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Incredible Hulk, The

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: Film, TV.

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1. US tv series (1977-1982). Universal/CBS-TV. Created by Kenneth Johnson (executive producer). Producers included Nicholas Corea, James D Parriott, Charles Bowman, Bob Sherman. Directors included Johnson, Bowman, Kenneth Gilbert, Jeffrey Hayden, Reza Badiyi, Jack Colvin. Writers included Johnson, Parriott, Corea, Karen Harris and Jill Sherman, Richard Christian Matheson. Cast includes Bill Bixby, Jack Colvin and Lou Ferrigno. Five seasons, two 100-minute pilots plus 79 50-minute episodes. Colour.

The series is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Mild-mannered scientist Dr David Banner (Bixby) subjects himself to gamma radiation and turns temporarily into a violent, green, seven-foot-tall (2.15m) hulk (Ferrigno), a condition that repeats itself whenever he is under stress. The Hulk persona never speaks. Banner has many adventures while on the run, trailed by abrasive investigative reporter McGee (Colvin), who suspects the truth. Only a handful of episodes – notably the two-part "Prometheus" (1980), which involves a meteor freezing Banner/Hulk into an intermediate state – have any sf components aside from the initial Superhero premise. In this formulaic but popular series the Hulk is much more polite (and lacklustre) than his frenzied comic-book counterpart.

The two pilots and a further two-episode story were syndicated in the USA and released as movies elsewhere: The Incredible Hulk (1977), being the first pilot; Return of the Incredible Hulk (1977), a retitling of the second pilot "A Death in the Family" (1977); and Bride of the Incredible Hulk (1978), a retitling of "Married" (1978). Two made-for-tv movies, both directed by Bill Bixby, are Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1979) and Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990). [PN/JB]

2. Film (2008). Universal Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present a Marvel Studios/Valhalla Motion Pictures production. Directed by Louis Leterrier. Written by Zak Penn, based on the Marvel Comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Cast includes William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Edward Norton, Tim Roth and Liv Tyler. 112 minutes. Colour.

General Ross (Hurt) tracks down Bruce Banner (Norton), who has been hiding out in Rio; forced to flee, he returns to the US and Betty Ross (Tyler) in search of a cure, and the pair are pursued to New York by Ross and his commando leader Blonsky (Roth), who forces their contact Simon Sterns (Nelson) to inject him with an untested version of the Hulk serum which transforms him into the Abomination. The novelization is The Incredible Hulk (2008) by Peter David.

Marvel bought back the film rights to the Hulk from Universal and recast all the roles for this reconceived sequel to the uneven Hulk (2003), releasing it back-to-back with Iron Man (2008) to launch Marvel's Avengers (2012) crossover franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Norton wrote the later drafts of the screenplay, but was denied credit after WGA arbitration in favour of Penn, who had also worked on early versions of the first film. Though the film continues where Ang Lee's version leaves off, the overcomplications introduced there are pruned, removing Bruce's father David and the Nanotechnology element from the backstory. Leterrier's earlier mentoring by Luc Besson is evident in the film's strongest sequence, a first-act favela chase on location in Rio; thereafter the film regresses to the mean and a third act in which hero and Supervillain punch each other out across New York City. Despite five years of technical improvements, the computer-generated Hulk was still widely derided, and when the character returned to greater acclaim in The Avengers (2012) he was recast (again) and rendered by performance capture. [NL]

see also: Superpowers.


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