The Incredible Hulk is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yes. Even if our very own Marvel megafan Iman Vellani doesn’t count it as a part of the MCU’s 29 movie filmography. In an effort to tie She-Hulk to the wider Marvel universe, there’s no way they could do it without addressing the Hulk’s origin story. We doubt they’ll mention this Bruce Banner not being the one audiences were initially introduced to. But based on the many She-Hulk previews and trailers that Marvel has released, it looks like they’re finally ready to say, yes, The Incredible Hulk is canon. So, instead of making you sit through all one hour and 52 minutes of this film, we’re here to give you the lowdown on all things Hulk. Because we know you haven’t seen it since it dropped in 2008 — you can be honest.
THE BASICS OF ‘THE INCREDIBLE HULK’ (2008)
Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a scientist on the run because his anger problems turn him into a big, green wrecking machine. After Bruce was poisoned by gamma radiation for reasons unknown, he tries to find a cure. He separates from his girlfriend Betty (Liv Tyler) when he injures her as The Hulk. Following that, her father, a general in the US military, goes on a manhunt for the monster that hurt his daughter.
General Ross (William Hurt) has other plans, though. While Betty wants to save Bruce and cure him, Ross wants to weaponize The Hulk for the government’s gain. In an effort to protect everyone he loves and make sure the government doesn’t use him, Bruce goes into hiding.
Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), Ross’ right-hand man, gains superhuman speed and strength after being infused with a similar kind of radiation/serum. The downside is that the serum deforms his body and he has an altered state of mind. Eventually, when he gets ahold of Banner’s blood, he changes into who we now know as Abomination. Yes, the same Abomination that was in the cage fight in Shang Chi.
After threatening Ross, Blonsky’s Abomination goes on a rampage in Harlem. Knowing that he’s the only one who can stop Abomination, Bruce goes as The Hulk to save the day. Once he does, Hulk goes on the run again so no one can ever find him.
Until The Avengers, that is.
WHAT WE COULD EXPECT FROM ‘SHE-HULK’
With She-Hulk, it looks like Marvel is going to lean into their knack for humor in superhero stories. However, The Incredible Hulk was one of Marvel’s most serious films, given that the MCU hadn’t found its footing yet. Also, Norton imagined his Hulk films to be dark and serious like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Eventually, Marvel decided that was not the direction they wanted to continue in. So, out with Norton, and in with Mark Ruffalo.
Since Ruffalo’s casting, there’s been a huge tone shift in the MCU. Not to mention, their female representation is stronger.
The Incredible Hulk had Betty Ross, an extremely smart scientist who instead primarily played the role of Bruce’s girlfriend. She spends most of the film as the reason why The Hulk doesn’t go on a rampage and the only thing holding Bruce together. Since the release of the 2008 film, Bruce has been on his own, with no appearance from Betty whatsoever. So, she’s not the only reason he can hold himself together, fortunately. Considering we’ve gone from having a female love interest as the male main character’s reason to live to a sex-positive female protagonist, it’s fair to say Marvel’s upgraded with the times.
If there’s an influx of superhumans that she needs to represent in court, this may mean that there are some shady dealings going down behind the scenes that we haven’t seen yet. Could it be Ross making a team his own shady Avengers? Only time will tell in this Marvel Universe.