With The Avengers breaking box-office records all over the world, (and attracting an impressive 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), it’s fair to say that the superhero team-up has been a success, both with fans and critics. It’s also got a unanimous thumbs up at the UTF headquarters. I saw it yesterday, and among all the things that the movie got right, the way the Hulk was portrayed stood out. (Clue: they nailed it.) Here was a faithful-to-the-comics, interesting, funny and always watchable Hulk, leagues ahead of the previous two big-screen efforts featuring the alien-smashing rage monster. After a load of doubt about whether Mark Ruffalo could do a good job as the Hulk, Ruffalo silenced the doubters with an excellent performance that surpassed Eric Bana and Edward Norton easily. So, with Ruffalo interested in playing the Hulk again, then Marvel are all set to make a third solo Hulk movie. But they’re stalling, and here’s why:
The first movie featuring the Hulk was Ang Lee’s Hulk, released in 2003 and starring Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, and a quick Google search will reveal how that went. After Hulk tanked, Marvel chose to reboot the franchise in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk. Marvel’s second try to portray the giant green rage-monster was a little more successful than Lee’s attempt, both financially and critically, but it still made just $268 million, and it’s not exactly renowned among fans and critics.
A lot of people liked The Incredible Hulk, but it’s generally been tagged as a bit boring, with excessively large amounts of angst. Edward Norton, who played Bruce Banner, has split opinion completely over his performance. Personally, I’m leaning towards the ‘not so good’ camp, as Norton (as well as petulantly refusing to do press interviews for the movie) is a bit… boring. But on the bright side, Liv Tyler was very good, and the final showdown between the Hulk and the Abomination was pretty damn awesome. ”HULK… SMASH!”
And then along came Ruffalo, and the mo-cap Hulk. Unlike Bana and Norton, Ruffalo actually plays the Hulk via motion-capture, making the Hulk look more lifelike then ever. Ruffalo doesn’t voice the Hulk; as usual, that task falls to Lou Ferrigno, who nails the Hulk’s solitary line in the movie. I won’t say what it is here, but it’s pretty awesome, and attracted a lot of laughs in the cinema when I saw it. When you see Ruffalo transform, it actually feels like the Hulk is part of Banner, rather than just a CG green monster.
Ruffalo also does a pretty great job as Bruce Banner, too. Effectively capturing the ‘nerdy scientist’ part of Banner (in one scene, he wears his trousers higher than anyone has ever done before in a Hollywood movie) as well as the signature calm attitude with a whole load of rage boiling under, Ruffalo is the most authentic Banner we’ve seen on the big-screen so far. And he’s here to stay, too. He’ll be back in The Avengers 2, and any other movies in the MCU that require a Banner cameo.
Or even, as the title of this article has probably signposted to you, a sequel to The Incredible Hulk. As The Incredible Hulk was set in the MCU, Marvel can’t reboot the franchise again. And there’s a few nods to Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, too, so a third Hulk movie would follow the same continuity, with the same actors (probably) as in the first movie. Kevin Feige has been asked quite a lot recently about the possibility of a sequel, but he’s confirmed that a third solo movie isn’t planned. It’s understandable, in a way. Marvel have a year to catch up with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America in their next solo outings, then they’ll probably introduce a couple of new characters to join the Avengers roster in The Avengers 2.
But Marvel pretty much need to make a Hulk sequel. They’ve done a great Iron Man movie, a great Thor movie and a great Captain America movie, but no one has ever done a great movie with the Hulk right at the center. The Avengers showed that it’s possible to ‘do’ the Hulk on the big-screen, so why not learn from what they did right with the Hulk in Avengers and transfer all those elements to a solo Hulk movie? Add in a decent script, a great villain, good cast, plenty of SMASHING and memorable special effects, and you have a recipe for the ultimate Hulk movie. The Hulk could be back to where he deserves to be on the comic book movie ladder (okay, this might sound ridiculous), just below characters like Batman and Spider-Man. That’s where he should be. That’s where the Hulk was before Ang Lee mucked it all up with Hulk.
We even have some groundwork for the sequel already. In a moment that’s forgotten by all the characters in the climax, Dr. Samuel Sterns gets a drop of Bruce Banner’s mutated blood in an open cut. Then, you see his head bulge outwards. That’s all we see of Sterns for the rest of movie, but it’s fairly obvious that Sterns is going to turn into the Leader: the Hulk’s arch-enemy, and one that doesn’t go head-to-head with the Hulk like the Abomination does. Instead, the Leader is a bit more of a cerebral villain. And a Hulk movie with the Leader in it would be great; and, Leader-wise, they could hit the ground running.
But of all the things that was great about the Hulk in The Avengers, it’s that Joss Whedon worked out how to successfully portray the Hulk on the big-screen. And it’s easy really: less angst, more smashing.