like the thing to do, though I don’t think it worked out so well.

        Maybe you’re right, Russell. Maybe if it weren’t Hulk, it would have been better.I would probably still have found it insanely boring though. I don’t have particularly exacting standards, but ‘Not lulling me into a state of apathy so complete I want to fall asleep’ is pretty much non-negotiable.And yeah, Zen!Ruffalo!Banner is more fun than sadsack!Banner. But Ruffalo (and better writing) could have made sadsack!Banner more endearing. Or at least less dull. Films these days are chock full of tortured, brooding heroes with demons. Doesn’t mean they have to be so…meh. 

        • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

          It was insanely boring, but at least you wouldn’t have been expecting more from it, because it’s not the damn Hulk!  So the expectations would’ve been not there.  I’m not say it would’ve been better, but the expectations were just so high with a high profile director like Ang Lee directing the damn thing!  It was almost a recipe for disaster.

          I feel ashamed that I had to check up who played Betty Ross in that movie, because normally Jennifer Connelly is easily recognizable, but she just melded into the background.  She just seemed to wait for things to happen, as did everyone else.  I tried watching it a second time and just felt so violated that I just couldn’t sit through it again, it was just so slow paced.  For the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to also direct Hulk…I think Mr. Hyde directed the Hulk.

        • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

          I also wonder, since the Cheap Arse Film Critic did the Macarena, can you convince him to do the Gangnam Style dance if you ever review a good Korean movie like Oldboy?  He’s got the moves and the rhythm to make that a viral sensation!  Or get everyone on the Booth do the dance, that would be amazing!

  • Sofie Liv

    I really think you hit the nail on the head with the state-ment of how unfunny the two first movies were and that being the main problem.

    It is actually my sincere believe that it’s not only superhero movies, but all movies that should have a sense of humour. This humour may be dry and some-times even grotesque but it still needs to be there. I honestly can’t stand any movie that doesn’t have any humour what so ever.

    That being said more-so, I don’t believe humour is in any way keeping a movie back from going dark or deep or any-thing like that. It’s in fact a gate-way to exactly go dark and deep, it is my sincerely believe a piece of work that has a sense of dry humour can go far deeper than any work that has none.
    Even Stanley Kubrick had a sense of humour, it was incredible grotesque but it was there, and it was important for his films to work.
    Humour doesn’t need to steam from a comic relief either, but merely from the situation and how the different characters interact with each other.. How Sherlock is acting very inapprobriatly in a situation and John roles his eyes, that’s humour and helps us to learn the characters all on the same time, without feeling the need to shovel a down-right joke in there. As long as you let it, in any story, humour can spring from the story and characters themselves.

    I’ve been watching the old Bill Bixby Hulk show some time back, and thinking back.. that show really goes dark places and is never a super-hero show. It’s more of a new social drama of the week mixed with a “Hunted down moving from place to place” motive mixed with a monster smashing through walls ones a twice doing the episodes.. and still it was a good show.

    Why? Clever writing, compelling main character, it’s very obvious that Ruffalo is channeling Bill Bixby, they are almost the same. And yeah, that means Bixbys performance had that same quiet dry humour about him and a lot of self irony, plus.. he was just damn likeable. It is virtually impossible not to like Bixby as you see his performance.  (Btw, if you are ever going to make another Hulk video, would recommend for you to watch the pilot of Bixbys Hulk, it’s pretty solid, and you only need to see Bixby ones to realise that yep, every-thing Ruffalo does has been inspired from there.)

    I’m side-tracking, great video, looking forward to the next one.. and I sure hope that Banner is going to pop up in Iron man 3 in 2014, that would be lovely :3

  • Noname Blue

    Have you seen the old 60s series of Incredible Hulk with Bruce Banner? I think this is the best interpretation (I’ve only read a few comics, and only watched the first half hour of Ang Lees Hulk before being bored and switching), because Kenneth Johnson, the producer, intentionally wanted to do a more adult series than US comics, so he took the Jekyll/ Hyde motiv with the Fugitive/ Inspector Javert type of wandering around – being pursued; and he choose Bill Bixby with his charme, charisma and presence as the first and only choice of David (Bruce) Banner.

    He also had to use (because special effects were not CGI back then) a real person to play the Hulk – and I think that’s much better than any CGI, because it doesn’t break suspension of disbelief as much. A real person will be constrained by human muscles and physics in a way that CGI never does (flinging a tank around by the gun is not only impossible because of weight, it’s impossible because the gun would break off…). By making the Hulk (or the creature, as David Banner called him) still a man, the ridicolous premise of “Radiation = super powers” turned into something barely sciency “moment of stress = adrenaline = increased strength by a limited factor” (and increasing size by looking bigger). They never tried to explain why the Hulk turned green (but did lampshade it a couple of times) – where Ang Lee showed Bruce’s father doing research as going by a checklist, including green luminescene to explain while opening up a new plot hole (what purpose did his recombination originally have before it created the Hulk?)

    And the whole father-issue-complex might be interesting to teens, but is boring for adults.

    TVs Banner not only had a much better personality due to his Charisma, he also acted like a hero while still in his normal form. (Most of the times he didn’t hulk-out because of Anger, but out of fear/worry over another person, or pain when somebody tried yet again to kill him for intervening in bad deeds).

    The difference you addressed – Id vs Ego – was very visible in the TV series, as David Banner did act like a scientist and a nice person (not a milquetoast, but a genuinely nice caring compassionate person), and the Hulk, once the anger/ pain was over, showed a very childish, innocent side.

    This was also the reason that David Banner wanted to get rid of the creature and was always afraid of Hulking out despite saving his life and that of others in almost every episode: because the Hulk was like a child, he didn’t know his own strength and in the throes of rage, he didn’t think through his actions. He could easily out of pure carelessness have seriously injured or killed people – not only the bad guys, but bystanders. Collapsing a building by throwing a heavy object through a supporting beam, causing things to explode when throwing stuff and so on is dangerous. (Because it was a kid series and because David had good intentions, the injuries were only comical, not serious).

    Your comments on the Avengers Banner sound a bit like this.

  • The_Stig

    I’d love to see what you have to say on Cap.

  • nonameblue

    Now that I’ve watched the 2008 Ed Norton Hulk (but not the Avengers yet), I have to disagree somewhat. I found the 2008 much better than Ang Lee’s, though some aspects bothered me, too. I liked the references paid right in the opening credits to TV series – though one problem is that they left out WHY Banner would jump to experiment on himself. The TV series pilot made it clear that he was obsessed with strength because of the accidental death of his wife, and this obsession lead to his self-experiment.
    In the movie, Bruce Banner doesn’t know of the military application of his research, but why would a half-reasonable scientist go straight to self-experiment instead of animals first?
    The main problem was the characters/ actors ages: Norton seems to be between 20 and 30, certainly not older, yet he’s been hiding for 5 years, and was an excellent scientist before that. Similar for Betty Ross, a doctor and apparently still under 30 years, and Mr. Blue, an expert in the field but looking in his 20s.
    Another thing was that both Norton kept reminding me of other characters like Rainman with his baseball cap and sad pose, but while he did portray “sad and lonely” very well, he hardly showed the “compassionate nice guy charisma” that Bill Bixby had (and what made his survival as fugitive believable). This is a bit strange because Norton was also in “Death to Smoochy” playing a nice guy, where he came across much better.
    Likewise, Norton’s Bruce skills at evading the might of the US military, given that he was originally a scientist and not a criminal or otherwise specialist in that area, bordered on breaking belief for me. He wakes up in Guatemala, without any money or even enough clothes, and 15 days later he’s in the US in Virgina. How did he get money for fake passports, transport, food etc during those days?
    While it was nice to see him take martial arts for self-control and a bit of getting rid of bullies without hulking-out, the final fight between the Abomination and the Hulk should have gone badly for the Hulk. Blonsky is an elite soldiers with decades of fighting skill, plus faster, bigger and stronger than the Hulk. (Although there was heavy editing during that final fight on my TV version). That’s not that I want to see the Hulk loose – but it felt like cheating to see the Hulk win.
    I also had trouble with both the Hulk and Abomination being bulletproof – with bullets bounding off! – and rocket proof. In what way could super serum plus irradiation achieve that?
    They also messed up biology at every step: they tell Blonsky they will inject the serum in the muscles and the bone marrow; we see the syringes into the neck veins and later into the spine (is that why the bones of the spines grow outward first?)
    We see Banner shipping his blood sample in foam but without refrigeration, and Mr. Blue multiplied one sample into dozens or hundreds of full blood bags. One impossibility to buy per movie is okay, but half-a-dozen is not.
    I do think that Banner deciding to turn back on his maybe-healing to battle the Abomination is a very heroic thing, especially because it’s the human, not the Hulk, making that decision rationally, not in rage. And even as the Hulk, he had no guarantee that he could win against the bigger Abomination. I don’t quite know what more superheroic you could want in an origin story?
    The TV series pilot (to compare again) had his obsession and his failure as back story, culminating with Banner once again being unable to save the woman he loves from a fire/ explosion, despite the power of the Hulk the second time. So this was pretty dark, and there were not a lot of jokes there, either.
    But then, Bixbys Banner never could be very snarky, because he was far too nice for that. Bixby had so much screen presence and charisma that you believed that total strangers would give him a lift, a job or a place to stay; and he in turn would against his better judgment get involved trying to help everybody.
    That’s what I missed from Norton’s Banner.

  • Animikean

    Sorry completely forgot I replied a year ago! Basically with the same gist :)