Monday, March 23, 2015

Recap: "The Incredible Hulk" Intro

This has been an interesting month for me, to say the least. First I was having fever dreams, then I was watching one. But now that I've attempted to decipher the inexplicable Hulk, I can start talking about its pseudo-sequel/reboot The Incredible Hulk.

If Grant Morrison started writing "The Inexplicable Hulk," I would so be on board with that.
As Hulk was still being made, Ang Lee's writing partner David Schamus, blissfully unaware of what a box-office Gamma Bomb Hulk would be, was already working on a sequel for Hulk 2. The script brought in actual Hulk villains like the Leader and the Abomination, the latter at Marvel's insistence, and dealt with the Hulk's further development into the Grey Hulk. The sequel was scheduled to be released during May of 2005.

Now, those of you who actually remember 2005 (you dang kids these days) will no doubt notice that there were no Hulk films that year. It may have had something to do with Hulk's record breaking (in a bad way) box-office performance. The deadline to create a sequel came and went, and Marvel ended up snapping up the film rights after Universal failed to deliver a sequel.

Getting the film rights to the Hulk back was one of the steps along Marvel's path to releasing an Avengers film. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk would be the initial testing grounds to gauge audience response. That's why the post-credits scenes in these first two films don't actually set up much of a larger story. To be perfectly honest, they didn't know if there would be any Marvel Cinematic Universe films after this. It all depended on these two movies' performance. Of course, Iron Man's success ended up being enough to merit the rest of the MCU films by itself, but they didn't know that at the time.

And so, they set to work creating the films that would make or break the MCU. But with this necessity to make the next Hulk film, Marvel was at a unique impasse. Hulk was a failure, but Marvel needed to make another Hulk movie to lead up to The Avengers. I mean, can you imagine including an Avenger in the film who didn't get a solo movie beforehand?

Okay, but she had a large role in Iron Man 2.

Well... he had a brief cameo in Thor.

"And a slightly less brief cameo in The Avengers."
Yes, yes, I'll get to that in good time. Anyway....

Well, yeah, Ant-Man and Wasp didn't get solo movies before The Avengers, but they were also cut from The Avengers. And technically, Hank Pym and Janet VanDyne aren't going to be Avengers, but their successors will be.... But that's something I'll have to save until my eventual Ant-Man Recap.

"Oh, sure, Newt. 'Save' me for 'later.' Whatever. It's fine. I'm used to it."
Dude, chill out. It's okay. I'll get to you in time, but you simply have nothing to do with this movie. That's all.

"Joss Whedon said that to me, too."
Why don't you wander back to a Judd Apatow movie before I step on you, shorty?

Anyway. The pre-production of The Incredible Hulk was actually fairly straightforward. But I guess that would be a given when compared to the rigamarole that was the pre-production of Hulk.

The director, Louis Leterrier, wanted to direct the then-upcoming Iron Man film, but lost it to Jon Favreau. Instead, Marvel took him on for The Incredible Hulk. Considering Leterrier was a big fan of the live-action show from the 70's, he was more than okay with this. Zak Penn was brought in to write the script. A task he was quite familiar with, after his rejected treatments for Hulk. It took a while, what with him also working on other projects, and he finally polished the thing up after they had started shooting.

The main problem was simply figuring out what to do about Hulk. You can't just ignore a movie like Hulk. It wasn't just a bad movie, it was an infamous movie.

Would the next movie be a sequel?

No. This new "Marvel Cinematic Universe" needed to start fresh. Not to mention the fact that people who saw Hulk in theaters would probably not be willing to give a sequel a try, even with a new creative team at the helm.

Then would it be a reboot?

Well... it's complicated.

2005's Batman Begins proved that reboots of failing franchises were a viable option, but that was a different case. Batman Begins was a breath of fresh air for a film series going back to the 80's. Hulk was only a couple years old, which is a bit soon for a reboot.

Where did that mindset disappear to in the last few years?
They wanted to change things from the first one, but didn't want to retell the origin so soon.

Again, where did that idea get flushed away?
So the only option was to shrug and say, "Sure, it's a sequel. Or not. Whatever." I'll explain. Hulk is generally left out of the official timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it can be considered loosely canon.

Very loosely.

Mainly, it's just Bruce's new origin of screwing around with genetics and radiation and the fact that he ended up in South America at the end of Hulk. But that's why "Marvel Cinematic Universe" is one of the tags for my Recap/Review of Hulk, people who asked me that question. As I said in my Hulk Review, I consider it to be a splinter universe of the main MCU. Because, hey, that's a sufficiently comic booky excuse.

The Hulk's origin was originally going to be retold in flashback throughout the film, but this reminded people of Hulk too much. So seventy minutes or so of origin story material was chopped up and made into an opening montage. Basically, the filmmakers were saying, "Yeah, yeah. Radiation, anger, you know the drill." I mean, it'd be downright silly and redundant to just reshow the origin, considering that everybody already knows it and....

Wait, I already made this joke.
Edward Norton (who turned down the lead in the previous film) was brought on (thanks to a recommendation by former-Hulk Lou Ferrigno) to play Bruce Banner as well as help write the script. Who was their original choice, you ask? Well, the name David Duchovny had been thrown around, but they liked this relatively unknown actor named Mark Ruffalo.

We almost got this four years early....
Among other changes, Norton removed the character of Rick Jones, and...

No, I'm taking a stand. Why does Rick Jones keep getting removed from Hulk movies? Why do people apparently hate Rick Jones?  ...I mean why did they hate him before Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. aired.

Anyway, he also toned down S.H.I.E.L.D.'s presence, and added the "flower" scene where Banner emails "Mr. Blue" in reference to a well-regarded arc in the comics. Basically, Ed Norton ended up rewriting scenes every day. To be fair, Robert Downey Jr. (whose name I recently realized does not have a comma in it) did pretty much the same thing on Iron Man, and that worked out amazingly in that film, so it should work here, right?

The results... were mixed. At best. Though this film had a similar (but less drastic) drop after opening weekend when compared to Hulk, this one was received much better. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that it was released the same year as The Dark Knight and Iron Man... Who knows? Perhaps this is a diamond in the rough? Let's take a look.

Coming up in Part 1! Factories, flowers, and freak outs.

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