“The Incredible Hulk”, from Comics to Film
By Johnny Apocalypse
With the arrival of “The Avengers” movie, hundreds were curious as to how Mark Ruffalo would play Dr. Bruce Banner. He was untested in the role, taking over for Edward Norton from the “Incredible Hulk” movie a few years back, and joining an ensemble cast of actors, many of whom had played their characters at least once before. He was the unknown factor, acting-wise, and comic fans around the world were waiting to see what he would do differently.
The reviews came in positively, some critics saying that his acting was the best of the bunch. Comic fans themselves loves how he played the role, and with the beneficial feedback, Marvel is having a script written for his own Hulk movie, to be filmed before the next “Avengers” installment kicks off.
Personally, I loved Ruffalo in the role, and thought that he was the best of the actors to play Banner on film. Neither Eric Bana nor Ed Norton did poorly, but Ruffalo seemed to give the character more energy and purpose in so many scenes. He brought this nervous edginess to the part that I truly loved, and the only thing I felt missing from the comics was Banner’s sarcasm (although to be fair, Banner hasn’t always had that trait).
What’s starting to get a little old about the role though, is how they portray the Hulk.
Now I’m not really criticizing how Hulk comes off, as it’s pretty close to the early days of the comics. Banner gets pissed, turns green and super-strong, and trashes the place. He’ll say an absolute minimum of lines, usually “Hulk smash!”, then run away until he becomes Banner again.
I’m no expert on the Hulk comics, but I loved them when I was a kid. The TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno was my favorite at the time, and I would occasionally talk my parents into buying me the occasional comic. I noticed one huge difference between the comics and the TV show- Hulk talked. A lot.
This really gave the Hulk far more depth as a character then he ever gets in TV and film. He’s not just some massive creature that destroys stuff. He has desires, emotions, and a little more intellect than he’s ever given credit for. He’s not the science-mind that Banner is, but in a tricky fight (like against Absorbing Man or the Hulkbusters), Hulk can think up a clever solution to the problem at hand.
And one important thing- he hates Banner. Just as much as Banner hates him.
Hulk’s hatred of his alter-ego plays an important part in the stories at times, and gives the character more than the usual two-dimensional “smash and destroy” stuff we’re all used to. While Banner sees Hulk as a monster built of rage and useless violence, Hulk sees his counterpart as puny, gutless, and unwilling to do what sometimes has to be done for survival or the good of the world.
And even with this mutual hatred, they still have a grudging respect for one another. Banner knows that Hulk has saved him from certain death more than a few times, and that sometimes the destruction and carnage the beast brings with him is absolutely crucial to stopping Abomination, The Leader, or any number of threats that aren’t only targeting him, but mass numbers of people (to be fair, Ed Norton's Banner did see this side to the Hulk in his movie). And Hulk knows that Banner’s the real brains of the operation, and that sometimes science, problem-solving and peaceful means can be the better path (albeit rarely, to his thinking) to saving the day. As much as they dislike each other, they recognize the need for each other.
What I wouldn’t give to see this side of the Hulk brought into the movies, and I think Ruffalo would be the perfect actor to really pull things off. His role in the “Avengers” movie showed the talent he could really show off as Banner, and allowing Hulk to become more than just an anger-fueled machine of destruction would be icing on the cake.
The bad news, I just don’t see it happening.
While Hulk has a large fan-base in the comics, I think the movies will stay geared to attract not just the Marvel fans out there, but people who loved the TV show, action-movie junkies, or anyone remotely familiar with the character. And this side of the Hulk has always been limited to the printed page. People just aren’t familiar enough with this portrayal for it to work in a movie.
And the problems don’t end there- you’d need more than great acting and more familiarization to really make things work. A good script would be crucial, and a director who can keep things balanced.
In the end, I’m pretty sure the movies will keep running with how they’ve been portraying The Hulk so far. Yelling, grunting, destroying, then turning back to Banner. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. It keeps the movies exciting, and sticks with the Hulk that more people are familiar with.
But every time I dig out the Hulk comics I got as a kid, I’ll be wondering how things might have turned out.
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