The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I remember the afternoon I first saw this movie. I had no intention of going to see it, since the trailers for it on television were completely uninteresting and unoriginal (this may have been one of the least and most badly promoted movies last year… but moving on…) and I’m not much for giant green monsters. But it was a rainy day and I’d just finished an exhausting six-plus hours of graphics and layout design for a publication and needed some “down time.” So I decided, since the theater was only five minutes away, to catch a showing of The Incredible Hulk.

Having not expected much, I was surprised to really like it. (Admittedly, some part of that has to do with Edward Norton, who doesn’t seem that smart sometimes *cough* he voted for Obama *cough* but is incredibly talented and very cute. And yes, I am a huge fan of The Illusionist — why do you ask?) The story revolves around Bruce, a scientist who was tampering around with some chemicals he shouldn’t have been messing with, and mixed up a cocktail that infused him with an unusual… ah… blood disorder. Whenever he gets really, seriously ticked off, he morphs into a giant green “hulk” kinda like used to be on the Green Giant green bean cans. (Nope, never ate them. Hid them under the broccoli I also didn’t eat.)

Being the hulk has its advantages. Like, you can kick the jerk who has been heckling you for the past six months halfway across South America. You certainly get RESPECT from everyone you meet — who isn’t screaming, crying, or in shock, anyway. Bullets, small nuclear warheads, and the like are no problem whatsoever. (However, apparently bonking your head on a rocky outcropping hurts.) But there are downsides, too. Like never having pants that fit. Like never having se— uh, being friendly with the woman in your life, because just when it’s becoming interesting, your pulse goes up. (Which, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is Never Good.) There you have it, kids, your abstinence message for the week: never give in to temptation, someone might get hurt. Or smushed.

The last time I watched this movie was a couple of days after Christmas. I found it under the tree and squealed when I opened it. My brother said, “Honestly, why on earth would you want THAT?” (He saw the front cover which is, admittedly, hideous. Why not use the cool theatrical poster for the cover? You know, the one with Bruce on it, and the Hulk looming in his shadow? That was awesome!) Now and again I invite my dad over for a movie, and this time he picked Hulk. So there I was curled up on the couch with my cat, revisiting just why I liked it so much to begin with, when he said, “Kinda like a modern day Frankenstein, isn’t it?”

Wait, WHAT?? I stared at him for a moment and then nodded. He has a point. It’s kinda like Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde combined. The former because science has created something it cannot control that leaves destruction in its wake, and the latter because of the concept that once you give in to evil, it takes complete and utter control of you. Neither are depicted in Bruce, of course, but in the villain who, once he has a taste of power, wants more and ultimately becomes far worse than the thing he is attempting to detain. Ironically, both novels were as much a social commentary as for entertainment. The Victorians enjoyed cleverly written opinions and it’s interesting to think that not much has changed in the last hundred-and-fifty years. We are still dealing with enormous advances in science that may or may not be for the better. In attempting cloning and other such research, are we really like Victor Frankenstein, sewing together body parts in a vain attempt to play God? Will our creature, like his, be devoid of compassion and conscience, because we/he is incapable of creating a soul?

Does our modern world of escapism and selfishness make us a bit like Dr. Jekyll, seeking to generate a separate personality in which bad behavior is not only dominant, but encouraged? He wanted to isolate good from evil and make a serum that would prevent mankind’s sin nature from taking hold, but instead it brought out the worst in him. It made him a terrible, destructive, murderous man and eventually that dark side of him came out without taking the serum, because it was dominant. Sin, and indulgences of evil, has a way of doing that.

Some might say Hulk has a message that is anti-military, but I did not take it as such. I see it more as a cautionary tale about scientific carelessness. Bruce at least has the courage to assume responsibility for his own role in the transformation and to do everything he can to prevent his technology from being ill-used. If a friend or higher authority would have pulled the plug on Frankenstein, the Creature would never have been brought to life. If Bruce had been stopped, he would not constantly be on the run. It makes one wonder, is there anything we are experimenting on right now that should be stopped…?

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