Jekyll & Hyde
With a production budget listed at $150 million, The Incredible Hulk easily could have been developed as a CGI slug fest with very little plot to fill its runtime. Instead, the movie's development team decided to focus more heavily on the man and not the monster, and the film is greatly improved as a result.
Leterrier devotes a healthy amount of screen time developing Bruce Banner's internal conflict a la the Bill Bixby television series from the late '70s, giving the viewer a true sense of how Banner sees his aggressive tendencies as a curse instead of a superpowered blessing. This results in a much deeper character that Joss Whedon would later expand upon in The Avengers.
That isn't to say that the film doesn't contain action, however, because the movie does deliver once haymakers begin to fly. The sequences in question simply possess more weight, since the viewer grows to see the Hulk as more than just an unstoppable force of nature, but as a man in constant battle with his personal demons.
An Ensemble to be Reckoned With
Of course, the viewer's ability to connect with a character obviously can't work without strong performances to latch onto, and that is exactly what fans received from The Incredible Hulk's talented ensemble.
Spearheading the group is Edward Norton's portrayal as Bruce Banner, and despite the fact that the actor and Marvel Studios feuded openly during the movie's troubled production, he really puts his stamp on the character. Norton's take really delves into the haunted aspects of Banner's psyche, giving the audience a true sense of how terrible it must be to be horrified of one's own destructive capabilities. His characteristics ultimately provide a lot of the groundwork for what would be Banner's personality going forward, even after the role was passed on to Mark Ruffalo in future installments.
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Liv Tyler's performance as Betty Ross further accentuates the awkward position of being caught in the crossfire of her father's Hulk-centered obsession, and Tim Roth takes full advantage of his limited screen time as a dangerously driven Emil Blonsky. The movie's unsung hero ends up being William Hurt as General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, however, who deservedly winds up having the most Marvel Cinematic staying power of the lot. Ross would later return during the events of Captain America: Civil War.
No Strings Attached
One of the MCU's driving forces has always been its inter-connectivity. Its vast lineup of films always feel like regular installments in a long-running television series, with new entries expounding upon previous ones to flesh out an ever-burgeoning cinematic landscape.
There is something to be said, though, about a movie that can exist on its own two feet, and which doesn't require any advance knowledge to become fully immersed in its narrative. The Incredible Hulk, being the MCU's second film, can ostensibly work for a viewer who hasn't seen any other pieces in the Marvel Cinematic library. This is specifically important for a Hulk movie, as audience members who might have been fans of the Bill Bixby television series can pop in, enjoy what The Incredible Hulk has to offer, and never feel like they're missing pieces of the puzzle.
Ironically, the movie's ostracized perception as the MCU's outlier makes it a perfect entry point for viewers unfamiliar with the franchise at large. So even though Marvel Studios might have let The Incredible Hulk gather dust on the shelf, don't make the same mistake. For either a franchise newcomer or diehard fan, the MCU's tenth anniversary makes for a perfect time to awake the sleeping (green) giant.
KEEP READING: Thor: Ragnarok Is Chapter One Of A Special Hulk Trilogy
Directed by Louis Leterrier from a screenplay by Zak Penn, The Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, and William Hurt as General 'Thunderbolt' Ross. The film can be purchased physically on DVD and Blu-ray, and is also currently streaming through Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and iTunes.