The Incredible Hulk (film)
|The Incredible Hulk|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Louis Leterrier|
Tim Blake Nelson
|Music by||Craig Armstrong|
|Cinematography||Peter Menzies Jr.|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||112 minutes|
The Incredible Hulk is a 2008 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. It is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the second installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film establishes a new backstory where Banner becomes the Hulk as an unwitting pawn in a military scheme to reinvigorate the supersoldier program through gamma radiation. On the run, he attempts to cure himself of the Hulk before he is captured by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), but his worst fears are realized when power-hungry soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) becomes a similar but more bestial creature. Liv Tyler also stars as Betty Ross, Banner's love interest and General Ross' daughter.
Marvel Studios reacquired the rights to the character after the mixed reception to the 2003 film Hulk, and writer Zak Penn began work on a loose sequel that would be much closer to the comics and the television series. Norton rewrote the script after he signed on to star, clarifying the film's new backstory. Leterrier redesigned Roth's character, called the Abomination in the comics, from the comics' reptilian humanoid into a monster with bony protrusions. Filming mostly took place in Toronto, Ontario in 2007, where the production attempted to be environmentally friendly.
The film was No. 1 at its box office release—out grossing its predecessor—grossing over $260 million in worldwide, as well as No. 1 for the DVD release. Norton was initially intended to again portray Bruce Banner in The Avengers and other future installments featuring the character, but after talks broke down, he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, who has signed on to reprise the role in all future sequels. However, despite the positive reception towards Ruffalo's portrayal of the character in The Avengers, Marvel chose to put off a possible sequel until at least 2016.
At Culver University in Virginia, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) meets with Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), the colleague and lover of his daughter Betty (Liv Tyler), regarding an experiment that is meant, Ross claims, to make humans immune to gamma radiation. The experiment—part of a World War II era "super soldier" program that Ross hopes to recreate—fails and exposes Banner to huge amounts of gamma radiation. This has the effect of causing Banner to transform into the Hulk for brief periods of time, whenever his heart beat rises above 200. The Hulk destroys the lab and injures or kills the people inside. Banner becomes a fugitive from the U.S. military and Ross in particular, who wants to weaponize the Hulk process.
Five years later, Banner works at a bottling factory in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, while searching for a cure for his condition. On the Internet, he collaborates with a colleague he knows only as "Mr. Blue", and to whom he is "Mr. Green". He is also learning meditative breathing techniques from a martial arts expert (Rickson Gracie) to help keep control, and has not transformed in 158 days. After Banner cuts his finger, a drop of his blood falls into a bottle, and is eventually ingested by an elderly consumer (Stan Lee) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, creating medical complications and eventually killing him. Using the bottle to discover Banner's location, Ross sends a SWAT team, led by Russian-born British Royal Marine Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to capture him. Banner transforms into the Hulk and defeats Blonsky's team. After Ross explains how Banner became the Hulk, Blonsky agrees to be injected with a small amount of a serum developed as part of the same operation, which gives him enhanced speed, strength, agility and healing, but also begins to deform his skeleton and impair his judgment.
Banner returns to Culver University and reunites with Betty, who is dating psychiatrist Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell). Banner is attacked by Ross and Blonsky's forces, tipped off by the suspicious Samson, causing his transformation into the Hulk. The ensuing battle in a courtyard outside a cathederal proves to be futile for Ross' forces and they eventually retreat. But Blonsky, whose sanity is starting to falter, boldly attacks and mocks the Hulk. The Hulk dispatches Blonsky and flees with Betty. After the Hulk reverts to Banner, he and Betty go on the run and stay in a motel for the night and plan to make love but give up at last because his heart rate monitor is beeping frequently. Banner contacts Mr. Blue, who urges them to meet him in New York City. He turns out to be cellular biologist Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), who tells Banner he has developed a possible antidote to Banner's condition. After a successful test, he warns Banner that the antidote may only reverse each individual transformation. Sterns reveals he has synthesized Banner's blood samples, which Banner sent from Brazil, into a large supply, with the intention of applying its "limitless potential" to medicine. Fearful of the Hulk's power falling into the military's hands, Banner attempts to convince Sterns to destroy the blood supply. Blosnky is revealed to have survived his injuries from the previous battle and has completely healed. He joins Ross' forces for a third attempt take Banner into custody. They succeed and Banner, along with Betty, are taken away in Ross' helicopter.
Blonsky stays behind and forces Sterns to inject him with Banner's blood, as he covets the Hulk's power. Sterns warns that the combination of the super-soldier formula and Banner's blood may cause him to become an "abomination". Unconcerned, Blonsky forces Sterns to administer the blood and a gamma charge. The experiment mutates Blonsky into a creature with size and strength surpassing that of the Hulk, but drives him into complete insanity. Abomination then attacks Sterns, who gets some of Banner's blood into a cut on his forehead causing it to mutate him. Abomination then rampages through Harlem. Unlike Hulk, Abomination cannot revert back to normal Blonsky state.
Realizing that the Hulk is the only one who can stop Abomination, Banner convinces Ross to release him. He jumps from Ross' helicopter and transforms after hitting the ground. After a long and brutal battle through Harlem, the Hulk defeats and nearly kills Abomination by choking him with a huge chain, relenting only after Betty's plea to spare him. After having a small, peaceful moment with Betty, the Hulk flees from the scene, and escapes from New York.
A month later, Banner is in Bella Coola, British Columbia. Instead of trying to suppress his transformation, he is attempting to transform in a controlled manner. As his eyes turn green, a grin appears on his face.
- Edward Norton as Bruce Banner / Hulk:
A genius scientist who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into the Hulk when stressed, enraged, or excited. David Duchovny was a front-runner for the film before Norton's casting, while Louis Leterrier originally wanted Mark Ruffalo (who would later play Banner in Marvel's The Avengers) for the role. Gale Anne Hurd recalled Norton's portrayals of duality in Primal Fear and Fight Club, while Norton reminded Kevin Feige of Bill Bixby, who played Banner in the TV series. Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk with Bixby, remarked Norton "has a similar physique [and a] similar personality".
- Norton was a Hulk fan, citing the first comic appearances, the Bixby TV show, and Bruce Jones' run on the comic, as his favorite depictions of the character. He had expressed interest in the role for the first film. He initially turned down the part for this film, recalling "there [was] the wince factor or the defensive part of you that recoils at what the bad version of what that would be", as he felt the previous film "strayed far afield from a story that was familiar to people, [...] which is a fugitive story". When he met Leterrier and Marvel, he liked their vision, and believed they were looking to him to guide the project. Thus, Norton rewrote the script. "Edward's script has given Bruce's story real gravitas," Leterrier said. "Admittedly I'm not the most adult director, but just because we're making a superhero movie it doesn't have to just appeal to 13-year old boys. Ed and I both see superheroes as the new Greek gods."
- Lou Ferrigno voices The Hulk:
During the 2008 New York Comic Con Leterrier publicly offered Ferrigno the chance to voice the Hulk for the film. This marks the third time Ferrigno portrayed the Hulk, having also voiced the character in the 1996 animated series. Originally, the Hulk's only line was "Betty" at the film's ending, which would have been his first word. Leterrier was aware that fans wanted him to speak normally, and added "leave me alone" and "Hulk smash!" The latter line received cheers during a screening he attended. Ferrigno also has a cameo in the film as a security guard who is bribed by Banner with a pizza.
- Lou Ferrigno voices The Hulk:
- Liv Tyler as Betty Ross:
Bruce's girlfriend, whom he is separated from due to his condition, and a cellular biologist. Tyler replaced actress Jennifer Connelly, who portrayed Betty Ross in the 2003 film Hulk. Tyler and Connelly had previously played sisters in the 1997 film Inventing the Abbotts. Tyler was attracted to the love story in the script, and was a fan of the TV show, because of the "humanity and what [Banner] is going through". She was called about the role while driving to her home, and she accepted the part after a day without reading the script. Tyler and Norton spent hours discussing Bruce and Betty's life before he became the Hulk. She said filming the part "was very physical, which was fun", and compared her performance to "a deer caught in the headlights", because of Betty's shock at Bruce's unexpected return into her life.
- Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky / Abomination:
A Russian-born officer from the United Kingdom's Royal Marines Commandos loaned to General Ross and becomes the monster called Abomination and the main antagonist. Recognizing he is past his prime, he lusts after the Hulk's power. Roth said he took the part to please his sons, who are comic-book superhero fans. As a teenager, Roth was a fan of the 1970s TV series, and he also found Leterrier's ideas "very dark and very interesting". Roth started watching the 2003 film to prepare for the part, but stopped as he did not want to be caught up in the controversy over its quality, and to compare himself to it. It was Roth who suggested Blonsky be a soldier, whereas in the comics he was a KGB agent.
- Leterrier is a fan of Roth's work, and felt "it's great watching a normal Cockney boy become a superhero!", but Marvel and Norton were initially reluctant to cast him. Before he was cast in Punisher: War Zone, Ray Stevenson was in discussions for the role. Roth prepared for the part by learning to fire guns and break into rooms with two experts. Roth found it tough shooting the chases, because he could not work out to show Blonsky's aging. He especially found it difficult to run while pulled with a harness, which was used to show the injected Blonsky's 30–40 mile per hour running abilities. Cyril Raffaelli performed some of Roth's stunts. Roth enjoyed the motion capture, which reminded him of fringe theatre, and he hired his trainer from Planet of the Apes to aid him in portraying the monster's movement.
- William Hurt as General "Thunderbolt" Ross:
Betty's arrogant father, who has dedicated himself to capturing the Hulk and the secondary antagonist. Leterrier cast Hurt because "Ross is more physical, more explosive in this movie, and no actor goes from zero to 100 as well as William." He compared Ross to Captain Ahab. The Hulk is Hurt's favorite superhero, and his son is also a big fan of the character. Hurt found production very different from the typical "pure anxiety" of a studio film, finding it more akin to an independent film. He described Ross as "humiliated by Hulk's conscience: he actually sees and recognizes that it's more developed than his own, even though he's a patriot and a warrior for his country. He's sacrificed [much] for that purpose, but at the expense at times of his humanity — which he occasionally recovers." Sam Elliott, who played Ross in the first film, would have liked to reprise the role, noting it was odd seeing someone take his part, "but I'll be looking forward to seeing this one".
- Ty Burrell as Dr. Leonard Samson:
The psychiatrist in a relationship with Betty during Bruce's absence. Burrell had performed with Norton in the off Broadway play Burn This in 2003, and when Leterrier met him, he recognized Burrell as the "jerk" from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, which was how Samson was characterized in the script before Norton rewrote it. He is presented as a mostly sympathetic character.
Additional cast members include Tim Blake Nelson as the scientist Samuel Sterns, and Robert Downey, Jr. has an uncredited cameo as Tony Stark at the end of the film. As The Incredible Hulk takes place during and after the first two Iron Man films, Stark has therefore already announced that he is Iron Man. Downey appeared as a favor to Marvel Studios, which he acknowledged as a smart move on Marvel's part, because when he was promoting his film he would also have to mention their other production. Hulk co-creator Stan Lee cameos as a man who becomes ill when drinking the soda poisoned by Banner's blood. Michael K. Williams appears in the film, in a role that was written for him by Norton, who is a fan of The Wire. Paul Soles, who voiced Banner in the 1966 The Marvel Superheroes cartoon, cameos as Stanley, a kindly pizza restaurant owner who helps Banner. Additionally, the late Bill Bixby appears, when a scene featuring Bixby on his TV comedy-drama The Courtship of Eddie's Father plays on a television Banner is watching at the beginning of the film. Rickson Gracie has a small role as Bruce Banner's martial arts instructor, despite his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background, he is credited as an Aikido instructor. Peter Mensah plays a small role as General Joe Gellar, one of General Ross' military friends/associate.
At the time of the release of Ang Lee's Hulk, screenwriter James Schamus was planning a sequel, featuring the Gray Hulk. He was also considering the Leader and the Abomination as villains. Marvel wanted the Abomination because he would be an actual threat to the Hulk, unlike General Ross. During the filming of Hulk, producer Avi Arad had a target May 2005 theatrical release date. On January 18, 2006 Arad confirmed Marvel Studios would be providing the money for The Incredible Hulk's production budget, with Universal distributing, because Universal did not meet the deadline for filming a sequel. Marvel felt it would be better to deviate from Ang Lee's style to continue the franchise, arguing his film was like a parallel universe one-shot comic book, and their next film needed to be, in Kevin Feige's words, "really starting the Marvel Hulk franchise". Producer Gale Anne Hurd also felt the film had to meet what "everyone expects to see from having read the comics and seen the TV series".
Louis Leterrier, who enjoyed the TV series as a child and liked the first film, had expressed interest in directing the Iron Man film adaptation. Jon Favreau had taken that project, so Marvel offered him the Hulk. Leterrier was reluctant as he was unsure if he could replicate Lee's style, but Marvel explained that was not their intent. Leterrier's primary inspiration was Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Hulk: Gray (a retelling of his first appearance). He replicated every comic book panel that he pinned-up during pre-production, from the many comics he browsed, in the final film. Leterrier said that he planned to show Bruce Banner's struggle with the monster within him, while Feige added the film would explore "that element of wish fulfillment, of overcoming an injustice or a bully and tapping into a strength that you didn't quite realize you had in yourself". Arad also said the film would be "a lot more of a love story between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross".
Zak Penn, who wrote a draft of the first film in 1996, said the film would follow up Hulk, but stressed it would be more tonally similar to the TV show and Bruce Jones' run on the comic. He compared his script to Aliens, which was a very different film to Alien, but still in the same continuity. He included two scenes from his 1996 script: Banner jumping from a helicopter to trigger a transformation, and realizing he is unable to have sex with Betty.
After the studio rejected a treatment by another screenwriter in 2006, Penn wrote three drafts before departing in early 2007 to promote his film The Grand. Norton, that April, began discussions to play Banner, and arranged a deal that included him as both an actor and a writer, with a screenplay draft he was contractually obligated to turn in in under a month. He did so, and continued to polish his draft as late as halfway through principal photography. Penn received sole Writers Guild credit and said in 2008, "I wasn’t happy with him coming to Comic-Con saying that he wrote the script."
Leterrier acknowledged the only remaining similarity between the two films was Bruce hiding in South America, and that the film was a unique reboot, as generally audiences would have expected another forty-minute origin story. There were previous discussions to set the first act in Thailand. Leterrier felt audiences were left restless waiting for the character to arrive in Ang Lee's film.
Shortly after the release of The Incredible Hulk, Gale Anne Hurd commented on the uncertainty of its relationship with Ang Lee's Hulk film. "We couldn't quite figure out how to term this ... It's kind of a reboot and it's kind of sequel." Hurd said that "requel", a portmanteau of "reboot" and "sequel", was a "perfect" description for the film.
Norton explained his decision to ignore Lee's origin story: "I don't even like the phrase 'origin story', and I don't think in great literature and great films that explaining the roots of the story doesn't mean it comes in the beginning." "Audiences know this story," he added, "[so] deal with it artfully." He wanted to "have revelations even in the third act about what set this whole thing in motion". The new origin story references Ultimate Marvel's take on the Hulk, which also had him created in an attempt to create super soldiers. Norton deleted Rick Jones and toned down S.H.I.E.L.D.'s presence. He also added the scene where Banner attempts to extract a cure from a flower and his e-mailing with Samuel Sterns, which references Bruce Jones' story. Norton rewrote scenes every day. Ultimately, the Writers Guild of America decided to credit the script solely to Penn, who argued Norton had not dramatically changed his script. Journalist Anne Thompson explained "The Guild tends to favor plot, structure and pre-existing characters over dialogue." Before either Penn and Norton joined the project, an anonymous screenwriter wrote a draft and lobbied for credit.
Leterrier had to direct four units with a broken foot. Filming began on July 9, 2007. Shooting primarily took place in Toronto, because mayor David Miller is a Hulk fan and promised to be very helpful to the crew when closing Yonge Street for four nights in September to shoot the Hulk and Blonsky's clash at 125th Street. Despite messing the street with explosives and overturned burning vehicles, the crew would clean-up within twenty minutes so business could continue as normal each day. The first action sequence shot was the Culver University battle, which was filmed at the University of Toronto and Morningside Park. The filmmakers built a glass wall over a walkway at the University for when the soldiers trap him inside to smoke out the Hulk. There was also shooting in the Financial District. A factory in Hamilton, Ontario, which was due for demolition, was the interior of the Brazilian factory. The site's underground floors were used for Ross' military command center. The crew also shot part of the Hulk and Blonsky's fight on a backlot in Hamilton. Other Canadian locations included CFB Trenton and a glacier in Bella Coola, British Columbia. Afterwards, there was a week-long shoot in New York City and two weeks in Rio de Janeiro. While there, the crew shot at Rocinha, Lapa, Tijuca Forest and Santa Teresa. Filming concluded in November after eighty-eight days of filming.
The Incredible Hulk joined Toronto's Green-Screen initiative, to help cut carbon emissions and waste created during filming. Producer Gale Anne Hurd acknowledged the Hulk, being green, was a popular environmental analogy, and Norton himself was an environmentalist. Hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles were used, with low sulfur diesel as their energy source. The construction department used a sustainably harvested, locally sourced yellow pine instead of lauan for the sets, and also used zero-or low-VOC paint. The wood was generally recycled or given to environmental organizations, and paint cans were handed to waste management. In addition, they used; cloth bags; biodegradable food containers; china and silverware food utensils; a stainless steel mug for each production crew member; a contractor who removed bins; recycled paper; biodegradable soap and cleaners in the trailers and production offices; and the sound department used rechargeable batteries. The Incredible Hulk became the first blockbuster film to receive the Environmental Media Association's Green Seal, which is displayed during the end credits.
Leterrier cited the motion capture portrayals of Gollum and King Kong by Andy Serkis (from The Lord of the Rings and King Kong) as the standard he was aiming for. Norton and Roth filmed 2500 takes of different movements the monsters would make (such as the Hulk's "thunder claps"). Phosphorescent face paint applied to the actors' faces and strobe lighting would help record the most subtle mannerisms into the computer. Others including Cyril Raffaelli provided motion capture for stunts and fights, after the main actors had done video referencing. Leterrier hired Rhythm and Hues to provide the CGI, rather than Industrial Light & Magic who created the visual effects for Ang Lee's Hulk. Visual effect company, Image Engine, spent over a year working on a shot where Banner's gamma-irradiated blood falls through three factory floors into a bottle. Overall 700 effects shots were created. Motion capture aided in placing and timing of movements, but overall key frame animation by Rhythm and Hues provided the necessary "finesse [and] superhero quality". Many of the animators and Leterrier himself provided video reference for the climactic fight.
Dale Keown's comic book artwork of the Hulk was an inspiration for his design. Leterrier felt the first Hulk had "too much fat [and] the proportions were a little off". He explained, "The Hulk is beyond perfect so there is zero grams of fat, all chiseled, and his muscle and strength defines this creature so he’s like a tank." Visual effects supervisor Kurt Williams envisioned the Hulk's physique as a linebacker rather than a bodybuilder. A height of nine feet was chosen for the character as they did not want him to be too inhuman. To make him more expressive, computer programs controlling the inflation of his muscles and saturation of skin color were created. Williams cited flushing as an example of humans' skin color being influenced by their emotions. The animators felt green blood would make his skin become darker rather than lighter, and his skin tones, depending on lighting, either resemble an olive or even gray slate. His animation model was completed without the effects company's full knowledge of what he would be required to do: he was rigged to do whatever they imagined, in case the model was to be used for The Avengers film. The Hulk's medium-length hair was modeled on Mike Deodato's art. He originally had a crew cut, but Leterrier decided flopping hair imbued him with more character. Leterrier cited An American Werewolf in London as the inspiration for Banner's transformation, wanting to show how painful it was for him to change. As a nod to the live action TV series, Banner's eyes change color first when he transforms.
Leterrier changed the Abomination's design from the comics because he felt the audience would question why he resembled a fish or a reptile, instead of "an über-human" like the Hulk. Rather, his hideousness is derived from being injected multiple times into his skin, muscles and bones; creating a creature with a protruding spine and sharp bones that he can use to stab. His green skin is pale, and reflects light, so it appears orange because of surrounding fire during the climactic battle. The motion capture performers, including Roth, tried to make the character behave less gracefully than the Hulk. They modeled his posture and the way he turns his head on a shark. The character also shares Roth's tattoos. A height of eleven feet was chosen for the character. Leterrier tried to work in the character's pointed ears, but realized the Hulk would bite them off (using the example of Mike Tyson when he fought Evander Holyfield), and felt ignoring that would make the Hulk come across as stupid.
Leterrier had planned to use prosthetic makeup and animatronics to complement the computer-generated imagery that was solely used in the previous film. The make-up artists who worked on X-Men: The Last Stand were set to portray Blonsky's gradual transformation, which Zak Penn said would portray Blonsky "not [being] used to having these properties. Like he's much heavier, and we talked about how when he walks down the sidewalk, his weight destroys the sidewalk and he's tripping. [It's all about] the humanization of these kinds of superhero characters, showing the effects physics may actually have on [them]." Tom Woodruff, Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics (who created all the costumes for the Alien films since Alien 3) was in negotiations, and created two busts of the Hulk and prosthetic hands to act as stand-ins for the character. A full animatronic was never created as it was decided it would complicate production to set up shots for a puppet and then a computer graphic. An animatronic was used for Sterns' mutating head though.
Destruction was mostly done practically. A model of a bottling machine was smashed through a wall for when the Hulk escapes with the factory. The filmmakers used steam and dry ice for the gas used to smoke out the Hulk, and they destroyed a real Humvee by dropping a weight on it when shooting the Culver University battle. Pipes blew fire for when the Hulk strikes down the computer-generated helicopter. When Banner falls from the helicopter to trigger the Hulk into fighting the Abomination, Norton was attached to a surface held by a bar which turned 90 degrees while the camera was pulled to the ceiling to simulate falling. Leterrier jokingly remarked that making Norton fall that distance would obviously render him unable to act.
Craig Armstrong was the arranger for Massive Attack, a band Leterrier was fond of and had collaborated with on the 2005 film Unleashed. Armstrong was his first choice, which surprised Marvel, not knowing if he had scored an action film (he did compose 2001's Kiss of the Dragon). Even the temp track consisted of Armstrong's work and similar music by others. The Hulk, alongside the Green Lantern, was one of Armstrong's favorite comics as a child, although he did not see Ang Lee's Hulk.
Armstrong began composing in his home in Glasgow, Scotland with three sequences; the Hulk and Betty in the cave; the Abomination and the Hulk's alley fight; and Bruce and Betty's reunion. The majority was composed in a few weeks in Los Angeles, California, which was very intense for the director and composer. The score was recorded over four days during late 2008 in a chapel in Bastyr University, located in Kenmore, Washington. Pete Lockett played ethnic instruments in the score, which were recorded in London and mixed together with the orchestra and electronics. The score was orchestrated by Matt Dunkley, Tony Blondal, Stephen Coleman, David Butterworth and Kaz Boyle.
The Hulk and the Abomination both have two themes, representing their human and monstrous forms. The Hulk's theme was meant to be iconic and simple, like Jaws (1975), with string glissandos on a base C note. Banner's theme is tragic and includes parts of Joe Harnell's "The Lonely Man" theme from the television series. Armstrong played the piano for one scene featuring that piece. Blonsky has a dark theme, which becomes aggressive when he transforms. Armstrong inter played the Hulk and the Abomination's themes during their battle, and found scoring the action sequences similar to a dance. There is also a suspenseful theme, and a love theme.
Leterrier suggested the score be released on two discs, which Armstrong believed to be a joke. Only when he compiled the album – and Marvel asked why they were only given one disc – did he realize they were serious.
Seventy minutes of footage, mostly dealing with the origin, were not included in the final cut. Much of this back-story was unscripted and the filmmakers were never sure of including it into the final cut, and had considered releasing some of these clips on the internet. Editor Kyle Cooper, creator of the Marvel logo (with the flipping pages) and the montage detailing Iron Man's biography in that film, edited together much of this footage into the opening credits. Leterrier explained a negative test screening, where flashbacks were placed across the film that the audience found too similar to Hulk, had resulted in compressing these to the film's start. This replaced the original opening, where Banner comes to the Arctic to commit suicide. When the scene ends, in an instant the frozen body of Captain America is partially seen in the ice. Leterrier said he did not want this scene to be lost amid the opening montage.
Norton and Leterrier disputed with the producers over the final running time: they wanted it to be near 135 minutes, while the producers wanted the film to be under two hours. This was made public, and rumors spread that Norton "made it clear he won't cooperate with publicity plans if he's not happy with the final product". Norton dismissed this, "Our healthy process [of collaboration], which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a 'dispute', seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen. It has always been my firm conviction that films should speak for themselves and that knowing too much about how they are made diminishes the magic of watching them."
An "extended" version of the film has appeared around Internet file sharing sites, presumably assembled from the deleted scenes on the DVD release.
Effort was made to promote the story as having a romance and a physical antagonist, and the title was used for promotional puns (such as 7-Eleven's "Incredible Gulp" slurpees, and "Incredible Dad" themed Father's Day gifts at Kmart). Burger King also promoted the film, and General Nutrition Centers used the title character as a role model for strength training. Hasbro created the toy line, which they released on May 3, 2008, while Sega released a video game on June 5, 2008. The film was promoted in an episode of American Gladiators on June 9, 2008, which was hosted by Hulk Hogan and featured Lou Ferrigno.
Following the edit dispute, Universal's Adam Fogleson and Norton planned a promotional tour which would avoid constant media interviews and therefore uncomfortable questions. He attended the premiere, took part in a Jimmy Kimmel Live! sketch and would also promote the film in Japan. However, during the film's release he chose to do charity work in Africa.
The film was number one in sales when released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 21, 2008, in the United States (having been available in the United Kingdom since October 13). There are widescreen and fullscreen single-disc editions; a three-disc special edition; and a two-disc Blu-ray package. The first disc contains an audio commentary by Leterrier and Roth, while the second comes with special features and deleted scenes, and the third with a digital copy of the film. The Blu-ray edition compresses the content of the first two DVDs onto one, while the second disc contains the digital copy. The package features a green border, marking the first time the Blu-ray case for a film is not blue. So far, it made $58,448,280 in home video sales, bringing its total film gross to $321,875,831.
The film is also scheduled to be collected in a 10-disc box set titled Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – Avengers Assembled which will include all of the "Phase One" films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However in September 2012, the release of the box set, which was scheduled on the same day as the Blu-ray release of The Avengers, was delayed until April 2, 2013, due to a pending law suit over the suitcase used to package the collection.
The film was released on June 13, 2008, and in its opening weekend, grossed $55.4 million in 3,505 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office. The previous film earned $62.1 million in its opening weekend, but dropped 70% in its second weekend. The second film by comparison, dropped 60% in its second weekend. Behind Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, it was the second-highest gross for a film released over a Father's Day weekend. This surpassed the Los Angeles Times's report of expectations of a $45 million opening, following the disappointing response to the 2003 film. Universal believed word of mouth will contribute to the film eventually breaking even. A CinemaScore poll indicated the majority of viewers were male and graded the film an A-, and 82% of them had seen the 2003 film.
It also opened in thirty-eight other countries, adding $31 million to the total opening. The film outgrossed the 2003 film in South Korea, while its openings in Mexico and Russia created records for Universal. The film grossed 24 million yuan (roughly $3.4 million) in its Chinese opening on August 26, outgrossing the previous film's overall gross of ten million yuan. As of March 11, 2009, the film grossed $134,806,913 in the U.S., as well as $128,620,638 internationally, bringing its worldwide gross to $263,427,551. The film, even though it barely passed its predecessor, and equalled if the smaller budget of the first film is taken into account, is still considered successful. Entertainment analyst David Davis told The Hollywood Reporter, "The first Hulk had such high expectations after the NBC Universal merger and was supposed to be critical favorite Ang Lee's breakout commercial blockbuster. Then with the new Hulk film, Marvel was able to underplay the importance of the success after the great success of Iron Man this summer. So the new one overdelivered, relative to its underpromise."
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 67% approval rating with an average rating of 6.2/10 based on 218 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "The Incredible Hulk provides the action and excitement to please comic book fans and re-ignite this fledgling franchise." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 38 reviews. The site characterized reviews as "generally favorable". Todd McCarthy of Variety said, "what seemed, in theory, the least-necessary revival of a big screen superhero emerges as perfectly solid summer action fare in The Incredible Hulk." He emphasized "it's all par-for-the-course cinematic demolition and destruction, staged efficiently and with a hint of enthusiasm," and "penned with sporadic wit [...] Visuals lean toward the dark and murky, but editing by three—actually six—hands is fleet, and Craig Armstrong’s ever-present score is simultaneously bombastic and helpfully supportive of the action. Effects are in line with pic's generally pro but not inspired achievements."
Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald applauded that the film "does a lot of things [Ang] Lee's Hulk didn't: It's lighter and faster-paced, it's funnier and it embraces (instead of ignoring) the 1970s TV series that furthered the character's popularity". Mark Rahner of The Seattle Times wrote that, "The relaunch of Marvel's green goliath is an improvement over director Ang Lee's ponderous 2003 Hulk in nearly every way — except that the actual Hulk still looks scarcely better than something from a video game, and he still barely talks". Lou Lumenick of the New York Post said, "What lingers in my memory ... is the lengthy, essentially animated climactic battle between the Hulk and the Abomination on the streets and rooftops of Harlem, and an earlier showdown between the title creature and the U.S. Army, which is deploying high-tech weapons including sound-wave cannons. These are expertly staged by director Louis Leterrier, who disposes of the backstory under the opening credits and wraps up the whole thing in twenty-four minutes less than [Ang] Lee took". Roger Ebert was not a fan of the film stating, ""The Incredible Hulk" is no doubt an ideal version of the Hulk saga for those who found Ang Lee's "Hulk" (2003) too talky, or dare I say, too thoughtful. But not for me. It sidesteps the intriguing aspects of Hulkdom and spends way too much time in, dare I say, noisy and mindless action sequences."
Conversely, Christy Lemire of the Associated Press found that "the inevitable comparisons to Iron Man, Marvel Studios' first blockbuster this summer, serve as a glaring reminder of what this Hulk lacks: wit and heart. Despite the presence of Edward Norton, an actor capable of going just as deep as Robert Downey Jr., we don't feel a strong sense of Bruce Banner's inner conflict". A.O. Scott of The New York Times opined, "'The Adequate Hulk' would have been a more suitable title. There are some big, thumping fights and a few bright shards of pop-cultural wit, but for the most part this movie seems content to aim for the generic mean". David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, "Leterrier has style, he's good with action and he's eager to give the audience its money's worth of bone-crunching battles. Still, once the movie leaves the atmospheric Brazilian settings, nothing in this "Hulk" sinks in deeply: its familiar genre pleasures are all on the surface. ... The movie's scene stealer is Tim Blake Nelson, making a comically welcome third act appearance as the unethical but madly enthusiastic scientist Samuel Sterns".
The character of Samuel Sterns, played by Tim Blake Nelson, was introduced to set him up as a villain in a possible future film, where he would become the Leader. Aaron Sims, the lead designer on The Incredible Hulk, also took time to work on concepts for the Leader. Nelson is "signed on" to reprise the role. Gale Anne Hurd noted because the Leader is a cerebral villain, it would allow them to reinterpret the Hulk himself. Ty Burrell wants to portray the superpowered Doc Samson faithfully to the comics. Norton said, "The whole thing was to envision it in multiple parts. We left a lot out on purpose. The Incredible Hulk is definitely intended as chapter one." Leterrier made the film's final shot of Banner ambiguous; the thought being if there is a sequel, it would mean Banner finally masters control over his anger; if there is not a sequel, the shot indicates instead that in the scheduled 2012 feature The Avengers, he becomes a menace. Leterrier had also intended for a scene in the credits showing Blonsky, human once more, imprisoned and chained in a box.
Leterrier and Roth were originally contracted to return. Leterrier also stated Norton was not signed on, but in October 2008, Hurd stated that Norton was contracted to reprise the role. The film had outgrossed its predecessor and Universal indicated interest in a sequel. However, by July 21, Leterrier believed a sequel would not be made because of the film's box office return. Leterrier was confident that the character would appear in The Avengers, even if Marvel did not ask Norton to fulfill his contract. Kevin Feige said the film met Marvel's expectations and that Hulk would return, but after the crossover. Hurd was not concerned that a sequel may not be produced until at least 2012, citing the positive reception to the film and having produced the Terminator series, the second and third film of which had a 12-year gap. Tim Roth confirmed that Marvel had signed him for three more films. Leterrier, after having previously said he did not want to direct a sequel, said in late 2009 he had changed his mind and was now amenable.
In 2012's Marvel's The Avengers, Mark Ruffalo began his role as Banner/Hulk. In April 2012, despite Ruffalo being on board to play the Hulk in the sequel, Feige confirmed to Collider that Marvel had no plans at that time to film another Hulk [movie]. In a Q&A (question and answer) session, Feige and Ruffalo confirmed that discussions are underway to produce another Hulk film due to the positive audience response to Ruffalo's performance in The Avengers. As of August 2013, Ruffalo has signed on for six Marvel films and will be portraying the Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
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