As I am writing this review, Avengers: Endgame is breaking box-office records as the culmination of 11 years of the MCU. Marvel Studios has become a juggernaut that seemingly nothing can ever stop. When The Incredible Hulk came out in 2008, the second movie of the so-called « Phase 1 » after Iron Man, such a success was merely a hope, if it was envisaged at all.
However, this movie is an oddity in the MCU. It isn't considered an essential watch, a lot of people just forget about it, or simply have never seen it. And this isn't very suprising, as The Incredible Hulk has a completely different feel as any other MCU movie. There are no vibrant colors, jokes are few and far between, and, supreme heresy, it doesn't even feature the beloved Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / the Hulk. Despite that, I think this movie should be more recognized by Marvel enthusiasts.
For one, I was surprised at the number of foreshadowing in it. Despite its reputation, it is very clear, watching now, that it was definitely intended as the beginning of a cinematic universe. There are references to Stark Industries, to super soldiers, to S.H.I.E.L.D., and the movie clearly lays the ground for a sequel (that never happened and probably never will).
The performances were strong, and I will single out Edward Norton, who left the Marvel boat after this, for reasons still a bit unclear. Watching this movie made me regret that he didn't stay in the role for more movies (no disrespect to Mr. Ruffalo whom I like a lot, as does everyone). I am a big fan of Edward Norton in general, from whom I have never seen an unenjoyable performance. That stays true for this movie. To me, his casting as Bruce Banner was an inspired one. He portrayed the tortured soul of the character exactly as I envision it, and with a lot of nuances.
The story itself isn't very remarkable. It's fairly conventional, although maybe not totally conventional for a superhero movie. I would say it's more of a thriller, about a man on the run from the military who are after his secrets and his life. We've seen this story before, but here the man also happens to turn into a big, green monster when his pulse gets too high. It isn't just a thriller, though, bu also very much a love story, which may be one of the reasons of its unpopularity (?). If that's the case, then it's a shame, because I found the love story actually well done. There was a real chemistry between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, who portrayed a sweet, but capable Betty Ross, and there wasn't a moment where I didn't believe that these two characters were completely in love.
What this movie might be criticized for, is a lack of the titular Hulk. It's true that it's mainly Banner's story. However, the scenes in which the Hulk appears are very satisfying. I must say I was impressed by the CGI. It isn't as modern as what we're used to see nowadays, but still very good. In a movie with such a realistic feel, it's even more difficult to make a huge CGI monster look like it's really there in the scene, but I though that it worked perfectly.
This movie definitely is the odd one out in regards to the whole MCU, but I think it deserves not to be forgotten or dismissed. Not only is its quality on par with other, more popular Marvel movies, it is also our only Hulk solo movie, and it will stay so for the foreseeable future, due to the distribution deal between Marvel and Universal. So, if you're taking a nostalgia trip through the history of the MCU, or if you're only just now starting to delve into this cinematic universe, don't skip the Incredible Hulk.