MCU Rewatch Issue #2: The Incredible Hulk

Continuing a challenge that came from an Internet meme, here’s part two of the MCU rewatch.

tomk The Incredible Hulk.

So, as some background, I’m something of a Hulk fan. I’ve found the Hulk, out of all of the classic Marvel characters from the 60s, seems to loan himself better to experimentation, so his intelligence fluctuates, his adventures can go in crazier directions, and heck, he can even be shrunk down and date a princess from the Microverse or something. Why, then, do Hulk solo movies always seem so-so at best? I sorta like the Ang Lee Hulk. It’s slow, not much of an action movie, and aside from some really weird choices and the fact that the Hulk breaks all kinds of military hardware without apparently killing anybody except that Talbot doofus, plus the Hulk dogs, plus…wait, why do I sorta like that movie? Never mind.

At any rate, a part of me really wants to like The Incredible Hulk. It only came out a couple weeks after Iron Man, and even without the Tony Stark appearance at the end of the movie (which may have come about because Downey literally walked across the street from where they were filming Iron Man one day to shoot a cameo), we get some Captain America stuff, some SHIELD and Stark logos flashing by, and so forth. The Hulk, more than Iron Man, seems to live in a shared universe. It’s not really an origin story. Heck, given where Banner starts off in Brazil, we could even wonder if it sort of acts like a sequel to Ang Lee’s movie which ends with the Hulk south of the border. Director Louis Leterrier, who also did two Transporter movies and Ryan fave Now You See Me, did take steps to put more action into a Hulk movie, but I think the problem is twofold here. 1) They let Edward Norton do what apparently he does on a lot of his movies, sometimes for the better, and do a major script rewrite and a lot of Norton’s stuff ended up getting cut, and 2) they keep referencing the old TV show which, while a memorable period for the Hulk that makes the character more recognizable than, say, Iron Man, also has very little in common with the comic book source for the movie outside of a scientist named Banner turns into a big green guy when he gets mad. I’ve always found, as a result of the second one, that Hulk moviemakers never know how to really use the character, which may be one more reason why he works best in a team-up movie.

watson:  So I rewatched it tonight with my 15 year old. That was only the third time I’d seen it (unlike many other MCU films that get an annual rewatch). I watched it once when it was first released on home video and once again with my son when he was like 11.

It’s not as bad as everyone says. It’s only real “sin” is that it is very much different stylistically from the other MCU films…which as we discussed last week were inspired by the atmosphere that RDJ and Favreau created in Iron Man.

This was more a drama than an adventure film. It’s still in the bottom quartile of the MCU but there is less separation than I thought.

I enjoyed it for a Friday night rewatch with my son.

tomk:  I can go with that. It’s hardly a terrible movie. Norton isn’t a bad Banner. It’s more like Ruffalo is a better one. Plus, IMDB’s trivia section for this movie tells me Leterrier’s first choice for Banner was Ruffalo but Marvel really wanted Norton.

jimmy:  This was…not a great movie. I think the best part was that I thought it was the Gary Busey one and was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t.

tomk:  You mean Nick Nolte?

jimmy:  Haha, yes. I’m glad Busey wasn’t in it either.

tomk:  Hey! Busey suffered serious head trauma after a motorcycle accident during his period of being an advocate against mandatory helmet wear for bikers! I don’t know what Nolte’s excuse is…

jimmy:  Well, I screwed up that joke anyway, so let’s move on…

tomk:  True.

So, you said the movie wasn’t great, Jimmy. What did you think? Was it any good, or just not as good as you were hoping? Or as bad as you were dreading?

jimmy:  It was ok. I expected it to be a bit worse actually. Though I was grateful for the pacing and runtime being under two hours, so it never really dragged.

Maybe it’s because I knew it had happened (like you said earlier), but there was definitely a feel that Norton had his hands all over it and tried a lot of things that didn’t quite work or that nowadays Feige would have said “ah, let’s not do that”.

It had a great cast, a well known cast anyway, but I didn’t think Hurt was great (not that he had much to work with) and Liv Tyler was awful.

I agree that it seemed more ingrained in the MCU than Iron Man, though the Stark scene seemed tacked on at the last minute and out of place.

tomk:  Norton had some weird ideas. He demanded Omar from The Wire appear in the movie, and actor Michael Kenneth Williams did film a scene where he tried to negotiate a truce between the Hulk and the Abomination. It doesn’t work, so Omar tells the Hulk to kick the Abomination’s ass. That was all cut except for a quick shot of Willaims exiting a store front and shouting “Whoa!” when something exploded behind him.

jimmy:  I wouldn’t know who that is. But it did seem like the movie was heavily spliced together. Not so much with huge plot holes, but just pieces that never really flowed together.

tomk:  Like Martin Starr? He was Amadeus Cho, and all his lines were cut to a single shot of him holding up a piece of pizza.

He got to play one of Peter Parker’s teachers in Homecoming though.

jimmy:  I only knew that was Cho by reputation. What a wasted scene.

tomk:  Yeah, apparently, he had some dialogue where he helped Norton log into the computer.

jimmy:  Good thing Betty never changed her password in 5 years.

tomk:  Computer security is not her strong suit.

Besides, I am sure you, Jimmy, instantly recognized the pizza shop owner.

jimmy:  Umm…

tomk:  Surely you know Paul Soles when you see him, or at least hear him.

jimmy:  Wow. I never even noticed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in real life before.

tomk:  He also voiced the Hulk in the 60s apparently.

jimmy:  As mentioned, there were lots of callbacks to the Hulks of future past. Mostly from the TV show. The Ferrigno cameo, the slow sad theme music, the purple pants, the package addressed to “David B”, etc. I’m surprised no one said he was “unglamorous”.

tomk:  They got Bill Bixby in there, too. The only English language show in Brazil featured him.

Oh, and Ferrigno was the voice of the Hulk. Odd since he wasn’t the voice of the Hulk on the old live action show…

jimmy:  He was? I never noticed that. Nor the Bixby cameo.

Not that Hulk said much. And the “Hulk smash!” was lame and seemed forced and out of place.

tomk:  Here are all the Hulk’s lines:
“Leave me alone.”
“Hulk smash!”
“Betty…”

But I think Ferrigno was doing a lot of the grunting too.

They mention Bixby around the two minute mark.

And, for the record, Ferrigno has voiced the Hulk before for an animated series that also featured Mark Hamill as the Gargoyle.

watson:  The Bixby show was his previous work, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

jimmy:  Yes. I didn’t recognize him.

watson:  I really don’t disagree with much of Jimmy’s criticism but I still think it was passable entertainment.

jimmy:  Yeah, it was fine. Definitely the weakest MCU film so far though. 🙂

tomk:  I would agree with that, though I don’t mind “Hulk smash!” Most Marvel heroes don’t have a catch phrase. Might as well use it.

watson:  One thing that the Hulk shifting to a supporting character and not able to have his own films was that we never got to see The Leader.

tomk:  This is the Batsoup of the MCU!

jimmy:  And where’s the Abomination been the last 10 years?

watson:  Tim Blake Nelson should come back as a Master of Evil or something in a later Avengers film.

tomk:  I’d always wondered how they got the Abomination out of there. I know there’s a throwaway line in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I saw once where Coulson mentions the Abomination is locked in a deep, dark hole somewhere, but how did they get him there?

watson:  This isn’t Batsoup. This movie is watchable.

tomk:  It’s the second movie. Man of Steel is the DCEU attempt at Iron Man. Heck, Suicide Squad and Iron Man 2 had a lot of stuff tossed in to make it fit into a larger universe to the detriment of the movie.

jimmy:  Hey…no Coulson in this one. But a big SHIELD presence.

watson:  My son and I discussed how Ross shows back up in Civil War. We debated whether they originally intended to bring back Ross and hired Hurt or they wanted to hire Hurt and realized he could play that part and resume a previous role?

tomk:  Then there’s a mythical figure that comes from far away and deals with gods and lightning…

watson:  Hurt was a good addition to Civil War.

Honestly, Hurt usually is an asset to any cast. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have him around.

(I am ashamed of that…)

tomk:  Incredible Hulk references are rare in the MCU, but they pop up. Ruffalo says the last time he did anything as the Hulk, he “broke Harlem”. Tony named the Hulk Buster armor “Veronica” as a match to “Betty”…and then there’s Hurt, who brings a bit of gravitas to the role that’s needed without making him look like a shoot-first-and-then-maybe-ask-questions type of lunatic you might expect from a guy nicknamed “Thunderbolt”.

Though I like Sam Elliot a little better.

jimmy:  Interestingly, with Betty Ross never appearing again and Jane Foster now apparently departed from the MCU, these classic Marvel love interests haven’t stuck around.

tomk:  We still have Pepper!

And, uh, Steve’s fondness for one family tree…

watson:  I thought we were done with Pepper as well until the cameo in Homecoming!

jimmy:  And Gwen Stacey…I mean Mary Jane…uh…I’m not sure what is going on there…

watson:  Rogers has a type…

tomk:  Bucky?

watson:  Foster, Gwen, MJ, and Betty all moved to Themyscira

tomk:  They got a room set aside for Rachel McAdams already.

jimmy:  Lol

watson:  I always forget she was in Dr Strange. Know how Jenny talks about tacked on romantic interests getting in the way? McAdams was a prime example.

tomk:  Jenny says that of anyone getting between her and her Cumberbatch fantasies. That includes Mrs. Cumberbatch.

jimmy:  And I can’t even tell you her character name. Foster and Ross are in a different category altogether. Like Madame Xanadu level iconic.

watson:  Has Liv Tyler done ANYTHING lately?

tomk The Leftovers on HBO.

watson:  Didn’t Jane Foster become less important to the Thor cast after a while?

jimmy:  She’s pretty important now…

tomk:  Portman wasn’t happy with her role. She was really pissed when Patty Jenkins quit as the Thor 2 director.

watson:  I don’t remember her much from when I’d pop in and read Thor in the 80s/90s. Thor was much less Donald Blake then.

tomk:  Jane Foster tends to disappear for periods but always comes back.

watson:  As his adventures became more about Valhalla his interests were Sif, Valkyrie, and occasionally the Enchantress.

As all intellectual property occasionally does, Tom…to preserve the protections.

That is literally why DC really created the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries and jammed it with everyone. To avoid abandonment claims.

tomk:  I think it’s more what kind of Thor stories they want to tell and then sometimes remember Jane was important for a while. Heck, they even bring Donald Blake back once in a while. It’s not like those characters are old enough to go public domain.

watson:  At least that’s what I heard at the comic shop. I’m not a very good lawyer. That’s why I went into marketing….

tomk:  Or Watson might know better since he tends to deal more with the law.

watson:  See above.

tomk:  Do we know anyone with an interest or knowledge in intellectual property law?

watson:  And comics?

tomk:  Yeah, that rarest of the rare.

watson:  Someone talented and smart?

tomk:  Well, let’s not push it.

watson:  Yeah. Gabbing Geek listener Sanjiv.

tomk:  Ah, someone should ask him.

He’s not Ryan.

watson:  Back to the Hulk: were the special effects for the Hulk good ten years ago? Hulk looks really cheesy today but I think that might be because the Ruffalo Hulk benefits from advances in CGI and this suffers from comparison.

tomk:  He looks better than the Ang Lee Hulk.

I thought he looked OK except for the scene where Banner is strapped to the gurney and partially transformed.

Heck, he still looks better than some of the DCEU CGI.

watson:  Better than Steppenwolf!?!?

tomk:  Well, better than Doomsday.

jimmy:  There was an early scene where I thought the CGI was weak (can’t remember what it was) but for the most part I thought it still looked ok. The end battle had a few places where it felt like the CGI Hulk and Abomination were “dropped in” around the practical effects, but nothing major.

watson:  To be such a forgotten/ignored/ridiculed MCU film, it really did do a lot to move forward the shared universe. We’ve talked about the SHIELD/Cap references and all that, but another superhero walking into the bar was revolutionary at the time. I think we take that for granted a little now. In post credit scenes today, we wouldn’t be TOO surprised if the Anti-Monitor popped up in the post credits scene plotting with Thanos to destroy both the MCU and DCEU.

Though Zack Snyder has done a good job destroying the latter already…

tomk:  Which is too bad as I rather liked Justice League’s two post credits scenes.

Though technically the Downey cameo was pre-credits.

jimmy:  I found that a little odd too. I guess they weren’t really in the swing of things by that point. And/or they really wanted to make sure people saw Downey/Stark in the film, as opposed to many who left and missed Fury in Iron Man.

tomk:  Yeah, but now we sit through the credits all the time even if we were told there wasn’t anything after them in Age of Ultron.

watson:  Yeah. That should have been Nick Fury. But it invented a new sub-genre of sorts. The “whats next?” stinger. People used to get excited when a card said “Superman will return in Superman II” but we are now criticizing Post-credits for not giving us enough tease. “What? It was just a joke scene? BOOOOO!!!!”

tomk:  We are truly a spoiled generation of geeks.

watson:  Especially Jenny.

tomk:  

jimmy:  Nice one, Tom.

I do find I am disappointed when post credit scenes are not “important”.

tomk:  Personally, I think people try to read too much into some of them, like people who thought Marvel was making a Howard the Duck movie.

jimmy:  Yeah. Sometimes the funny ones are ok too.

But why would Stark approach Ross?

tomk:  Especially since it sounds like he maybe wants Blonski.

jimmy:  Yeah, it didn’t make much sense. But I guess if Stark showed up to talk to Banner, it would open a whole other kettle of fish.

tomk:  Didn’t they do a short where Coulson and another agent decided to send Stark knowing he’d annoy Ross so much it would guarantee Ross wouldn’t let them have the Abomination and the Avengers would have to take Banner?

jimmy:  Seems like a good segue to watch the short…

tomk:  See, this is why the idea that people making these things make stuff up as they go along doesn’t bother me, because as near as I can make out, everyone makes things up as they go along. Here they are papering over the not-quite-post-credits Hulk scene, but one of those two agents is later revealed to be Hydra, so that’s something else.

watson:  It’s a throw away gag that helped create a shared universe. Only the diehard fanboys needed that “explained away”. NERDS!

The rest of us can just chuckle and say “Robert Downey Jr just walked across the lot and filmed it to add some sizzle…”

In last week’s Iron Man write up we debated who gets the MCU credit: RDJ or Favreau. The real answer is Kevin Feige.

jimmy:  At what point did Feige start getting fanboy recognition for his work?

watson:  I think the intrigue started when Black Widow and Fury were in Iron Man 2 (save it for next week!) but the “holy crap, this is something special!” started when we got rumors and confirmation for Avengers.

jimmy:  Sure, but was Feige becoming a “household name” at that point? All the hype I remember for Avengers was around Whedon. But like you said, maybe this is a conversation for another time.

tomk:  I don’t know when Feige got involved.

But I actually want to say something about the Abomination. He’s not a typical MCU villain in that he isn’t out for world domination by bringing some giant war machine out of the sky. He’s a monster that just wants to break everything because he can.

jimmy:  And if anything, he’s an “improvement” on Banner, since he appears to keep his intellect. Even if it may have driven him a little crazy.

tomk:  He’s bigger and less human. Depends on how you define “improved”.

jimmy:  Well, if you had a different candidate…like say a Steve Rogers? Or someone more stable.

tomk:  Blonski seemed pretty stable to start.

jimmy:  C’mon. You know you can’t trust Tim Roth.

tomk:  Sometimes he’s just an undercover cop.

watson:  Could you see The Leader or Abomination ever showing up in the MCU again or is Hulk relegated to pure supporting roles?

tomk:  I’d like to, but aren’t there rights issues with the Hulk and that’s why there wasn’t another solo film?

watson:  It doesn’t seem to be with the characters or we wouldn’t have Hulk and Ross showing up in the MCU. I thought it was about the actual right to make a solo film. I wonder if they could appear in an Avengers film or a film where Hulk tags along like in Thor.

I’d actually prefer that because I am not sure I’d care to see a solo Hulk film. Would you?

jimmy:  I think the issue with not making any more solo Hulk movies is lack of box office.

tomk:  I wouldn’t mind a Hulk solo film if they can figure the character as a solo act out.

watson:  That’s the thing about a solo Hulk story. Unless he’s in space as a gladiator it’s always the same story: man on the run/fighting his inner demons. It’s kind of a one trick pony.

tomk:  Maybe, but the Hulk has the underpinnings of a good psychological horror story only touched upon with Thor Ragnarok when Banner realizes he’d been the Hulk for two years.

watson:  That doesn’t match the mood of the MCU. The MCU is not a psychological horror kind of place. Everyone is happy enough. Even when they are miserable. Dr Strange was SUPPOSED to change that and delve into horror. Not so much. I couldn’t see Feige wanting a Loganesque entry in the MCU.

tomk:  True. Oh well. Missed opportunities and what not. Anyone have anything else to add?

jimmy:  If you want horror go watch New Mutants.

watson:  Oh. You know I will. I can’t wait for the X-Men rewatch leading up to New Mutants. Is that scheduled yet?

No?

tomk:  This isn’t it?

jimmy:  

tomk:  I’m doing three different rewatches right now. The X-Men can wait.

watson:  Fine. Fine. Moment of truth. What score do you give Incredible Hulk and where does in place in the films of the MCU?

jimmy:  Well, we’ve only seen 2, so right now it is the second best!

Seems like it should be slightly lower, but I will give it 7 out of 10 thank God there was no Nick Notle or Gary Busey.

watson:  Ok. We can wait until the very end to do a final ranking of the full MCU.

I agree though on your ranking. I give The Incredible Hulk 7 Bloody Brazilian Soda Bottles Out of 10.

tomk:  I’m going with 7.5 out of 10 moments that looked like it killed Stan Lee. As for the movie, I think it rivals Thor the Dark World for Worst MCU Movie even though I mostly like it.

jimmy:  I guess we’ll see when Thor 2 comes around, but if this is potentially the worst MCU film, they’re not doing half bad. Especially compared to the DCEU…

watson:  I hate you, Jimmy.

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