The Incredible Hulk Returns
The Incredible Hulk Returns 1988
It’s time to finally finish these Incredible Hulk movies as I end with the first one to come after the end of the TV series. I don’t see myself going all the way back to the original pilots for the show as they feel more like they should be considered pilots rather than TV movies, though I may visit them sometime down the line when I run out of other films to watch. But that’s beside the point, I’m here to talk about this film which was also intended to be a spinoff pilot for a potential Thor series, like the Trial of the Incredible Hulk was intended to be a spinoff pilor for a potential Daredevil series. So once again, this movie focused as much if not more on the origin of their version of Thor than they do on Banner and the Hulk. Though it’s interesting that this was the only TV movie that brought back the character of McGee, the reporter who was apparently a big part of the series and this is his only appearance in these TV films. In fact, this was his last major acting appearance. As far as the quality goes, I would say that it falls somewhere in between the other two, it has a lot of fun moments with Thor, but it also doesn’t really go anywhere by the end.
More than the other two films, this does feel very much like it almost directly followed the end of the series, there are several mentions of it being two years without an incident and David is working in a lab under an assumed name and seeing a woman who he uses to help control his certain kind of urges. The angry kind. The big, green Hulk kind. That probably could still be taken in a sexual way, but whatever. He’s trying to keep things quiet on his end, their project is almost finished and he doesn’t want any of the credit, he just wants to have the chance to work in the lab after hours once in a while. And of course, it’s revealed that he’s using this machine to try and cure himself of his condition, but is interrupted by a nerdy little scientist named David Blake who knew him as David Banner several years ago.
The interesting thing is that while the film uses the comic book secret identity of Thor, they completely change things around as far as how his secret identity works. Here, Donald Black was a scientist who also likes hiking in the mountains. He is drawn to this ancient cave with the tomb of Thor, and he picks up this random hammer and knows to call out Odin’s name to summon the spirit of Thor who is barred from entering Valhalla until he proves himself worthy. So here, Donald Blake is essentially just a regular guy who can call up his buddy Thor to come down and hang out for a while, like a My Buddy. It does lead to a slight discussion about how Blake can control his monster side and truly never has to call him out if he never wanted to. For his part, Thor plays it up as mainly a joke. The actor is Eric Allen Kramer who is likely best known as Little John from Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He is still a pretty big guy and has plenty of moments for comedy, like when Blake finally relents and takes him to a biker bar. The biggest problem is that the whole concept just feels really disjointed, especially considering that when he calls to Odin, Blake always holds the hammer far away from himself with his head turned and his eyes squinted closed as if it were going to explode at any second. And he yells Odin with a thunderous echo, even when they try and do it quietly later on when sneaking into the villain’s lair.
Speaking of the villains, they are the typical random pseudo-military bad guys that seemingly are either crooked cops or are posing as cops since they have a sheriff’s helicopter at one point. It does help that the two main guys are played by Tim Thomerson and Charles Napier. They really help to play up the menace of the two characters even when their motivations are pretty unclear outside of working with one of the other scientists to steal a part of their research for money, or for sabotage, or something along those lines. It’s never really that clear since most of the time is just spent with Blake and Thor. Even Banner’s girlfriend gets tossed to the side pretty quickly after having a nice homemaking moment in the beginning. Once Blake shows up and causes Banner to Hulk out, he blows her off for the next thirty minutes or so. When he finally does show up back at her house, she ends up getting kidnapped by the bad guys the very next day.
The last thing to really mention about this film is that there wasn’t a whole lot in how it was shot. Compared to the next movie with Daredevil, there were quite a few visually interesting shots that cropped up here and there, but not so much with this one. There was also an odd element where every time the Hulk was onscreen by himself, it would be a stilted slow motion that I don’t remember noticing in the two later films. It was especially noticeable when it would cut from one shot with the Hulk in frame by himself in this slight slow motion, then when it cut to another angle when he reached the other characters, it would be back to full speed again. It was apparently done to give extra weight and heft to his character, but since it was shot on video, it wasn’t able to be done the correct way and it just looked out of place and cheap. Aside from that, it was enjoyable enough to watch. Compared to the various ways that I’ve seen Thor handled on film, this was one of them. It wasn’t especially good or wrong, it just was what it was. It still had quite a few of the flaws of being a made-for-TV movie, but it at least wasn’t a bore to sit through. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.