Wednesday, May 09, 2012

All Hulks Unite

Although The Avengers' record-shattering success at the till last weekend shouldn't have come as any big surprise to anyone who's paying attention, what did catch many audiences and critics unawares was the film's crowd-pleasing depiction of the Incredible Hulk. After the two previous tries at bringing Marvel's green goliath to the big screen were viewed as noble misses by many, most (though, just to take credit where it's due, not I!) had written off the prospects of Bruce Banner's monstrous alter ego ever anchoring another film all his own. That's all changed now, of course.

With the positive reaction to Mark Ruffalo's take on the tormented doctor and the film's heroic portrait of ol' Greenskin serving as wind in its sails, a new Hulk feature seems more of a real prospect as of this moment than it was just a few short weeks ago. To this end, The New Yorker turned to the Tweeter known as @FilmCritHulk, who's built his rep by doling out all-caps insights on cinema 140 characters at a time, on what makes this Hulk so special, and he drops some real wisdom. I found this bit about the '70s TV show and its star, the late Bill Bixby, particularly insightful:
THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE WHILE WATCHING BIXBY IS THAT HE RADIATES THIS KINDLY, PATERNAL ENERGY. BANNER IS USUALLY CONSIDERED THE “WEAK” HALF OF THE EQUATION, BUT BIXBY’S GENTLENESS WASN’T A CASE OF BEING MEEK, BUT DIGNIFIED. HE OFTEN HAD EVERY REASON TO TRY AND DISAPPEAR, TO REFRAIN FROM TRYING SITUATIONS, BUT HE JUST HAD TO HELP ANY TIME IT WAS NEEDED. IN TRUTH, BIXBY’S BANNER WAS HIS OWN KIND OF HERO; A TRUE MORALIST IN THE GRAND TRADITION OF ATTICUS FINCH. WHICH MEANS THE REASON HIS MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HULK RESONATED SO DEEPLY IS BECAUSE WE TRULY CARED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM. IN TRUTH, HE WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU WOULD EVER WANT CURSED WITH BEING THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
Now here he is connecting the dots from Bixby to Ruffalo, and perhaps zeroing in on why the latter has succeeded in the part where Eric Bana and Edward Norton before him may not have found the traction they would have liked:
HE DOESN’T QUITE HAVE BIXBY’S PATERNAL ELEMENT, BUT HE DOES HAVE THAT SAME INHERENT KINDNESS. HE ISN’T MOPING OR OBSESSED WITH HIS OWN PROBLEMS, HE’S GENTLE AND DIGNIFIED. THERE’S SOMETHING SO UNASSUMING AND EVEN CUTE ABOUT HIM. WHEN WE FIRST MEET DR. BANNER IN INDIA, HE’S DOING MEDICAL WORK FOR THE POOR IN “THE MOST STRESSFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD.” BUT THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE AN ISSUE FOR HIM. SOME YEARS HAVE PASSED AND SOMEHOW HE SEEMS IN FULL CONTROL. BUT HE ALSO SEEMS IMPOSSIBLY WEARY AND HAGGARD. HE’S A MAN WHO HAS LIVED AND LOST MORE THAN IMAGINABLE.
There's a whole lot more where that came from, and it's worth giving a look. I remain a fan of all the various media portrayals of the Hulk (yes, even the much-maligned Ang Lee vehicle), and I especially don't like seeing people dog on '08's severely underrated Incredible Hulk flick. That said, there's also no denying that, thanks to The Avengers, it took three tries at the flint for this character to finally catch fire with auds. Click through to read up on just why that might be the case.

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