by The Collected Mutineer
The year is 2008. It’s just a handful of weeks after the release of Iron Man, the film that would change the superhero genre and redefine ensemble movies for the next ten years. In the wake of RDJs cinematic rebirth, a new Marvel flick hits theaters. Only…what’s it called again? Oh yeah. It’s the one Marvel film that everyone seems to forget about, but one that helped establish the MCU canon as we know it: The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and William Hurt.
When this movie came out, I was in love with it. I was on an Edward Norton-binge, and have always been a fan of Liv Tyler’s. It was a refreshing remake of the 2003 film starring Eric Bana. There were rumors that Marvel was going to make even more movies, and everything was awesome. By 2012, Mark Ruffalo was cast as the Hulk in The Avengers, and he gave such an amazing performance that it was easy for me to forget anyone else had ever embodied the role of Bruce Banner. But having recently viewed the film as part of an epic Marvel rewatch (yes, I made it through all of them before Infinity War) I remembered not only why I had liked it so much in the first place but also why it’s an important part of the canon that Marvel itself has practically tried to bury.
Though The Incredible Hulk is by no means the best or strongest MCU film, it establishes the emotional love story and tragic abilities of Bruce Banner. Unlike every other hero we’ve encountered for the past decade, Banner is desperate to let go of his alter ego. While people like Tony Stark and Scott Lang eagerly embrace elements that help make them “super” they can just as easily take the suits off. Banner doesn’t have that luxury and spends the majority of the movie searching for a cure. He is aided by the woman he loves, Betty Ross—a character who is never again mentioned in the MCU even though her father played an important part in Age of Ultron.
If you forgot about The Incredible Hulk like I did, don’t feel bad. Marvel didn’t exactly do a good job of referencing aspects of the film in later enterprises like they did with other character storylines. Though all it takes are a few sentences, we never hear about Betty Ross, the epic fight with Abomination, or the five years Banner spent in Brazil learning Portuguese and staying as hidden as possible. Instead, we got a forced romance between Banner and Black Widow in Age of Ultron, and pretty much every film we’ve seen Ruffalo’s Hulk in has alluded to the idea that Banner can’t control the “other guy” even though the end of The Incredible Hulk insinuates that he can.
So where am I going with this? While I’m a little miffed with Marvel for ignoring huge chunks of their own canon, there’s not much I can do about that. What I can do is encourage you to watch The Incredible Hulk. It has a lot to say about unconditional love, what happens to those who seek power, and dealing with challenges. It’s about strength and desire and anger toward injustice. It might not be a great movie, per say…but it’s an incredible one.
See what I did there?