Movie Catch-Up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe
#2: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Welcome back to Movie Catch Up for the MCU! The weekly series where I recap and summarize every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all so you’re caught up in time for Avengers: Infinity War! For the first episode last week I gave a run down on the very first MCU movie ever released, Iron Man. This week we’ll be taking a look at a movie which, to be honest, is pretty inconsequential and has been mostly forgotten. It’s the runt of the litter that’s been forced to stay outside, watching the siblings feast while it has to survive on sewer rats. However, there is still some useful stuff to scavenge out of the loneliness! So without further ado, the superhero with the world’s best temperament… The Incredible Hulk!
Right off the bat the movie hits you with a whirlwind of information, so let’s try to simplify. We see the backstory of our hero, Dr. Bruce Banner (the Hulk), played in this film by Edward Norton (who will be recast later). Bruce and his then girlfriend, Dr. Betty Ross (who won’t be recast, but will be forgotten), were working on an experiment for the military using gamma radiation. The military person in charge of this experiment was General Thaddeus Ross (Betty’s father), played by William Hurt. Side note: Mr. Hurt is the ONLY actor who will survive the gravitational pull of this movie’s black hole of a plot and make it into another MCU film.
Basically Bruce and Betty’s Gamma experiment went very bad; Bruce was hit with so much radiation he turns into the Hulk; Betty and Gen. Ross get hurt in the process; Gen. Ross gets a little peeved about the whole ordeal and tries to capture Bruce; Gen. Ross uses all the data for military use and OH MY GOD THIS IS WAY TOO MUCH FOR THE FIRST TWO MINUTES OF A MOVIE.
Once the madness stops, we learn that Bruce is currently living in a Brazilian favela trying to start a new life and make ends meet doing manual labor in a soda factory. He’s also taking martial arts and meditation lessons to prevent himself from Hulking out. He needs these lessons badly since Banner turns into the Hulk whenever he gets too angry, stressed, or agitated. This is pretty likely for him too, since he’s decided to work a manual labour job in a factory in a damn Brazilian favela! Not the best planning. Bruce also seems to have been communicating over the internet, using the name Mr. Green, with a mysterious scientist, Mr. Blue (I feel there’s a joke here). Mr. B appears to be selflessly trying to help cure Banner of his Hulk sized gamma radiation problem. However, running out of solutions, Bruce is forced to mail Mr. Blue a sample of his blood for further analysis. Unfortunately, the blood sample isn’t enough and he’ll have to travel back to his home lab to collect his old data. Fun meme fact: this scene is where the “that’s enough internet for today” gif came from.
Doubly unfortunately for Banner, Gen. Ross is closing in on his position. An accident at the soda factory placed a drop of Bruce’s blood in a bottle of the bubbly stuff, which killed the crazy old man who drank it, tipping off Gen. Ross of Bruce’s location. However, this time the mustachioed General requested help from soldier Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth, or who I like to call… Mr. Orange. BOOM there’s the joke. A Reservoir Dogs reference and call back to the Mr. Blue/Green thing! We’ve really hit the pinnacle of humor here folks. The soldiers chase Bruce through the favela, trying to capture him, until an angry goblin of a man gets Bruce equally angry and the Hulk comes out to play. This predictably does not go well for the soldiers and they all die gruesome deaths, except Blonsky because his character was given a name.
Defeated and confused from finding out the Jolly Green Giant is real, Blonsky wants a rematch with Hulk, and so Gen. Ross tells him about a way to make that happen. You see, the gamma radiation experiments Bruce was working on were (unknown to Bruce) trying to produce Super Soldiers, based on a WWII military program (which will be explained AT LENGTH in Captain America: The First Avenger). Ross has been continuing the research by developing his own serum and wants to study the Hulk to perfect it. This serum could level the playing field for Blonsky and he wants in, so it’s time to get absolutely JUICED.
Erstwhile, through an extended sequence of hitchhiking and begging, Bruce makes it back to the university where he studied gamma radiation with Betty. He even gets a surprise quick glimpse of her and – uh oh, she has a handsome new boyfriend (Ty Burrell). Scandalous! Resisting the urge to kill, Bruce sneaks into his old lab to steal the data, but it’s all been deleted. After his day is ruined, he sets out to leave forever, when Betty suddenly finds him in the rain! Happy to know he’s not dead, they share a romantic moment (except for the part where she has a new boyfriend) AND it turns out she’s had a backup of the data the whole time! She hands over the data to Bruce on a USB drive and offers that he stays the night, so he can head out tomorrow rested.
The next day, the sun is out, birds are singing, Betty is questioning Bruce’s fashion sense, when suddenly AMBUSH. Soldiers are pouring out all over the university to capture Bruce. This looks like a problem only the destruction of a university as a rage monster can solve. Unfortunately it isn’t enough and the Hulk is captured. Ha, yeah right. The Hulk murders everyone with barely a scratch. Betty definitely got scratched though and almost dies. Thankfully, Hulk protects her and then they flee to a cave. She makes it out ok, but nobody else does.
After Betty wakes up in the cave and Bruce wakes up from his latest Hulkisode, the duo set off to live the fugitive lifestyle. They find some new clothes, get rid of anything the military can track and shack up in a motel. There is definitely some sexual tension between the couple, but.. oh wow they’re making out already. I guess the movie totally doesn’t care about Betty’s boyfriend, but screw him, he sold them out anyway. He’ll get over it when he finds a nice wife, raises 3 wonderful kids, and get into wacky shenanigans. It will be a nice modern type of family.
Bruce and Betty (aka Brucetty) set off the next day to find Mr. Blue. While at a pawn shop to make some cash, Bruce decides to email the data to Mr. Blue using the store computer, CLEARLY not understanding what “stay off the grid” means. Of course this alerts the military to the location of where they’re heading. Also there’s a side scene of Blonsky. He’s all healed up thanks to the serum he took and he’s ready for injection 2!
Brucetty travel all the way to New York, where they find Mr. Blue. He’s a university professor by the name of Dr. Samuel Sterns. He isn’t sure if he can cure Banner of his problem permanently, or if it will be just a temporary fix, but hey, it’s not like Bruce has any other options, so Bruce straps himself in to see if Sterns’ cure will work on him. After a short Hulk sesh, the antidote seems to take effect! Dr. Sterns is so excited that his research works that he shows the duo his secret room filled with samples of Bruce’s blood that he wants to altruistically study and would definitely absolutely never use for any ethically ambiguous means. In this moment the military bursts through the windows and tranquilizes the now harmless Banner to capture him. Blonsky has other plans with Sterns, however, and forces the doctor to inject him with Banner’s blood and turn him into another Hulk. Let’s just say that Blonsky doesn’t really have to ask that hard.
Also side note: During the process of turning Blonsky into an abomination (THE Abomination actually), Sterns gets some Hulk blood in a wound on his head, which deforms him a little. This is a set-up for a villain called “The Leader,” but this villain will probably never be used. I will eat my own hat if he ever shows up again in the MCU.
Ok back to the plot. Basically Blonsky is a monster and is now attacking Toronto I mean Harlem. Once again we need the Hulk to fight a Hulk shaped problem. Except this time we don’t know if he can ever turn back. So he jumps out of a plane without a parachute and hopes for the best and what do you know, he turns into the Hulk. Thanks failed science experiment! They fight, Hulk wins, Hulk is going to kill The Abomination in a rage, but Betty finds the humanity in the Hulk and stops him from killing Blonsky… so they can arrest him I guess? Good luck with that one. Bruce runs away to live a new day!
Closing scenes: Bruce has fled to Canada where he meditates in seclusion. Although this time, he’s meditating to control the Hulk, not suppress it. Very interesting.
Finally, Gen. Ross is drinking his sadness away in a bar and then in comes Tony Stark. Stark is there to let Ross know that he and Nick Fury are putting a team together. It’s the very first moment fans were treated to proof that “it’s all connected!” It looks like Marvel was crazy enough to actually try this shared universe thing… The end!
Next time we talk about Iron Man 2!