Retro Marvel TV
David Banner Returns in The Incredible Hulk Movie Trilogy

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 2 Jul 2014 18:00
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I mean, it makes sense in that he doesn't need to use eye-holes, but why should his enemies know that? A big part of Daredevil's "thing" is that he catches opponents off guard because they still attack assuming he's navigating combat by sight -- why costume yourself in such a way that makes the secret so relatively easy to guess?

Alas, we would never know. Much like Thor, Daredevil was not ultimately picked up for a series.

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THE DEATH OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Of the trilogy, this is the one that feels the most like a movie-version of the series in that it's focused on Banner and his desire to be rid of The Hulk once and for all. There are no official other Marvel characters running around this time, though the heavily-featured presence of a beautiful Russian spy who feels like The Black Widow in all but name makes many wonder if that was always to be the case.

This time around Banner is hiding out as a hospital janitor who comes across a pair of doctors who are doing research that (wouldn't you just know it?) could conceivably be used to cure him. He opens up to them and, in what's probably the best moment of these movies, they trigger a contained-transformation and catch it on tape -- the viewing of which, as it turns out, is the first time that David Banner has ever actually seen The Hulk for himself.

Wow.

It's a small "why have we never brought this up before?" moment, but it does drive home the point of how isolating this ordeal has been for Banner: He doesn't even get to have a firsthand opinion on whether Hulk is an awesome hero or a terrifying monster -- he just blacks out and wakes up wondering how much damage he's done this time.

Unfortunately, the research is also being by the aforementioned Sexy Russian Spy who's being blackmailed into action by a shady organization that has kidnapped her sister. There's a better-than-average plot twist to her story in Act 3, leading to a scrap with the villains during which -- yes, The Incredible Hulk meets his end, changing back to Banner long enough to say "...I am free."

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
As befits the material, Death was not intended to be the end of Hulk's story. Unfortunately, Bill Bixby's cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing (along with poor ratings for the third film) conspired to keep this from coming to pass.

Details are not easy to come by, but it's at least known that a fourth and final feature was planned; possibly titled Revenge of The Incredible Hulk. It likely dealt with Banner being resurrected still "cured" but ultimately forced to become The Hulk again to stop an army of evil Hulks created by villains. It may also have featured Red Sonja's Brigitte Nielsen as She-Hulk (promotional pictures of her in costume were shot, but may have been part of a pitch for a feature film) and what would've been the first live-action appearance of Iron Man, with Magnum P.I.'s Tom Selleck mentioned as the favorite to play Tony Stark.

Despite this somewhat ignominious end (and the ability to render a more comics-accurate Hulk via modern CGI) Bixby & Ferrigno's take on the character was unquestionably the most popular and widely known version until at least The Avengers, and continues to color the cultural perception thereof to this day. The series' infamous "sad walking away music" has become an earworm staple (it even popped up in the most-recent solo movie!), and Ferrigno has remained ubiquitously attached to the character since: Providing Hulk's speaking voice for a 1990s animated series and appearing in cameos in both live-action features.

The Incredible Hulk was, until 1997's Blade, the high point of Marvel's attempts to put its heroes onscreen -- but it wasn't for lack of effort. The House of Ideas spent the 70s, 80s and 90s trying like hell to make the Hulk magic work for their other heroes, and next week we'll see how it went for their most popular hero: Spider-Man.

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