INCREDIBLE HULK Annotations - Green Goliath to Marvel Movies

 

Created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Bruce Banner and his alter ego the Hulk have been major staples of the comic book industry ever since. A few years after his introduction, many surveys showed that the Hulk was among the most popular counter-culture icons among college students and had been embraced as a symbol of people who felt hounded and powerless and wished to fight back with unstoppable power.

In 2008, Marvel Studios self-financed the movie The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. Now, the Hulk will appear again in the Avengers movie. Though actor Mark Ruffalo now plays Bruce Banner, this is the same version of the character that appeared in Leterrier’s reboot film, which itself had many nods and references to other facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the shared continuity of Marvel Studios movies). And so, as we countdown to Marvel’s The Avengers, here are some annotations, in the same vein as last week’s on the movie Iron Man. These are written down in the order of when certain characters and events happen in the film, so if you are watching the movie you can follow along linearly.

 

First, some basics. In the Hulk comics, Bruce Banner was mutated when he was testing his experimental gamma bomb for the military. Most comics have described the G-bomb as being more localized and yet also more devastating than an A-bomb. In one comic by Peter David, it was said that Banner’s original intention for the G-bomb was that it would work as a reverse neutron bomb, making warfare bloodless by destroying inorganic matter (guns, tanks, bases), while leaving all living tissue alive and unharmed.

In either event, the first Hulk comic featured a teenager named Rick Jones wandering onto the bomb’s test site, unaware that he was on the edge of a blast zone. Banner saw this and instinctively ran out onto the test site and saved Jones, but was then caught in the blast himself. Bombarded with gamma rays, Bruce Banner found himself transforming that very night into a huge-muscled, gray-skinned “hulk” that seemed to personify his darker, baser instincts.

After weeks of attempting to cure himself, Bruce only succeeded in altering his mutation slightly so that the Hulk was now green-skinned. Believing the creature to be a threat, the U.S. military constantly hounded the Hulk, despite his occasional displays of heroism, both on his own and as a founding member of the Avengers. Months later, after repeated exposures to a focused gamma ray emitter, the mutation altered yet again. Now the green-skinned Hulk was savage, easily angered, and child-like, appearing whenever Bruce got a surge of adrenaline due to rage, extreme fear or intense pain. This eventually led to him becoming a fugitive, secretly moving from place to place for years as he avoided the military, always fearful of when he might lose his temper and unleash the creature that dwelled within. At times, Banner has seemingly gained control over his Hulk persona and consciously acted as a hero, but this always turns out to be temporary and eventually it returns to being a tug-of-war between the human and one of the monster’s incarnations.

Many years after his first appearance, Bruce Banner discovered that the Hulk was partially created by childhood abuse and the trauma of watching his father murder his mother. This caused Bruce to bottle his emotions and unknowingly develop Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Bruce’s later mutation by gamma rays gave him the ability to do what no other person with DID can do, to physically transform when an alter (the Hulk) takes control of the body. The green, child-like Hulk was all the pent-up rage and fear the eight-year-old Bruce couldn’t handle.

 

This film is not the first time the Hulk has been adapted to other media. In 1966, cartoons were filmed based on the Hulk’s comic adventures. The live-action TV series The Incredible Hulk premiered in 1978 and lasted for five seasons. Starring Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno (who had been inspired to body build after reading Hulk comics) as the savage green creature, this show made the Hulk a household name. There was then a cartoon series in the 1980s, followed by one in the 1990s where Lou Ferrigno voiced the green-skinned goliath. Along with appearing in a few direct-to-DVD films, the Hulk now appears regularly in the cartoon series The Super Hero Squad Show and in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Unlike the cartoons, the Bixby/Ferrigno TV show significantly altered the Hulk’s origin. David Banner was a physician and biologist who lost his wife in a car accident and became obsessed with discovering why some people in emergencies were able to tap into superhuman strength during adrenaline surges and others were not. He found that gamma ray activity was the hidden factor and experimented on himself to prove this true. But he accidentally gave himself a much higher dose of gamma radiation, causing him to alter into a green-skinned “proto-human” whenever his adrenaline surged. This incarnation of the Hulk was not as strong, tall or invulnerable as the comic book version and was never able to speak.

 

In 2003, Ang Lee directed the film Hulk. The film did not do well with ticket or DVD sales or critically with fans, especially when compared with Marvel’s earlier successes with X-Men and X2. When comparisons to other superhero films came up, Ang Lee explained that in his view the Hulk was a monster, not a hero. Initially, a sequel to this film was planned that may or may not have involved the Gray Hulk persona. When a budget couldn’t be funded, Marvel Studios took back the rights to self-finance the film and a new plan was set up to reboot the character and establish that he lived in the same universe as Iron Man and other superheroes.

Getting back to Incredible Hulk, it is directed by Louis Leterrier, who also directed The Transporter, Unleashed and Clash of the Titans. He had initially expressed interest in filming Iron Man and stated that he wasn’t necessarily the choice to direct a Hulk film since he wasn’t sure he could mimic the style Ang Lee had established in the 2003 movie. After Marvel Studios explained that they were ignoring the Ang Lee film and wished to reboot the character, Leterrier agreed.

To familiarize himself with the character again, Leterrier went to a comic book store and bought several comics and collections. He felt that the DID angle was a bit too complicated to deal with in the first film, but was very impressed with the art of Dale Keown that displayed the Hulk with a build that lacked body fat and was similar to an intensely muscled football player. He also very much appreciated the mini-series Hulk: Gray, written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Tim Sale.

 

Bruce Banner is played by Edward Norton, known for roles focused on duality in Fight Club, Primal Fear, and American History X. He was recommended for the part by Lou Ferrigno, who said that Edward Norton reminded him of a young Bill Bixby. Norton was a big fan of the Hulk comic books and the Bixby/Ferrigno TV series. This is definitely not the first time Norton has played a character with dual personalities. After joining the cast, Norton altered parts of the script in order to give more references to the comic books.

Norton also played the voice of Bruce Banner in the video game based on this film.

Rather than do a film showing the Hulk’s origin and early days, Edward Norton and Leterrier agreed that they could summarize the origin story in flashbacks and focus on a story where Bruce had already been the Hulk for years and was now dealing with the new threat of Blonsky. Leterrier felt that too many superhero films seemed the same by focusing on origin stories of ordinary people who suddenly gain fantastic powers or decide to become heroic. He also believed that the Hulk’s premise as a man who transformed into a beast due to anger or fear was already fairly well established in pop culture.

The Hulk’s origin montage happening during the credits sequence was a nod to the Bixby/Ferrigno TV series always beginning with a recap of the origin. It used several shots and the machine Banner uses as direct homage to the series. It was also placed at the beginning of the film so audiences would know immediately that this was a reboot and not a sequel of Ang Lee’s film, which featured Banner getting his powers due to exposure to a gamma sphere device and experiments by his own father.

 

The origin here combines elements of the Bixby/Ferrigno TV show and the origin that was presented in the Ultimate universe line of Marvel Comics. Comics printed under the Ultimate label take place in a parallel universe rather than the mainstream Marvel Comics Universe. In Ultimate, the Hulk (usually referred to by fans as Ultimate Hulk) was created when Bruce Banner injected himself with a formula intended to duplicate the effects of the super-soldier serum that created Captain America.

Special features in the DVD for the film Iron Man 2 reveal that the machine Bruce uses to douse himself with focused gamma rays was constructed by Stark Industries, the CEO and chief technologist of which is Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

 

Betty Ross is played by Liv Tyler, seen previously in Empire Recrods, Plunkett & MacLeane and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She replaces Jennifer Connelly, who played the character in the previous film. Jennifer and Liv actually played sisters in Inventing the Abbots. Liv Tyler also voices Betty in the video game based on this film.

Betty Ross was Bruce Banner’s love interest in the original comics but initially did not have a job as a scientist. She was General Ross’s daughter, implied to be just out of college, and mainly accompanied him on his duties. The idea that she was a scientist who worked alongside Bruce was first introduced in the 1990s cartoon The Incredible Hulk and was then seen again in Ang Lee’s Hulk movie. According to a document seen in the origin montage, Betty is a cellular biologist in this film.

 

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is played by William Hurt, known for his work in Moby Dick, A History of Violence, Dune, The Doctor and Dark City. Sam Elliot played the role in Ang Lee’s film and had wanted to return, but the new casting decision was made to emphasize that this film was a reboot and not a sequel. William Hurt agreed due to being a fan of the Hulk character and TV show.

In the comics, Thunderbolt Ross was a three-star General in the U.S. Air Force who later finally got four stars. Here, he is a three-star General in the army. But only having three stars should mean that he’s technically a Lt. General, not a General. However, both ranks along with Brigadier General (one-star) and Major General (two-stars), are addressed as General by the vast majority of the military in the vast majority of situations; it is considered a proper honorific from civilians for all four ranks, as well.

In this film, Betty Ross and General Ross are witnesses to Bruce’s first transformation and are aware of his new dual identity. In the comics, they were both unaware that the Hulk creature and Banner were the same being for many years, though they did suspect that there was some sort of connection between the two.

The next several clips of the credits origin montage show various newspaper clippings, computer displays and official documents. A lot of information and references are given here.

Bruce and Betty were conducting their research at Culver University, which is where the live-action Bixby/Ferrigno series took place.

While pursuing the Hulk, one of Ross’s soldiers finds one of Banner’s abandoned hiding places and discovers a book on plant life in the Amazon. So this sets up that, by the time we see him in Brazil, Bruce has already spent a few years pursuing the possibility that rare and endangered South American plant life could help cure his condition. This is also a nod to the ending of Ang Lee’s Hulk movie, which showed Bruce hiding in South America following his escape from Ross’s forces.

From a couple of newspaper clippings, we can see that the Hulk is little more than an urban myth for people in this world. Yet while the majority of people may be ignorant of the creature, the newspaper stories detail that local police forces do not discount eyewitnesses who report a “green sasquatch” causing damage and that there is enough evidence to convince them that these stories have merit.

 

As Ross’s pursuit continues unsuccessfully, we see that he has requisitioned for a sonic cannon made by Stark Industries. Since Ross has been pursuing the Hulk for years, this sonic weapon was no doubt designed before Tony Stark became Iron Man and ended all weapons production in his company. Considering there is a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo next to the sonic weapon, it is apparent that they are helping the army pursue the Hulk. In the comics, Stark designed a couple of different things that Ross used against the Hulk over the years. He later even created some specialized suits of “Hulkbuster” Iron Man armor.

 

One document indicates that the Hulk went to Canada at some point. Later on in the film, Ross states that he apparently came across a couple of hunters. This incident may or may not be a reference to the Hulk’s many battles with Wolverine. In fact, the famous Canadian clawed X-Man made his very first comic book appearance in the pages of the Hulk’s comic, as a secret agent of the Canadian government sent to take down the green goliath.

A S.H.I.E.L.D. document can be seen from the desk of Nick Fury. Unlike Ross, Fury seems to have told his agents to only watch Banner and not to confront or capture him, referring to him as a “THREAT LEVEL RED.”

 

Bruce never says Betty’s last name in this film and Betty does not refer to General Ross as her father. This made it a surprise for some in the audience when Betty later confronts General Ross and calls him “Daddy.” However, if you watch this credits sequence, you can see deduce that they are father and daughter since there is a document noting Bruce’s “former girlfriend” is “Dr. Elizabeth Ross.”

The document telling us Betty’s full name and profession also displays two of her known associates. First, it lists that Betty is currently in a relationship with a psychiatrist named Dr. Leonard Samson, whom we will meet later. In the comics, Dr. Leonard Samson was a psychiatrist who did pursue Betty romantically and later became gamma-powered himself, becoming the superhumanly strong, green-haired Doc Samson. At times, Samson has been both an ally and an enemy of the Hulk’s, depending on the situation.

Beneath Samson’s name, the document notes that Betty is friends with Richard “Rick” Jones. It tells us he is a student (possibly at Culver University) but all other information has been blacked out. In the comics, Rick was the Hulk’s best (and sometimes only) friend. Bruce was exposed to the radiation of his own gamma bomb because he was trying to save the unsuspecting teenage Rick from being caught in its blast. Rick later went on to work with the Avengers, Captain America, the spaceknight Rom, and the alien hero Captain Mar-Vell. More recently in the pages of Marvel Comics, Rick has become gamma-powered himself, as the hulked-out A-bomb.

According to another document, Banner has not been seen since Oct. 21, 2006, almost two years before this film was released on June 15, 2008. At the time the document was written, he had been missing for over five months. According to Leterrier, this film takes place about five years since Banner first transformed, which is intentionally funny since this movie came out just under five years after Ang Lee’s film.

 

We finally leave the origin montage and shift to present day reality as Bruce Banner meditates with the help of a metronome. Bruce did this in Hulk comics written by Bruce Jones. It was to help him learn greater control of his emotions. It seems this origin montage was him thinking about his past and what led him to this moment, either day dreaming during his meditation or deliberately focusing on the terrible path he’s walking in order to see if he can confront his past without losing control of his fear and anger in the process.

Days without incident: 158. This means that Bruce has not transformed for about five months.

Bruce enters his apartment and opens his mail, revealing an identical copy of the book on Amazon plant life that Ross’s soldiers found earlier during the origin montage.

As Bruce watches TV, we see a scene featuring famous Hulk actor Bill Bixby. This scene is taken from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, a television show that Bixby starred in from 1969-1972. Bixby died of cancer in 1993, but this way Leterrier was able to still give him a cameo in the film.

Bruce makes contact with a person he calls Mr. Blue and assumes the alias of Mr. Green for himself. This is a reference to Bruce Jones’ comics, where Bruce did this with a military contact who warned him of when the army was getting too close. In this film, we find out Mr. Blue is a very eccentric scientist. In the Bruce Jones comics, it was actually General Ross, who by that time had developed a very different relationship and understanding with Banner.

In this film, Bruce is an expert in radiation and biology yet is also able to quickly fix a machine control in the factory and build makeshift machines, transmitters, and even a small laboratory. Bruce was a jack of many trades in the comics as well. A mental prodigy from a young age, he was not only a leading expert in radiation, but was skilled in engineering and robotics. In several comic book stories, particularly by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente in recent years, it has been shown that Bruce Banner can be just as dangerous as the Hulk, smart enough to build miniaturized weaponry and personal force fields that can keep many superhuman heroes and villains at bay.

Bruce panics that a sample of his blood might get away and/or contaminate someone’s soda. In the comics, it has been shown that even a blood sample from Banner/Hulk can change a person. Bruce once gave his cousin Jennifer Walters a blood transfusion. As a result, she could transform into a She-Hulk.

The man who seems to suffer from drinking the soda tainted with Bruce’s blood is played by Stan Lee himself.

General Ross learns that Banner is hiding in Porto Verde, Brazil. In reality, Porto Verde is a very small and sparsely populated region in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. The Brazilian city scenes are shot in Rio de Janeiro. The name Porto Verde was used because in English it translates to “Green Port.” Get it?

Ross’s second-in-command is Major Kathleen Sparr, played by Christina Cabot. Daughter of jazz trumpeter Joe Cabot and actor/singer Cindy Lord, Christina was also in the film Fight Club alongside Edward Norton.

We see Ross gather his forces at Fort Johnson in the Everglades. This fictional fort was named after Kenneth Johnson, who was the executive producer and main developer behind the Bixby/Ferrigno live-action series.

 

It was Johnson who changed Bruce Banner’s name to David Banner in the show. Although Marvel was content to allow Bruce’s name changed to David, they said “no” when Kenneth Johnson said he wanted to make the Hulk’s skin red rather than green, to symbolize rage.

According to Johnson, Bruce’s name was changed to David to honor his own son David and because he didn’t want the alliterate name to remind people they were watching a comic book character (since other heroes such as Clark Kent, Peter Parker and Reed Richards have such names). According to Stan Lee, Johnson changed it because he and/or others involved in the show believed that “Bruce” as a name sounded “too homosexual.”

 

Emil Blonsky is played by Tim Roth, known for roles in Reservoir Dogs, Rosencratz & Guilderstern are Dead, Vincent & Theo, and Lie to Me. Tim Roth was a fan of the Hulk character and was happy to join the film as one of the creature’s most famous enemies. At the time this film was made, Tim Roth was 47, whereas Blonsky was supposed to be 39. This was done deliberately to show that the character had put a toll on his health due to his insistence to continue fighting in the field. Tim Roth also voiced Blonsky in the video game based on this film.

Normally, Roth does not watch films he has acted in. But he decided to do so in this case since he found the film to be so much fun and was happy to take his children to see it. On a side note, Bill Bixby did not allow his young son to see the live-action Hulk TV series because he felt it would frighten the boy to see his father transform into a monster.

 

In the film, Emil Blonsky is said to have been born in Russia and raised in England, explaining Tim Roth’s accent. He is also said to be on loan from the Royal Marines. In the comics, Emil Blonsky was actually Yugoslavian and was a spy who had infiltrated Ross’ military base when circumstances led to him accidentally transforming himself into the reptilian beast that Betty dubbed “Abomination,” a creature that was actually stronger than the Hulk’s default level.

Blonsky asks if Banner is a fighter. In this film, we see that although Bruce is learning self-defense and is keeping his body in shape, he is not a fighter by nature. This is true in the comics. Initially, Bruce avoided physical confrontation at all costs, fearful that it could lead to an adrenaline rush and turn him into the Hulk. Starting in the 21st century, comics have shown that Bruce has picked up self-defense skills and learned how to use and build weapons, determined that he won’t have to rely on his green-skinned alter to save him from every fight.

After running away from Ross and Blonsky, Bruce transforms into the Hulk. When the creature is surrounded by tear gas, you can faintly hear it tell the soldiers “Leave me alone.” Although the Hulk has often been seen talking in cartoons and comics, this is the first time in live-action media the Hulk has been shown to be capable of speech. In the Ang Lee film, there was a short scene where the Hulk said “puny human,” but this only occurred in a dream that Bruce Banner had and it didn’t seem that the creature was capable of saying such words in reality.

The Hulk speaks a total of six words in this entire movie: “Leave me alone”; “Hulk SMASH”; “Betty.” The phrase “Hulk Smash” is an oft-repeated line in the comics and practically the character’s catch phrase.

 

The Hulk is voiced by Lou Ferrigno, who also voiced him in the 1990s cartoon. Thus, Ferrigno has played the Hulk in TV, cartoon and feature films.

Bruce wakes up to find that he is in Guatemala in Central America. That’s about 2,000 miles from the northern part of Brazil. In the comics, the Hulk has often been seen leaping distances of half a mile but some stories have shown that, pushing himself to his limit, he’s been able to cover over three miles in one leap.

When Bruce encounters a man in a truck, the subtitles read: “I’m going to the next town.” “Will you help me?” “Get in.” In actuality, the conversation in Spanish (taking vernacular into account) goes like this: “There’s a small town 80 kilometers ahead.” “Will you help me, please?” “Of course, let’s go. It’s cold, get in.”

In a deleted scene, Ross’s superior Joe Greller refers to the Hulk as a white whale. William Hurt deliberately modeled his version of General Ross after Captain Ahab.

In the same deleted scene, Blonsky is brought in to debrief. He describes the Hulk as perhaps 10 feet tall, 1500 lbs, and with skin that was “green or gray” or possibly “greenish gray,” claiming it was difficult to tell since he only saw the creature in the dark.

Stay tuned for part two covering the rest of the Incredible Hulk tomorrow!

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