Countdown to Avengers Endgame: The Incredible Hulk
We’re in the Endgame now. Just 19 days to go before Marvel Studios unleashes the biggest theatrical event in a generation (if not ever), capping off a story that is 11 years and 21 films in the making. There’s no denying that what Marvel has done here is unprecedented. As we approach the big day lets take a look back at the films that lead us here.
For as long as people have been ranking Marvel movies there have been two constants. Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk can be counted to round out the bottom of that list. Often viewed as Marvel’s black sheep of the MCU, is this earned or is The Incredible Hulk simply a victim of Marvel’s only re-casting of a lead actor and a weird web of distribution rights?
It may surprise you to hear that The Incredible Hulk… isn’t bad. In fact the greater Marvel story has in some ways made Hulk’s original outing a little better. The film does a lot of really fun things (which I’ll elaborate on shortly) but when taken as part of a larger picture helps to really tell the greater story of Bruce Banner / The Hulk.
First, there are just some really fun action scenes of Hulk tearing things up in this film. He goes toe to toe with the military in several scenes but even the (surprisingly brutal) final fight with Abomination in Harlem is plenty entertaining. For a movie that is frequently ignored and overlooked within the MCU these action set pieces are more well done than you remember (plus since you’ve undoubtedly watched The Incredible Hulk less than other MCU films you don’t have every beat memorized).
One of the most notable things about The Incredible Hulk is the first scene in which the Hulk appears. A group of special ops soldiers attempts to capture the Hulk in a South American bottling facility. While a fun set piece at face value, the real fun is how it is shot. This isn’t a full out action scene, rather it is shot like a horror movie. Hulk is a savage monster striking from the shadows and capable of crushing a person’s bones to dust (literally). The Hulk is not the hero of the film the first time we see him.
This is amazing not just because the scene itself is well done (though it is). This scene matters because it is showing us not only how our antagonist see the Hulk (as a destructive force) but this is also how Bruce views himself. This is also just solid film-making as we are shown (rather than told) and it is a great example of action serving the story. Bruce doesn’t have to repeatedly describe himself as the monster because we’ve seen it.
This is what gives the film’s ending a bit of a boost. In realizing that only the Hulk can stop Abomination, Bruce willingly chooses to turn into the Hulk for the first time. We see a different Hulk here. One with purpose and a goal (fight the giant monster). This arguably even partially explains why in the Battle of New York the Hulk was not an uncontrollable rage monster. As Bruce/Hulk continues their story in the MCU we see a growing dependency between the two as Bruce begins to the see the value of the Hulk. Even going so far as having Bruce actively trying to convince the Hulk to fight by the time Infinity War comes around (and I suspect we will see a version of Hulk that blurs the lines between the two even more in Endgame).
The Incredible Hulk is not a bad comic book film and isn’t even a “bad” MCU film. The Incredible Hulk is largely forgotten due to Edward Norton’s recasting for The Avengers and Marvel’s desire to minimize the role of the film due to the film’s rights being not entirely owned by Disney/Marvel (unlike most of the phase one films, Incredible Hulk was released by Universal instead of Paramount). Do yourself a favor and give Marvel’s black sheep another go.
Next we look at another of the lowest films on most critics list, Iron man 2.
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