The Death of the Incredible Hulk
The Death of the Incredible Hulk 1990
As is usually the case, life tends to get in the way of plans. And while I was planning on moving on into some comic book adaptations that weren’t superhero movies, I have yet to watch any of those. And instead, I ended up watching this made for TV pseudo series finale for the old Incredible Hulk TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno for the return of Filmwhys here in a week or two. This film falls in a really weird space in time. It came out the year after Tim Burton’s Batman, but since it was still tied into the television series it retained all of the 70’s and 80’s style of special effects which make it look a lot more dated than a 1990 movie should look. And even though I haven’t watched the original episodes of the show, it really felt like just an extended episode with a tacked on ending to give it some finality.
The film starts off with David pretending to be a mentally challenged janitor in a high security tech lab where he sneaks back into each night and corrects the scientist’s formulas like a pre-Good Will Hunting. Alongside this there is a group of Russian whatevers trying to get the data from this research that is very loosely tied to the possibility of creating super soldiers. The “whatevers” is because it’s really unclear as to what their motivation as a villain is, they don’t seem to be spies, terrorists, or the mafia. They are just generic Russian villains who are after this tech because of reasons. Not only that, but the main agent they have going after this tech is a bit of a reluctant agent who ends up getting on the bad side of the other agents, and on the good side of David Banner.
One of the biggest issues is that the film is stuck using special effect techniques from the late 70’s. While a CGI or even stop motion Hulk would be improbable to use, these low budget techniques of just having the contact lenses, cutting to close up shots of clothes ripping, then cutting to Lou Ferrigno in his green glory is a bit of a cop out. Even the Flash TV show that was the very same year had better special effects than pretty much anything in this movie, from the animated force field and electricity to the breakaway brick walls which was pretty much it as far as effects even went. Obviously it would have been impossible to stray too far from what had already been done since it would take away from what the series had been to that point, but there could have been some attempt to put a better sheen on things.
As far as the concept of being a finale to the television show, there were several moments where it could have brought that about. First off is the possibility for a cure to his entire Hulk problem that also has a chance of death. That combined with the introduction of a love interest who has seen his condition and what it can do could have brought things to a happier and more satisfying conclusion. But instead the cure is interrupted and things eventually escalate to a shootout at a little airfield. The Hulk climbs aboard a miniplane and while being shot at turns the gun away which causes the entire airplane to explode. The Hulk “falls” in what is clearly just him lying on a black background while the camera either zooms in or zooms out in slow motion before he lands on the runway. The film closes on the touching moment of the Hulk lying on the ground lit by a helicopter spotlight while the people he had just met these past few days crowd around his body. It’s a rather anticlimactic ending for such an iconic character. Not to mention that just earlier in this film Banner mentions that he has this extraordinary healing ability that can close up gunshots and other wounds in mere minutes. And yet this fall from what could only have been a few hundred feet was enough to kill the Hulk outright. It’s just ludicrous. Of course, the rumor is that there was work on a sequel to this film where the Hulk would return, but that was scrapped for financial reasons.
There were a few good moments in the film, while the sympathetic Russian agent Jasmine (pronounced as a very fake Russian Yasmeen) was not really a very strong female character she did have some fun moments throughout the film where she played the con artist. Even the relationship between her and Banner worked out fairly well for the most part even if David is ready to run away with her forever having only known her over the course of about two days. It was also a nice relationship between Banner and the scientist who he was working with, though it was very sill for them to refer to it explicitly as a father/son style relationship. At this point Bill Bixby was in his mid 50’s and shouldn’t have been thought of as anyone’s son. The only way that would have made sense was when David was playing the mentally challenged janitor for however many weeks or months, but that was all based on a lie. And nowadays it comes off as even a little bit offensive towards people with an actual disability. All in all, there just wasn’t a whole lot to latch onto with this film aside from any nostalgic connections to the original show which I just don’t have. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.