When opting to make a new film that starred Marvel’s famous green leading man, Marvel and Universal were keen to bring all the action and wish fulfillment that audiences expected out of one of its preeminent Super Hero franchises. Marvel had the luxury of drawing from the seemingly endless stories of a universe its writers and pencillers had imagined over the years. Since the early 1960s, The Hulk has done most everything—from joining The Avengers and The Defenders, engaging in battle with The X-Men and becoming one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to getting married, receiving a presidential pardon and finding himself hurtled deep into subspace by The Illuminati. It was not a stretch that he could recapture his roots as hero and give moviegoers The Hulk they always wanted—one who was there to smash bad guys and save us all.
With this chapter of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Marvel aimed to recall the storylines brought to life by Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in the late ’70s/early ’80s show of the same name. The studio knew that Banner’s struggles as a fugitive desperately searching to rid himself of the beast that lived inside resonated with fans.
Banner frequently used the power of that creature to protect innocents he met on his journey of redemption, becoming a reluctant hero. While on the run from the military machinery that wanted to exploit his powers, Banner was forced to embrace the darker side of his personality…and to make something good out of the violence that owned a part of him. Bixby and Ferrigno underscored that throughline every season the television show was on the air, and that would prove the theme for this iteration of The Hulk’s story.
Marvel chairman and executive producer of the film David Maisel offers, “The Hulk is one of the gems of the Marvel universe, and we are excited about bringing him back to the big screen. THE INCREDIBLE HULK celebrates all the things that have kept the character beloved by audiences for close to five decades, returning to the roots of the long-running comic series and television show.”
Producer and president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, admits that his passion for the project was colored by the effect that The Hulk had on him as a boy—specifically his fascination of the duality that lives in Banner. He reflects, “In the Marvel universe, we have over 5,000 characters. All Marvel heroes have virtues, and all of them have flaws. It’s that dynamic that makes the characters so appealing, so interesting for generation after generation to watch. They’re not one-dimensional characters. They’re characters with a lot of richness and complexity, and the intertwined relationship of Bruce Banner/The Hulk is one of the richest.”
Blockbuster producer Gale Anne Hurd, whose credits include landmark action films such as Aliens, The Abyss and the Terminator trilogy, agrees with Feige’s assessment. “One of the things I always liked about The Hulk is that, while he’s a hero, he’s not really a Super Hero in the same sense as the other Marvel crime-fighting characters,” she says. “Banner isn’t a character who puts on a costume and then saves the world. In fact, he rarely has a choice as to when he becomes The Hulk.
“He’s conflicted about his power, but also grasps its potential and, as such, is able to transform his curse into heroism,” Hurd continues. “That’s one of the things that makes this character so relatable. There’s a part of all of us that wishes we had the ability to let go, to let someone or something stronger than us take care of the situations we sometimes find ourselves in. Everyone has a little Hulk in them; this movie is about embracing that.”
Marvel executives and the producers were adamant that the story they wanted to tell in THE INCREDIBLE HULK was about the heroism Banner would learn from grappling with the creature inside him. But, true to the roots of “The Strangest Man of All Time” whom Lee and Kirby created, Banner never set out to be a hero; indeed, this role was forced upon the brilliant researcher who longed for a quiet life of complicated hypotheses. Stan Lee explains: “Banner was looking for a way to cure himself from being The Hulk. All he wanted to do was to be able to be somewhere in a laboratory and be left alone long enough so he could work on a cure. He was a scientist, but he was never able to do that. There was always something happening.” Indeed, the bad guys just never let him be.
“The key phrase on this film is ‘Hulk is Hero,’ says Feige. “We’ve already explored some of the darker, angst-ridden sides of The Hulk. This time around, it’s about the wish fulfillment of being able to tap into strength within you, something stronger than yourself. But if harnessed the right way, and if you’re the right person, it’s a strength that can be used for the power of good. It’s a universal notion and one of the reasons that The Hulk is one of the most popular characters of all time.”