Comics fans know by now how the Incredible Hulk came to be, but do we need to see a new origin story just because it’s never been done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? At least some fans think so.
For a studio that has seen so much stratospheric success, Marvel has struggled to get the Hulk right. A tangle of rights issues has contributed to there not being a second solo Hulk movie, but if one does get made, is it really worth a do-over of the complete story? History suggests the answer may be no.
How did Bruce Banner become the Hulk?
The Hulk’s origin story has been told many times over in different media, but the common thread is that a Dr. Banner gets hit with too much gamma radiation, and that causes problems when he gets mad. In the comics, Bruce Banner saves the life of a teenager who has trespassed onto the test site but in so doing gets hit by the blast.
The CBS show The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby made the origin more grounded in personal trauma. Dr. Banner, called David in the series, is haunted by his inability to save his wife after a car accident. He unwittingly gives himself a dangerously high dosage of gamma radiation to tap into hidden reserves of strength that manifests in emergencies, and he gets much more than he bargained for.
The 2003 movie made by Universal starring Eric Bana and directed by Ang Lee sort of met in the middle of those two versions. Again, Banner takes an overdose of gamma radiation trying to save the life of a lab assistant. However, Banner is also dealing with repressed trauma that makes his anger issues even more tragic and potentially dangerous.
The MCU’s Hulk is not that ‘Incredible’
When Marvel made their Hulk movie in 2008, they not unreasonably figured that viewers already knew the origin in one way or another, so they didn’t bother to depict it at all. This made for less exposition and more action, but not necessarily a better movie.
In most rankings of MCU movies, The Incredible Hulk falls at or near the bottom of the pile.
On Reddit, a fan argued the MCU should get a do-over and include the origin story. “Not the gamma bomb. I want the full setup from when Bruce was a kid and saw his abusive dad murder his own mother creating the Hulk inside his head. I wish the MCU audience had been shown why Bruce is so angry.”
This suggestion ignores the fact that the “abusive dad” origin came from a film not made by Marvel Studios, and they probably wouldn’t want to copy that idea in their own movie, provided they ever make one.
In a situation similar to the Spider-Man/Sony arrangement, Marvel can put the Hulk in a movie, but they can’t make him the lead without giving Universal the right of first refusal.
In fact, Spider-Man teaches a lesson that maybe an origin story is not the best idea.
An origin story may be a step backwards.
After Sony made three very successful Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi, the studio infamously decided to reboot the series with a new Spider-Man in Andrew Garfield and a new director, Marc Webb. Even though the story of Peter Parker getting bitten by the radioactive spider is very well known, Sony chose to depict it again, leading some viewers to think that movie was a pale imitation of the 2002 film.
Fans also complained when Batman v. Superman gave us yet another new version of Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered, and some rolled their eyes recently when it was announced the new Batman film with Robert Pattinson would “explore Bruce Wayne’s trauma.” Again?
It was telling that when the MCU brought Spider-Man into the fold, they dispensed with the origin story entirely. If and when Marvel Studios ever gets to make a new Hulk movie, they might do well to follow that example, lest they get accused of botching the Hulk again.
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