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BlokeBusting The Essentials: #97: The Death Of The Incredible Hulk

#97: The Death Of The Incredible Hulk

Or

Who The Hell Is Dave?

Ok guys, we’ve covered 2 Batmans, a Supergirl, Spider-Man and a singing Bad Guy. Now, earlier than you’d think, we’re covering a Hulk film. Which is interesting because not only does Hulk tend to get forgotten about when it comes to Superhero films, it’s very hard to actually get him done right. There’s a few variants of his origin story, there’s various ways you can show his powers and there’s no real definitive rulings on EXACTLY what he can or can’t do. So, how does this one fare? Let’s find out.

First Impressions

This film is the third in a trilogy of films made from a series from the 70’s and 80’s. This came out in 1990 (more on that later), and was the last outing for Bill and Lou as Banner/Hulk. It is also, and I wish I wasn’t joking here, the only time I’ve ever watched anything related to the TV show. I’ve seen the odd clip (as in 1 or 2) and maybe the intro? But this was a totally cold watch for me. And as such, I had some questions. But I will get to that in due time. For now, let’s cover the cast.

The Cast

There are basically 4 characters that are of any real importance in this film. You’ve got Banner, Jasmin, Dr Pratt and Amy Pratt. There are also some bad guys, but they really don’t appear much and are so unmemorable that I don’t recall their names or their motivations other than “Kill them”. So let’s touch on those main four.

Banner/Hulk:

So, here you have the acting duo of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as DAVID Banner and The Hulk. Ok, sorry, I can’t let that go any longer.

Yeah, let’s unpack that. The main question I had throughout this whole film was “Who the hell is David?!?”. Was he a cousin of Bruce (or Robert, if you want to use first names)? Was he in a corner of the room when the accident occurred? After the film was over, I looked it up. There’s a few different ideas floating around but the main explanation given was that the TV show people didn’t want the show to be seen as a comic-book show. You know, the show where Banner turns green, changes into The Hulk, has super strength, gets angry. Yep, that’s how you fool the folks into watching. With a name like David, you know he’s NO relation to that other Banner who turns green, changes into The Hulk, has super strength, gets angry. Bloody hell, TV people can be REALLY stupid.

Anyway, Bixby does ok here. He’s not fantastic but he does have some nice moments. There were times where I genuinely did want to see him finally cure himself. However, that might be because I had no love for Ferrigno as Hulk. He did the best he could, but really this was a problem born by lack of special effects, over-the-top facial expressions and a general feeling of being underwhelmed by his screen presence. Maybe my lack of caring was due to never having watched the show, but honestly that shouldn’t matter. Again, I have no criticism of Lou, it’s clearly what he was told and what he had to work with that lead to the finished product.

Jasmin

Meh. She had a few cool costume changes, a character motivation that seemed solid until the final act and a couple of good lines, but really I could have done without her. It felt like she was only there because Banner needed a love interest. Because that’s what you did in the 90’s. So yeah, that’s it on her.

The Pratts

These guys were the best part of the film. Philip Sterling & Barbara Tarbuck were fun to watch (especially Barb) and they both seemed to really dive into the roles. Sterling’s Dr Pratt was actually believable and was fun to see his realisation of exactly who Banner was and his desire to help him and improve the world. Did the make the whole film worth watching? You’ll find out later.

Special Effects/Stunts

This film was released in 1990, so assume that I’m trying to judge it based on other films of that era. With that being said, this film looks EXACTLY like what you’d expect a film made from a TV show to look like. In fact, it looks like a film that characters in a TV show would watch. You’ve got the (really quite bad) swing near the face fight choreography, you’ve got rather over-the-top foley and you’ve got the standard trick of cinema of the cut-away/cut-back to show progress. However it’s so choppy that it’s jarring to watch. I’d have been much happier if every time Banner became Hulk, we just saw the reaction of someone else, possibly lit by a green glow, before cutting back to Hulk in all his “glory”.

On top of all of this, you have the final scene. I’m not even going to go into it, as it would take waaaaay too long. However, here’s a clip so you can see for yourselves:

Remember, this is THE HULK falling about 300ft.

Yep. It’s bad. Really bad. Ok, moving on.

Before we jump over to Bubbawheat, I’d like to try and say some nice things about the film.

1) It actually holds up a bit better than you’d think. Yes, the writing is bad in places, but it’s not actually awful or filled with badly dated references.

2) The lab scenes are good. The parts where they actually try to do science are interesting and have some good banter.

3) Seriously, Bixby makes me want to watch the original show. I feel like I missed out on a lot of good character development.

Ok good sir, over to you for your take!

I watched all three of the Incredible Hulk TV movies despite having zero experience with the TV series. And despite the fact that I chose this one to put on this list, it was the one that I liked the least. I found that I enjoyed it a little bit more this time around knowing what I was going in for but the pacing was pretty slow, there was very little action, and nobody’s plans really made any sense. Jasmin’s naked back should have gotten its own listing in the credits as often as it showed up. And the whole death scene was so forced, and didn’t make any sense based on what they set up about his healing IN THIS VERY MOVIE! But let’s get onto some of the nitty gritty on its importance within superhero cinema.

This was a TV movie, and the third and final TV movie based on the TV series. And while The Incredible Hulk Returns was a big ratings success coming in fourth for the week it aired, both this film and the previous film Trial of the Incredible Hulk scored more mediocre ratings with 25.2M viewers – ranked 24th for the week which would put it in the high middle. It wasn’t exactly a ratings disaster, but partly because of the low ratings and partly because of Bill Bixby’s cancer diagnosis a couple years later, plans for a sequel were scrapped. This also had the potential to introduce Black Widow, which would have made Jasmin as a character slightly more interesting had she actually been Black Widow. All three of the reunion films also put Bixby in the director’s chair and he would end up directing more than acting for the last few years of his life. This isn’t the best movie, but it’s the series that people have fond memories of and despite the low quality, this was the last vestige of that series people loved so much and gave us the first incarnation of the Incredible Hulk. This is the swan song of the series despite the fact that it goes out on a low note. So I complete understand why Paul had so many questions

Alrighty. We’re at the 3 questions section now and I think this will be interesting. So, to recap, the questions are:

1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?

And charging right ahead we go!

1) Maybe. This film was clearly following on from previous outings. There was no introduction to anybody other than the “villain of the week”. And, as I stated above, this could be quite confusing for anyone coming in from the other side of the decade it was released in. That being said, it’s not terrible and there are some good performances in it. Basically I’d say that anyone who liked the original show or who want to check out what Hulk was like before a wild Eric Bana appeared should give it a watch.

2) Honestly……. no. In the pantheon of Superhero films, with all the entries available, I don’t feel that this one needs to be here. It’s not great cinema, it’s only really special due to being the last Hulk film before the rebirth of Superhero films in the 00’s and it’s not even laughably bad. So yeah, I’m saying no to this one. And that leaves an interesting question. What should be here instead? Personally I think that this is a great time to look to more recent films (ones that came out since the list was last updated) and replacing it with one of them. The film that I think should be here instead is Wonder Woman. And if you don’t understand why, go and ask your nearest female friend who enjoys comics and ask if it deserves a spot. Chances are they’ll agree!

3) Right. Now, adding Wonder Woman into this list would be silly right now. Firstly, we’ve got 93 other films to get through first! Secondly, it would be sitting in the same spot for a while. So, I’ll add it to a second list that will be up for potential inclusion on a future update for the list. And so, once again, the current rankings are as follows:


1) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
2) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
3) Supergirl
4) Batman & Robin
5) The Amazing Spider-Man
6) BvS: Dawn Of Justice

Potential Substitutions:
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)

And so, it’s toodle-oo for another couple of weeks. So relax, sit back with a cool drink and hope that nobody shoots a single bullet into the floor of a tiny plane. Apparently those things are made of dynamite and C4……

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About Hurricane Hawk

I'm a Brit in the US. Yes, my accent is real. No, I'm not from Australia. Oh yeah, I have 2 film podcasts!

Posted on April 1, 2019, in Blokebusting the Essentials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Reverend Moonshine

    I think not being familiar with the TV show really hurt your ability to critique this film, particularly obsessing about Dr. Banner’s first name. It’s like writing a review of the third film of a trilogy without having seen the first two movies, leading you to focus on something that doesn’t matter to anyone who has seen the whole trilogy (or in this case, the TV show). As a child, the show didn’t have enough action to keep my attention, but as an adult, I’ve revisited the television series, and both the acting and writing stand the test of time better than other superhero shows of that era because they tried hard to make a show that would interest adults. It’s not a story about the Hulk, it’s a story about Dr. Banner, which is why I find the TV show much more interesting as an adult than I did as a child. As for the made-for-TV Hulk movies, they’re all pretty much garbage in terms of special effects and writing, particularly Thor and the villains. The least you should do is watch the show’s pilot, which left me with an appreciation for the science fiction aspects of the story that were ahead of their time. I might recommend this film to others, but only if they start with the television series and watch the other two movies first. I would NEVER recommend it as a starting point, because the movie’s source material is the television series, not the comic book. The television series was developed without being tethered to canon in any way. Yes, they had to scale down the Hulk’s abilities, but when you learn to appreciate that the Hulk isn’t the center of this particular story, it makes the lack of special effects less important. If you don’t want to watch the entire television series, there is a box set named “The Incredible Hulk: The Television Series Ultimate Collection” that collects the better episodes. I highly recommend it.

    • I think you’re right about this not being the best introduction for someone who has no familiarity with the series. I don’t want to completely ignore the series, especially since Marvel had so little decent output in this era, but I might replace it with the pilot movie instead of any of the reunion pieces.

      • Hurricane Hawk

        As Mr Moonshine and Bubbawheat said, this was definitely not a good introduction. I could even be convinced to watch the pilot and give that a shot at the list. And yes, Banner is a great character to explore. He’s haunted by this thing inside him that is unbridled fury and pure emotion. It’s always a fun Jekyll & Hyde dynamic to delve into.

        However, this review was my attempt to review the film from the list, compare that to the general Hulk character as we know him and judge it based solely on whether I believe that this film by itself deserves to be on the list. And I do not believe, even with time to watch the whole show, that this particular film should be on it (And not just because they changed his name a bit).

        Also I don’t mind the quality of the special effects. I minded how poorly they used them. It’s possible to have effects that don’t look stunning but then use them creatively. This film did not do that. And maybe that’s a leftover thing from the series, but that counts negatively against it from a critical review standpoint.

        Finally, thanks for the comment! It’s always nice to hear from the people who read these, especially if it’s got constructive criticism!

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