This is the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It features an amusing 15-second cameo by Stan Lee. It's unique among all his cameos, because what he does is relevant to the plot. We see him opening his fridge from a fridge's eye view. He drinks a bottle of Guarana soda that was contaminated by Bruce Banner's blood in the opening scenes. We don't see what happened to Stan, but it must have been something big, because the US army finds out about it. They trace Bruce Banner's location by going to the manufacturer of the bottle drunk by a "man from Milwaukee".
Lou Ferrigno shared a cameo with Stan Lee in "The Hulk". In "The Incredible Hulk" he has his own cameo, a 30-second speaking role as a security guard who likes pizza.
Unlike the non-MCU Hulk film, there's no origin story in this film. We just hear that Bruce Banner became the Hulk five years ago, and he's now in hiding. That's a missed chance. In the other film the Hulk's origin story was completely messed up. It was a completely different story to the one we know in the comics, where Bruce Banner rushed out into the test site of a gamma bomb test to save the life of the teenager Rick Jones. This film could have told the correct story, but it didn't. But then again, it could have been worse. Based on casual conversation in the film, we hear that Bruce Banner became the Hulk after testing a super-soldier serum on himself. That would have been yet another false origin story.
"The Incredible Hulk" isn't a bad film, but it isn't a particularly good film either. It benefits from having better actors than "The Hulk". Edward Norton is a better actor than Eric Bana, William Hurt is a better actor than Sam Elliott, and Liv Tyler is a much better actress than Jennifer Connelly. The film also features Tim Roth, one of my favourite actors, as the Abomination. He would have been a good choice to play Bruce Banner. He might have stayed on for a few films, rather than abandoning the ship like Edward Norton.
It was unnecessary to upgrade Betty Ross by turning her into Dr. Elisabeth Ross. That's a modern trend. Women today are supposed to be strong and intelligent. I have no problems with films being made about intelligent women. The more the better. However, "The Incredible Hulk" isn't a film being written on a blank slate. It's an adaptation of stories written 50 years ago. Why change her now?
I suspect that more Hulk standalone films were intended within the MCU, but none were made. Even the much anticipated "Planet Hulk" storyline ended up being incorporated into "Thor Ragnarok". What not many people noticed, except for Marvel fanatics like me, is that the Leader was introduced in preparation for an upcoming Hulk film. In the film he's called Mr. Blue, though his real name is Dr. Samuel Sterns. He receives an injury to his head, and when he's lying on the floor a sample of Bruce Banner's blood drips onto his wound. That doesn't match his origin in the comics either. A sequel featuring the Leader was never made because "The Incredible Hulk" wasn't a box office success.
The Hulk's CGI appearance is improved over Ang Lee's film – it could hardly be worse – but it still isn't perfect. I have the impression that the film was visually based on the Hulk TV series, not on the comics.
The story is adequate, but the battle with the Abomination is too brief. His appearance was unnecessarily changed in the film. This is what he should have looked like.
"Iron Man", which I reviewed two days ago, shows a lot of respect for Stan Lee's original material. I can't say the same of "The Incredible Hulk". Whenever changes are made, the result is inferior. Always. It's about time the film producers at Marvel Studios learnt that. If they'd made a film closer to the original stories it would have made more money. I can say that with absolute certainty.
Success Ratio: - 0.2
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