Dir. Louis Leterrier ($263.4 million)
The second installment of the MCU was a joint venture with Universal Studios, however, Marvel has since acquired full on-screen rights to the Incredible Hulk and recast the gamma-irradiated super hero. Oscar-nominee Edward Norton (Primal Fear, The Grand Budapest Hotel) played Bruce Banner before fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right, Zodiac) took on the mantle in 2012. This venture had perhaps the best onscreen romantic chemistry of any Marvel couple between Norton and Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Empire Records). These two are believably in love, unlike Downey’s Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper who seem to have a little more than a crush on each other despite their repeated perilous adventures. The villains come out to be a mixed bunch. William Hurt (A History of Violence, The Village) plays Tyler’s father, a stereotypical Government-issue Armed Forces general named “Thunderbolt” Ross who doesn’t question orders. His performance isn’t quite as inspired as Tim Roth’s (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) Abomination—a binary of sorts to Banner and the Incredible Hulk.
The action sequences have a great pace and never disappoint, but the film takes a while for one to invest as the first act merely follows Banner around a favela. The continental travel feels forced. Banner’s South American involvement benefits neither himself nor South America as he works a dead-end job in solitude at a factory. The entire act feels unnecessary as the setting could easily have been closer to the final conflict in New York City. By film’s end, it feels as if Marvel rehashed the final showdown of Iron Man. When the Hulk meets his villain of similar abilities with the Abomination in Harlem, it distinctly reminds one of Iron Man and War Monger’s skirmish in L.A. Not the original payoff you’d hope to see. The Incredible Hulk also teased a super hero team-up without letting it destroy the story when Tony Stark popped in for the movie’s final scene with Thunderbolt where he dropped mention of “the Avengers Initiative.”