Jan 10, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: The Incredible Hulk

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Last week, we started with Iron Man.  Next is the redheaded stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk was the second part of the initial two movie plan for Marvel self-financing and producing their own movies.  It was released on June 13, 2008 and made $55 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $134 million in the United States and $263 million total worldwide.  It is easily the least financially successful of the Marvel Studios films.

MATTHEW: I found it to be an enjoyable movie overall.  Not one of Marvel’s best by any means, but making Hulk fun in a solo outing is hard to pull off anyway.  It told its story well, and solidly established the character.

MATT: I watched it for the first time after I saw The Avengers.  I think the heart rate thing is a good idea to convey the sense of constant control Banner is under.  Post-Avengers, this obviously doesn’t work (I think Bruce always being angry is a better decision overall).  The plot and goal of the film is utterly forgettable.  The Hulk is an excuse for destruction, which we get.  Its sort of “meh” forgettable movie.  We do get Ty Burrell as Doc Samson.  The movie is lost potential because the character isn’t compelling as a lead since Hulk smash, not talk.

BEN: It’s about as good as a Hulk movie can be, I think.

MATT: Yes, I think we will just damn it with faint praise.

BEN: This is the first time I’m noticing the Universal Studios title card at the beginning.  (Universal has owned the Hulk movie rights ever since the television series.)

JD: When this film had its midnight release, I was assigned the task of splicing the film together (back when that was a thing, now they come in hard drives instead of 5-7 reels of film).  Somehow a couple reels were mislabeled.  So in my “cut” of the film, Tim Roth is in the hospital for some reason and then gets kicked by the Hulk.  Had to give over 400 refunds and I was demoted.  I eventually earned my old job back, so happy ending I guess.

BEN: A couple friends and I went to the midnight showing of this expecting it to be a madhouse.  We were the only people there.

JD: It wasn’t packed, it was on two screens.  I had somehow messed both of them up.

DUY: Fun fact, supposedly this, Iron Man 2, and Thor all take place in the same week.  It’s all covered in a comic series called “Fury’s Big Week,” but you can splice it together with Coulson’s appearances.

BEN: It’s about as good as a Hulk movie can be, I think.
MATT: Yes, I think we will just damn it with faint praise.

BEN: So since they decided to skip doing an origin again, we’re to understand that Banner has been Hulk for quite some time before Stark became Iron Man?

TRAVIS: He’s had a few years, at least.

DUY: I like that they just went through the origin in the opening credits.  The Hulk’s the character the general public knew the most about beforehand.  Spider-Man too, and that’s the other movie with a skipped origin.

BEN: Leterrier’s first choice for Bruce Banner was ironically Mark Ruffalo, but Marvel insisted on Norton.  I can’t imagine Norton in the Avengers movies at all, but (at the risk of Samantha’s wrath) I also can’t really see Ruffalo shouldering a solo Hulk movie.  I see him as a better ensemble player than a leading man.  Regardless, leading a Hulk movie is a nearly impossible acting job.

SAMANTHA: Nah, I can agree with it.  Mark is better in supporting roles or, like you said, in an ensemble cast.  Also, the Hulk movies have failed so many times that I feel like making another one would be like beating a dead horse.

LAMAR: The Hulk is the one character that makes destruction porn a fine art with a purpose.  The scope hasn’t been big enough in his solo movies so they’d have to blow it out even more than The Avengers or Thor: Ragnarok did.

BEN: David Duchovny was also considered for Banner.  Eric Bana was asked to return but declined.  Ray Stevenson was considered for Emil Blonsky.

LAMAR: I think Roth was perfect for Blonsky because he gives off that vindictive, overcompensating attitude naturally, so it wasn’t a stretch for him in that role.

BEN: I’m a Roth fan, so I thought he was great in this part.  I’m actually somewhat disappointed he “wasted” his Marvel role on this.

LAMAR: He was great in Hoodlum too, that’s my favorite thing he’s done.

TRAVIS: I loved the loom of this movie.  It’s shot really well, and the color-coding is Ghostbusters subtle.

BEN: Early nitpick, during the martial arts training scene, I don’t care how zen you are, physical activity raises your heart rate.

DUY: So the Hulk isn’t triggered by anger so much as heart rate, right?  He’s about to Hulk out when he and Liz are getting it on, and he’s not angry then…

BEN: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry" was several years too early to become a Snickers ad.

MATTHEW: I loved the battle with the military, and him booting Blonsky into a tree.

BEN: I remember getting really excited about how dynamic a fighter Roth was in that scene, because I felt like it was a taste of how Captain America was going to be on-screen.

MATTHEW: Yep, my friends and I all thought the same thing.  We knew Cap was going to be an ass-stomping machine.

DUY: I remember thinking then if Blonsky could do all that, The Dark Knight had no excuse for making Batman so ineffective.

LAMAR: The Captain America easter egg was well done too.

DUY: Blonsky/Hulk actually makes me want to see Steve/Hulk.

JEFF: I would like to have seen the military using heavier ordinance against the Hulk.  As bad as Lee’s Hulk was, at least he used tanks and jets, seemed like the military was holding back when they got to engage the Hulk.

MATTHEW: Too populated of an area.  Also, I’m pretty sure they laid on him with an A-10, that’s definitely not holding back.

BEN: I was going to say, it’s irresponsible they attacked him without provocation on a college campus to begin with.

MATTHEW: Irresponsible use of military resources is Ross’s specialty.

"It’s shot really well, and the color coding is Ghostbusters subtle."   -Travis

BEN: Roth’s subdued manic performance leading up to this final battle is great.  “Where is it?  Show it to me.”

TRAVIS: The novelization picks a random white walk-on to call Amadeus Cho.  Had that made it into the movie… it would not have aged well for them.

BEN: The Leader is one of the great abandoned teases of the MCU.

MATTHEW: For sure.  With the wild, colorful look of their movies, the Leader would make for a great, zany villain.

BEN: Especially since Tim Blake Nelson was throwing heat in his five minutes of screen time.

MATTHEW: He’s got the right facial structure… he would look creepy as hell as the Leader.

DUY: The Leader still needs to show up.

BEN: Marvel loves “Hulk falling out of an aircraft” bits.  Maybe that’s why Ragnarok’s didn’t work for Duy.

DUY: Ragnarok’s didn’t work for me because it’s that time in the movie when things are getting serious, and by that time there had been enough jokes.  But it also go the loudest laugh each time I watched it, so that do I know.

BEN: This end fight, it can’t be understated how much CGI has continued to get better and better since this movie.

DUY: It’s dated now, but I remember thinking that final fight scene was the best fight scene I’d ever seen in a superhero movie.

MATTHEW: It’s dated, but it’s not terrible.  I’d love to see Abomination get another go in a future movie, small role, but a big scary tough for a main villain.

DUY: Abomination is part of my future Masters of Evil when I take over the MCU.

TRAVIS: Abomination is one of the great Marvel villains.

BEN: Even just two movies into our re-watch, I feel like that whole “Marvel has a villain problem” narrative is overblown.  Who are we comparing them to, Heath Ledger?

MATTHEW: But Ledger had dogs… that’s a legit threat.

BEN: But were they Hulk Dogs?

MATTHEW: I don’t care what people think about that movie.  The scene with the Hulk Dogs was awesome.  Also, if Bale could barely handle a couple Rottweilers, what’s he going to do with a Hulk Dog?

BEN: Scream at it, most likely.

DUY: DC’s villains through five movies have been far worse.  Zod was the best one they had, and even then his acting was terrible.

"I remember thinking then if Blonsky could do all that, The Dark Knight had no excuse for making Batman so ineffective." -Duy

BEN: That Stark teaser doesn’t make much sense in hindsight.

TRAVIS: Didn’t they expand it into an one-shot short?

BEN: Did they?

TRAVIS: They flesh it out, so they sent Tony specifically because he’s annoying as hell.  And, because he owes them a favor.

CHRISTOPHER: I liked and enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would despite its rather thin plot.  Norton really made it work as a solo movie the way Ruffalo fit well in the ensemble of The Avengers.  I do feel like what makes the Hulk difficult to be a standalone thing, whether in comics or film, is that there’s just so many ways Hulk can smash stuff.  This also made me think his supporting cast is not that fleshed out or interesting enough to warrant another solo outing for Hulk. Unlike Frank Castle who really can just be a force of nature in his own series the way Rucka did him in the comics. Not that that’s bad, but I feel like you get my point.

LAMAR: Marvel could do shorts of the Hulk either before the movie starts or after it ends, about ten minutes or so each, instead of making one long movie they may not see a real return on.

MATT: That’s basically been Ruffalo’s suggestion.  Splice all the pieces from his appearances together and you basically get a Hulk movie. About as coherent as any they’ve done.

DUY: You may have to go with one of the other Hulk variations to really sustain two hours.  Professor Hulk, Mr. Fixit… Savage Hulk just relies too much on Banner.

BEN: The problem with any Hulk movie is the same as it is in the comics, Banner is just a really tough hang.  By the very nature of his situation, he’s depressed and beaten.  It’s remarkable that Ruffalo has been able to infuse any bit of charm into a character that’s living in a nightmare that won’t end.  Banner’s main focus is to get rid of the character you came to see.

DUY: The Hulk’s got the same problem as the original Swamp Thing or The Fugitive, which is the fact that you know the premise (a cure) will never be realized.  The overall arc of the Hulk since since in the MCU seems to be Banner slowly coming to accept that the Hulk is a part of him and then living with it every day of his life, which makes more sense to me and is more sustainable.  Can you imagine if every single Wolverine story was about him finding a way to be rid of his powers?  That would just suck.  The best Wolverine is when he’s trying to come to terms with who and what he is.

TRAVIS: The Fugitive ran for how many seasons, though? The A-Team, same thing. This is a thing you can do and succeed with. Dude on the run is a proven formula. Unless you screw it up.

MATT: They got 5 seasons of Bixby/Ferrigno too.

LAMAR: It’s funny how the tone of our dialogue suggests that this is the first post-Bixby Hulk movie, but this movie is a vast improvement over the previous Ang Lee film in pretty much every way you can think of.

BEN: We’ve been pretty critical, but it’s a good movie.  It’s the definition of “just fine.”

MATT: It’s far and away better than any Snyder DC movie.  Like not even close.

DUY: The Ang Lee film was prettier.

LAMAR: Who want to see a pretty ass Hulk movie?

PETER: The Ang Lee film was slow and boring.  However, I remember really liking that comic panel effect they did to show split screen shot scenes and transitions.  Very clever, I thought.

TRAVIS: The pretty parts of Lee’s are so disconnected from the movie that they start to count against.  This movie is really shot nicely.  It looks, overall, better to me and has a better use of location for ambience.

DUY: Well, yeah, the panels thing would have been better suited for someone like Spider-Man or Plastic Man or even the Fantastic Four, but I’m just saying the Ang Lee film is nicer to look at.

BEN: We’ve talked about it a bit already, so who are we going to award the “Best Supporting Character?”  Candidates include Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, William Hurt as General “Thunderbolt” Ross, Ty Burrell as Doc Samson, and Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns.

TRAVIS: Roth definitely, but, seriously, the rest are the best we’re going to have cast in those roles.

BEN: Liv was okay, but she didn’t scream Betty to me.  Hurt is a perfect General Ross.  Like I said earlier, Nelson killed in his 5 minutes.  But yes, this is Roth’s movie.

TRAVIS: She was a shockingly better Betty than we had previously had.

BEN: She was good, she might just be too “Liv Tyler” for me.

TRAVIS: That was Jennifer, for me.  I had hopes, but all I got was Jennifer Connelly saying lines in a movie about wood, lightning, and father complexes.

BEN: Connelly, wood, and lightning is a sexy combination.  But yeah, she’s too pretty for my idea of Betty.

DUY: I don’t think Liv Tyler is a good enough actress to be anyone other than Liv Tyler.  Having said that, it’d be interesting to see her with Ruffalo.

BEN: I also similarly had a hard time ever forgetting that Edward Norton was Edward Norton playing Bruce Banner.

TRAVIS: Ed Norton was the weakest Banner, but also the one who had the most believable anger issues.

LAMAR: He’s believable as somebody that’s prone to get angry, but not in the way that I’d buy that he’d actually do something about it.  That was the disconnect for me with him, seeing him as the guy that changes into the Hulk was almost impossible because he looks and acts like he’s too soft to even get to the point of getting worked up.

BEN: No wood and lightning for that guy.

LAMAR: You know that video where the Asian dad smashes his son’s PlayStation with the sledgehammer, and the son just stands there and watches it happen and starts crying and yelling and shit?  Ed Norton.

BEN: He’s basically his character Worm from the greatest movie ever made, Rounders.

DUY: The Ang Lee film was prettier.
LAMAR: Who want to see a pretty ass Hulk movie?

BEN: Who gets the “Val Kilmer in Tombstone award" for who “owned” the movie with the best performance?  It’s still Roth right?

DUY: Yeah, it’s easily still Roth.  Funny you just named it that, because in the Ang Lee film, Ross was played by Sam Elliott, who played Virgil Earp in Tombstone.

BEN: He was way too charming for Ross.

Jeff: I’d say Roth.

Matt: Roth does seem to be in a different movie where people don’t shit their pants at the sight of a giant green murder machine, so yeah, him.

DUY: Finally, what comic would you recommend to anyone who liked this movie?

JEFF: Return of the Monster.

BEN: Future Imperfect.  I also liked Waid’s take from a few years ago.

DUY: I might actually just go with The End.

BEN: The End and Future Imperfect are the cliché recommends.

DUY: I know I’ve said we shouldn’t limit it to comics featuring the character himself but it’s been two movies and I can’t think of any.

TRAVIS: Bruce Jones or Paul Jenkins runs.  Both psychological/family on-the-run thriller types.  Or, Garth Ennis’ Hulk Smash, just because, hey, Garth Ennis.

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