PUBLISHED 11 JULY 2016
IT is widely known that jealousy is a green-eyed monster but Marvel Comics believed anger could be one too.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962, The Hulk's defining trait is a struggle to keep calm and not unleash the raging monster within. He has had many iterations in film and television, beginning with the US cartoon series THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES that was televised in 1966 and featured “The Incredible Hulk” alongside “Captain America”, “The Invincible Iron Man”, “The Mighty Thor” and “Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner”. Most recently, The Hulk appeared in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (Joss Whedon 2015) .
Many actors have portrayed the Hulk on screen but the most interesting transition is from Edward Norton in THE INCREDIBLE HULK to Mark Ruffalo in THE AVENGERS. With this change came two markedly different portrayals of the Hulk.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK focuses on the Hulk's super anger and super power and less on the internal struggle experienced by scientist Bruce Banner, The Hulk’s original form. Banner does not want to become the Hulk. He hides it inside him and does everything he can to stop it from breaking out. He also does not want to be a hero and this presents a challenge in making a superhero film. The film rarely focuses on Banner’s emotional side; it is mostly concerned with showcasing the Hulk's destructive capabilities. The film’s biggest scenes are the ones where an outburst of anger causes the Hulk to destroy a college campus and a final battle between the villainous abomination that rages destruction throughout the city.
A line of dialogue in THE AVENGERS shows immediately why the Whedon film has the more interesting Hulk. Banner has been called onto the Helicarrier to help locate the Tesseract. Noticing a cell, he says “In case you needed to kill me, but you can't! I know! I tried!” His declaration reveals the character’s struggle, showing an unexpected vulnerability in a physically strong character. At one point in his life, it is implied, Banner attempted to kill himself but the Hulk would not let him. This admission indicates that Banner never wanted to be the Hulk, that he does not see himself as a hero, but is a man with a great deal of internal pain. He is not just a monster from the perspective of onlookers but to himself as well. At least half of the film focuses on Banner and how he has managed to keep the Hulk at bay, revealing the psychological effect that having this power has had.
While THE AVENGERS presents the most fully realised Hulk to date in Mark Ruffalo, perhaps that reason that a solo Marvel endeavour has yet to happen is because it requires a focus on the internal struggle between man and monster, instead of the usual “Hulk Smash”.