Announcements of huge projects based on existing intellectual properties helmed by talented filmmakers that never come to fruition are nothing new. In fact, with comic book adaptions dominating the box office for the last decade, we’ve seen a constant stream of big studios touting upcoming movie and television versions of classic (and some not-so-classic) comic characters, only for those projects to die a slow death in development hell.
Projects like Smokin’ Aces director Joe Carnahan’s gritty Daredevil reboot and Mad Max mastermind George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal fizzled out before their feet could even hit the ground. One of the most tragic losses, though, was announced eight years ago, and despite periodic updates ensuring fans the project would indeed move forward, Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro never got to bring his vision of Marvel Comics’ resident green meanie, the Incredible Hulk, to the big screen.
Del Toro recently reminded us of the project in a tweet regarding his treasure trove of unproduced, completed movie scripts, which includes a screenplay for what would have been the Hulk television pilot. Now, as amazing as a Del Toro Hulk show would have been, it's understandable why it never came to fruition, given its announcement came at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just starting to really take shape and had not yet dipped its toes into the television arena, but, man... can you image what we would have got if things had turned out differently?
With Ang Lee's Hulk and the second MCU entry, The Incredible Hulk, both still fresh in fans' minds, for better or worse, we can understand a television studio like ABC not wanting to bet on a horse that isn't exactly destined to win the Triple Crown. Both aforementioned films have their fans and were financial successes, but neither set the world ablaze. It might be a bit of a leap of logic, but we think this is because someone who has widely broadcast their love for monsters wasn't at the helm of either project.
Whether or not you are a fan of his work, it's undeniable that Guillermo del Toro's dedication to bringing monsters to life is uncanny. His knack for finding the heart of the monsters that populate his works is one of the reasons he is so successful as a storyteller. From the tragic, vampiric antiques dealer, Jesus Gris, in the film Cronos, to the lovelorn Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water, Del Toro's monsters often possess a level of humanity that exceeds their human counterparts.
They aren't just creatures lurking in the shadows, waiting for some unsuspecting passerby to come near. They have heart. They are sympathetic, even when they are grotesque and pose a threat to the people around them. The vast majority of the monsters in Del Toro's works are haunted by pain and longing. They never wanted to be the creatures they are, but have to live with their horrible station in life. It's this very idea that would have made Del Toro perfect for adapting the Hulk for television.
The proof of concept is the success and longevity of the 1978 television series The Incredible Hulk, which focused heavily on Banner basically being a sad monster. The show's best moments involve Bruce Banner grappling with the fact he will never be able to live a normal life due to his condition... and the fact that he's always angry. Guillermo del Toro is perfect for mining this idea. He loves all of his monsters, and wants you to love them in turn.