Marvel by Numbers: The Incredible Hulk

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Alright week two! Iron Man is reigning champion so far (by default). Let’s see how Tony Stark holds up against Bruce Banner.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Overview: Bruce Banner is in hiding, keeping his identity secret and his Big Green alter ego hidden deep down beneath layers of control. But when he learns of a possible cure, Bruce risks exposing his identity to the military (and unleashing the Hulk) as he fights to find the cure to his condition.

Writing: 6/10

There are a few great moments, and the plot is genuinely well laid out, but the dialogue is a bit unremarkable. Edward Norton does well with what he’s given, but there aren’t many quotable moments, and the more emotional scenes lack that zing to really elevate them into Genuine Feels territory.

Style: 8/10

I like the gritty feel of the film. Everything feels real and grimy and lived in. I love the scenes set in Brazil. It’s not just a colorful backdrop for the hero. It’s faithfully realized and you really feel like you’re there with Bruce. The people aren’t just extras. They’re a part of an organic community of which Bruce has been becoming a part.

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Plus, the design of the Hulk is cool. The character will be perfected in a later film, but I like the sweaty corded muscle of this Hulk as opposed to the gleaming smooth day-glo Hulk from Ang Lee’s earlier take on the character (I should note I like Ang Lee’s Hulk, but he feels like a cartoon character in a live action film).

The Villain: 5/10

I guess General Ross is the primary antagonist, but the main VILLAIN of the film (since Ross is ostensibly a good guy) is Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky/Abomination.

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The fact that I had to look up the character’s name says something about the memorableness (memorability?) of the character. Tim Roth is a fantastic actor (see: Pulp Fiction, Rosencrantz and Guilenstern are Dead) but he’s never given room to shine. He’s written as a hothead with a sassy streak…but we never really see it aside from a few scenes.

The character is blaaand and we don’t really care about his motivations.

You don’t start caring about him until he becomes Abomination. By then, it’s too late.

Explosions: 7/10

Count: 33

There aren’t really any truly memorable explosions, and in the final battle on the street, everything explodes for no reason. Hulk just walks by a car and it blows up. Eh. Explosions are supposed to be beautiful or scary or cathartic symbols of repressed emotions. We don’t get much of that here. We get high quantity and meh quality.

Favorite explosion: Not really any I can think of, so I’ll break the rules and say that the “Hulk smash!” moment is really cool and it should have featured an explosion.

The Hero’s Journey: 8/10

Edward Norton is the best thing about his movie. I love him in the role. Bruce Banner’s arc is shallower than Tony Stark’s since his only real challenge is learning not to be afraid of the Hulk and figuring out how to USE him, but Norton does a good job of making Bruce likable and suitably complex despite the meh writing.

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One of the issues with the Hulk in the MCU is that his arc in every film is “I need to learn to control the Hulk” and his progress is seemingly reset at the end of each film. But this film really does a good job of showing how that struggle really affects Bruce.

Score and Rank

1. Iron Man (43/50)

2. The Incredible Hulk (34/50) (Not a whole lot of competition between these two)

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