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Film / Hulk

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Gotta hand it to you, Hulk.

"I don't know who I am. I don't know what I'm...becoming. But I know one thing for sure: you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
Bruce Banner

The 2003 film directed by Ang Lee based on Marvel Comics' The Incredible Hulk.

Dr. David Banner was a researcher for the U.S. military finding ways to enhance soldiers genetically. Denied permission to use human test subjects, he began experimenting on himself, and later on his son Bruce, who inherited something from his father. Everything ends when Lt. Colonel "Thunderbolt" Ross discovers David's experiments. Then Banner sets off the military base's (nuclear and green) self-destruct mechanism before something happens with him and Bruce's mother...

Years later, Bruce "Krenzler" (Eric Bana) is an emotionally repressed researcher at UC Berkeley working on using a combination of gamma radiation and nanomachines for medical purposes; they're able to get the test animals to heal, but they keep exploding in cancerous growth. Adding to his stress are his co-worker and ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), and Glenn Talbot, who's trying to buy Bruce's lab from Betty on behalf of her father, General Ross. Bruce takes the bullet for a lab tech who got trapped with a gamma-ray emitter about to go off and nanomachines in the air, and... wakes up later wholly normal. Well, better than expected; all of his minor aches and pains have somehow healed themselves. Still, somehow he survived when every frog who went through this exploded — and Talbot, Ross, and the weird new janitor (Nick Nolte) are all very interested in what Bruce has done.


See also the game based on this movie.

These tropes are unique:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: An incredibly strange example, as it's more along the lines of "Action Film Quiet Drama First-Two-Thirds-Of-The-Movie," followed by a final act almost entirely comprised of action. It's not entirely sure what sort of movie it wants to be (it's an Ang Lee film, after all), leading to common criticisms that it has too much action to qualify as a family melodrama, but not enough to be a Summer Blockbuster.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Bruce's father, Brian, was renamed "David," likely as a Mythology Gag to The Incredible Hulk (1977) where Bruce himself (sort-of) underwent this, going by his first name, which was changed from "Robert" to "David." It might also have been RetCanoned, seeing as Brian's House of M counterpart had David as his middle name.
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    • Bruce's mother was also renamed from "Rebecca" to "Edith."
  • Adaptation Personality Change: David Banner started as a hard-working but loving father, unlike in the comics. However, David does eventually become antagonistic, mostly for different reasons.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Hulk and David Banner are shades of green.
  • Angst: Boatloads of it, many of them Freudian. Bruce's insane father (who also murdered his mother) is the source of his mutation, who still wants to continue his 'experiment.' At the same time, the authorities hound Bruce because, at any moment, he could turn into a giant green monster.
  • Alien Blood: The dogs have green blood.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Oh yeah. This adaptation plays up Hulk's screwed-up psychology a lot more than most, so Bruce has got daddy issues coming out the ass.
  • All There in the Manual: The website and deleted scenes show more details regarding the nanomeds.
  • Anti-Villain: General Ross, as opposed to his The Incredible Hulk version. Considering the long history of Hulk comics, neither is precisely inaccurate to the comics. He's portrayed as a concerned general who deeply loves his daughter and is just trying to stop the Hulk menace but goes out of his way to pursue and distrust Banner because of who his father is.
  • Archnemesis Dad: David to Bruce. After performing dangerous tests on himself, some of it passed on to Bruce genetically through his conception. He attempted to murder Bruce but failed, striking down his wife in the process. Thirty years later, following his release from prison, he tracks down Bruce and attempts to rebuild their relationship while secretly plotting to drain Bruce's powers and alter-ego to reconstruct his own decaying cellular structure and gain his revenge on the military. A very, very bad dude, though not without his sympathetic moments.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • David Banner extracts the properties of bioluminescence from jellyfish, implied to be why the Hulk is green. But bioluminescence isn't about having green skin, it's the ability to emit light from your skin, and the Hulk's skin doesn't glow, not even in the dark. All he has is skin with green pigment.
    • The film also relies on LEGO Genetics. The intro shows David Banner experimenting with jellyfish, starfish for their regenerative properties, sea cucumbers for their recycling of nutrients, and lizards for their resistance to poisons, and trying to transplant all those into human DNA to create a superhuman being.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Even if super-jumping is a power that the Hulk has in the comics, the jumps he makes in this film do not work. Something of that much mass would weigh a couple of tons, yet he jumps like reduced gravity laws apply to him. Gravity doesn't work that way. note 
    • The liberal use of Not the Fall That Kills You and Soft Water. note 
    • The Raptor that the Hulk hitches a ride on appears to reach escape velocity and drift away into space right when the Hulk passes out from lack of oxygen, although whether it's just sloppy editing is hard to tell. An F-22 couldn't even reach close to that altitude before its engines would stall from lack of oxygen, let alone go fast enough in a vertical climb to reach outer space.
  • Attack Backfire: Talbot's death. He fires a Grenade Launcher only for the round to ricochet off the Hulk and embed itself in the wall behind Talbot, who barely has time for an Oh, Crap! reaction before being blown up.
  • Bad Vibrations: Inverted. After Hulking Out, ripples are seen in a pool of water next to an unconscious Talbot as the Hulk leaps away in huge bounds, on his way to save Betty from his father's threat on her life.
  • Beard of Evil: David Banner sports a big, scraggly beard in the present day after his thirty years in prison.
  • Beast and Beauty: Hulk and Betty.
  • Berserk Button / Cool Down Hug: Betty Ross is both to Banner. The former if anyone is stupid enough to threaten or hurt her, while the latter as she is one of the few people that could calm him down long enough for him to return to his human form.
  • Big Bad: David Banner, responsible for destroying Bruce's life by experimenting on himself and his son out of an obsession with advancing humanity beyond its limits, creating the Hulk. He intends to drain Bruce's powers to regenerate himself and get his revenge on the military.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bruce and Betty are still separate at the end, and Betty is under constant surveillance from the government for her protection. However, Bruce is still alive and trying to help people, and with all things considered, Betty's relationship with her father is much better than it was at the beginning of the film.
  • Book-Ends: Both the beginning and the end of the film show a color green shot.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Early in the film, Hulk uses Glenn Talbot as a melee weapon to beat two other people into unconsciousness. After the army captures Bruce, Talbot, wearing a cast and neck brace, decides that shocking Bruce repeatedly with a cattle prod to try to get him to change into the Hulk (so Talbot can get a blood sample) is a good idea. Luckily for Talbot, this attempt fails, or he probably would've ended up in intensive care or the morgue. Unluckily for Talbot, his next effort does work and the morgue is where he ends up.
  • The Cameo: Lou Ferrigno (the Hulk from the TV show) and Stan Lee (Hulk's creator) appear as security guards.
  • Canon Foreigner: Bruce's foster mother, Mrs. Krenzler.
  • Chewing the Scenery: David Banner, just before his transformation. Figurative and literal, as that page's image shows.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Since the film is more dramatic, codenames are never used.
  • Composite Character: David Banner's powers combine the Absorbing Man and electrical elemental Zzzax from the comics. The detail of his form being unstable and deteriorating without the Hulk's power is similar to Half-life.
  • Darker and Edgier: When compared to the source material.
  • Death Glare: David Banner when Ross shuts down his experiments. Ross to Bruce Banner, much to the latter's confusion as he's never met Betty's father before. Bruce, of course, does this whenever he's about to start Hulking Out.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The frequent reaction to the early scenes before the Hulk appears.
  • Distant Prologue: The prologue takes place in the 1960s and 70s.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The explication of Bruce's transformation into the Hulk in this film, and why the Hulk can notably become bigger as he becomes angrier, is that his nanomeds heal tissue in response to trauma, and the mutation Bruce inherited from his father's experiments keep them from going malignant. The good side of this is that Bruce came out of it with the body of a healthy tween. The bad part is that they also respond to psychological trauma, so when he gets angry, they keep buffing tissues until you get an enormous angry green WMD. And since he witnessed his father killing his mother while trying to kill him, he's got psychological trauma to spare.
  • Doomed Hometown: Bruce returns to the military base he grew up on, now a desolate ghost town used to camouflage the Elaborate Underground Base beneath. What's left gets destroyed by an artillery strike aimed at the Hulk.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In Betty's dream, she was picked up and set down by Bruce when she was a child. The same thing happens during Betty's first encounter with the Hulk. The difference is that, in her dream, Bruce is a threat to Betty, but in real life as the Hulk, he's a protector instead. In the novelization by Peter David, Betty has other dreams, and she dismisses the possibility of them foretelling the future.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: David Banner is a monster, make no mistake about it - but he genuinely loved his wife and was devastated when he accidentally killed her.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: General Ross co-ordinates the far more high-tech Hulkbusters from one on at least one occasion.
  • Expy: David Banner seems to be the stand-in for the Absorbing Man at the end.
  • Fearsome Foot: A few shots during some transformation scenes show Bruce's feet growing so large that his shoes and socks tear off.
  • Film Noir: The film has heavy hints of noir with the cinematography and lighting.
  • Freudian Excuse: Bruce and Betty both. The film could have easily been called "Daddy Issues: The Movie."
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Genetic tampering, nanobots and radiation.
  • Genre-Busting: The movie had many hints of science fiction, horror, psychological drama, and neo-noir.
  • Go for the Eye: Glenn Talbot wants a sample of the Hulk's DNA, but the drills won't penetrate his skin. So Talbot gets his mooks to trap the Hulk in sticky foam and prepares to jab a nasty-looking drill-syringe in the Hulk's eye.
  • Guinea Pig Family: Besides using himself as a test subject, David also used his son Bruce, who inherited some of his father's modifications. The film deconstructs this trope in how David is torn between treating Bruce as a test subject and trying to find a cure for him and seeing Bruce as the proof of what he tried to accomplish.
  • Groin Attack:
    • While the Hulk fights the mutated dogs, the poodle bites and pulls on the crotch of Hulk's shorts until he yanks the poodle off. If one thinks about it, it's Hilarious in Hindsight because Hulk's reaction might remind someone of how it feels to be on the receiving end of a melvin wedgie.
    • To make the bull mastiff let go of his leg, Hulk lifts it by its legs and punches it in the groin.
    • When Talbott's men shoot sticky foam to contain the Hulk, they spray it at Hulk's crotch first.
    • Hulk does this to himself in one of the film's amusing moments. When he tears the turret off one of the tanks attacking him, he's standing over the barrel and accidentally racks himself.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Said one by David Banner intensely.
  • Hate Sink: Talbot seems purpose-made to make the audience loathe him. The real threat of the film is Bruce's evil, obsessed father David, who is the root cause of the entire Hulk problem. General Ross is a man trying to do what's right to stop a genuine menace, even if he goes out of his way to persecute Bruce out of prejudice. Talbot is just a smug corporate bastard who only wants fame and glory, endangers everyone by going over Ross's head to unleash the Hulk, bullies Bruce whenever he can and being a dickish romantic foil, and contributes little to the story besides repeatedly getting Bruce into Hulk-mode and have it satisfyingly backfire onto him.
  • Healing Factor: What both Bruce and David Banner's experiments were trying to create, one of the Hulk's secondary superpowers. Specifically, they used starfish DNA.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Talbot gets blown up after he attempts to kill the Hulk with a grenade launcher fails miserably.
    • David Banner gets what he wanted so much: his son's dormant power... too bad it's too much for David to handle and his body becomes so unstable that he gets blown up by the military.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Hulk, natch. David joins this trope near the end — and even becomes a borderline Eldritch Abomination just before dying.
  • Humans Are Bastards: David Banner ranted to Bruce that humanity has gone wrong.
    David: Think of all those men out there, in their uniforms! Barking and swallowing orders! Inflicting their petty rule over the entire globe! Think of all the harm they've done! To you! To me! To humanity! And know this, that we can make them, and their flags and their anthems and their governments disappear! In a flash! You and me!
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Many wipes were done in editing in an attempt to mimic comic book panels shuffling around each other, often showing the same scene from multiple viewpoints. At one point, a wipe was done by chroma-keying the background behind a random fern.
  • Indecisive Medium: The film occasionally presents multiple images in a format resembling a comic book page.
  • Jump Scare: Many first-time viewers tend to be caught off-guard by the dream scene where the Hulk's reflection bursts through a mirror and grabs Bruce.
  • Just Plane Wrong: A retroactive variant. Among the Army assets that Ross sends after the Hulk after he breaks out of the base is a group of what are clearly RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopters, which were still in development at the time of the film (as were the F-22 Raptors seen later). Unfortunately for the film, the project was canceled the year after the film was released, and the RAH-66 never entered service.
  • Knockout Gas: Stopped with a Sneeze of Doom by the Hulk.
  • Large Ham: Nick Nolte is clearly having fun playing a wacko. And he finishes a hammy speech (with plenty of gesturing) by literally Chewing the Scenery.
  • Le Film Artistique: The film utilizes many split-screens, flashbacks, wipes, and surreal imagery to convey the impression of a mentally damaged individual.
  • LEGO Genetics: David Banner injects many animals' DNA like starfish or jellyfish into himself, and Bruce inherits these. However, they never manifest until his accident with gamma rays.
  • Left Hanging: Betty's "dream" of when she was younger, and her father left her (to deal with David breaking into the lab) with a soldier, who was doing... something with her.
  • Logo Joke: The Marvel logo features comic-book images of the Hulk in its pages; it's shaded green, the Hulk's traditional color, and after it forms, it bubbles out of the frame, reflecting the biological experiments carried out.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Yes, the new janitor at Bruce's lab is his long-lost father, David.
  • Made of Iron: After Hulk hurls Talbot through a wall, the man is still conscious, and it takes a second hit for him to go down. Though Reality Ensues that he is still severely hurt, the extent of his injuries isn't specified: his arm is in a sling, and his neck and knee are in braces, but he shouldn't be in one piece, let alone alive, walking, or wielding a high-tech drill/syringe let alone firing a grenade launcher.
  • Mad Scientist: David Banner's amorality is pretty apparent throughout the film, what with his willingness to use human test subjects for his experiments (including his own infant son) — but it's not until near the end that the full extent of his megalomania is on display.
  • Magic Pants: Except for one scene where Bruce ends up naked after calming down, appears at full effect (and in a homage to the comics, they're purple).
  • Material Mimicry: After injecting himself with Bruce's reformed DNA, David Banner can become whatever he touches, but he mainly takes after the elements in the climax, going through electrical, rock, and water-based forms in quick succession.
  • Mercy Kill: After Ross shuts down his attempt to find a cure for his son, David Banner tries to kill Bruce under this trope. Unfortunately, his wife gets in the way.
  • Militaries Are Useless: David Banner's philosophy after the military completely denied his work.
  • Mind Screw: The film's broad symbolism can be baffling, especially the dogs and David Banner's transformation.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: David Banner after he accidentally kills his wife. He also feels belated guilt over passing on the mutation to his son and tries to find a cure before Ross shuts him down.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • "Puny human!" and Bruce's dad having his name in the TV series.
    • There is one use of the TV show's tagline in Spanish, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
    • The mushroom cloud in Bruce's memory invokes the gamma explosion from the comics that turned him into the Hulk.
    • Danny Elfman's score occasionally samples the score of the live-action series.
  • Nature vs. Nurture: The film focuses on what makes Bruce a product of his father.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer made it seem like a regular action movie. Considering the Hulk takes 45 minutes to appear, it is far more focused on drama.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It was General Ross's fault David was unable to cure Bruce. It also happens for a particular value of "hero" at the end. With the superpowered Bruce and David Banner throwing down and Bruce overloading his father's absorbing powers, Ross decides the best solution is to hit them both with a gamma bomb. As that wasn't precisely how Bruce's (and David's, but Ross doesn't necessarily know that) powers were awakened in the first place, all it does is remake the Hulk.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Lampshaded at the end. Even though General Ross thinks there's no way Bruce could have survived an atomic explosion, he has his daughter under full surveillance in case he's wrong. While Betty hopes Bruce doesn't contact her if he survived.
  • No-Sell: Talbot shoots a grenade at the Hulk. The grenade bounces off his skin and flies back to kill Talbot.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: David Banner sits too close to Betty on the couch to get hold of her scarf as a scent tracker for his future Hulk Dogs.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The government uses gamma bombs as an alternative to nuclear weapons detonated inside the United States.
  • Offing the Offspring: At first, David tried to kill baby Bruce, after Ross shuts him down and finding no other way to cure him. By the end, David wants to kill Bruce so he can absorb Bruce's Hulk powers back into himself to stabilize his mutated body, arguing that he gave him life in the first place and should give it back.
  • One-Winged Angel: Although David Banner gains his powers midway through the movie, they really kick in at the climax, robbing him of all human semblance (for the catalyst, see Chewing the Scenery, particularly that page's image).
  • Oscar Bait: A rare superhero film example before The Dark Knight Trilogy and Logan. Stands in stark contrast to most Critic-Proof superhero movies, including The Incredible Hulk. Though this pleased the critics, this formula for a superhero film did not work well for Hulk at the box office, where it made a record drop in revenue from the first to the second week. It was so bad that Marvel rebooted the film franchise after only four years.
  • Overclocking Attack: How Bruce defeats his father.
  • Painting the Medium: Certain shots are framed in comic book panels to make it look like a comic book-based film.
  • Parental Abandonment: General Ross imprisoned David for his experiments (and killing his wife), and took Bruce away to be adopted.
  • Parental Issues: The central theme of the film. Watch Hulk and then count how many sub-tropes from that page show up in some form.
  • Parents as People: General Ross wanted to be a part of Betty's life but couldn't because of his work. He also disapproved of her relationship with Bruce, but only because he knew about Bruce's abusive father and wanted to protect Betty. By the end of the film, Betty's house, phone, and computer are being monitored in case Bruce ever attempts to contact her, but the two of them make an effort to stay on good terms.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Dr. David Banner resorted to using himself as a test subject for his Bio-Augmentation research after the Army refused to let him use human test subjects.
  • Psycho Poodle: One of the dogs of Dr. David Banner is a French Poodle, which he later injects with the mutation serum, so it turns into a man-eating poodle from hell before siccing it on Bruce's Love Interest Betty Ross.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Talbot wants revenge on Bruce for his beating just as much as he wants Bruce's DNA. He tortures Bruce into becoming the Hulk, and when it goes wrong, he decides to kill him.
  • Ride the Lightning: David Banner absorbs enough electricity to become a monster made of lightning. He grabs the Hulkified Bruce, and they travel miles inland on his coattails, fighting in the clouds.
  • Rock Monster: David briefly transforms into a rock man during his fight with the Hulk. He is rammed into and merged with a huge boulder and thrown in a lake, where he further transforms into a water elemental.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Hulk is about to crush you!
  • Sequel Hook: The scene in South America at the end, showing Bruce trying to help others and deal with his condition. Surprisingly, The Incredible Hulk film picks up on this plot point and could act as this film's spiritual sequel. The subsequent Avengers film calls back to this by having him in a similar situation, hiding and providing help to India's poor.
  • Signature Style: Critics and viewers alike had a better reception of the film if they were aware of director Ang Lee's other work, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which has many similarities: Scenery Porn, an abundance of Quiet Drama Scenes, a rather inspired (if bizarre) application of Wuxia, and Tragedy.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: General Ross's hatred of Bruce arises from what David Banner did before being sent to prison. Well, that and the fact that he was dating his daughter. Despite being a Control Freak, Ross falls on the "nature" side of "nature vs. nurture," one of the film's multiple subtexts.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The film is deeply cynical.
  • Sliding Scale of Parent-Shaming in Fiction: David Banner is a Type IV.
  • Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue: The film focuses on the visuals with some dialogue.
  • Smug Snake: Talbot.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: The size also varies with the strength.
  • Tanks for Nothing: Four tanks confront the Hulk out in the desert. The first one he flings away, the second he rips off the turret (before shaking out everyone inside), and uses it to beat the crap out of the third, and for the fourth, he bends the cannon muzzle so that it aims right at the gunner.
  • Title Drop: Done by Bruce after he transforms back to normal, just after his fight with the hulked-up dogs.
    Bruce: "My father sent them. He is my father. He wanted me to change. He wanted me to change into that mindless hulk."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Seriously, will General Ross ever get that shooting = Banner turning into Hulk? Bruce spends the entire movie trying to lay low and keep things under control. Then the military catches him, tries to perform experiments on him, he turns into the Hulk, and they make things WORSE by hitting him with heavy artillery, making him angrier than before.
    • Talbot earns some stupid points too; he believes that only turning Bruce into the Hulk would give him access to the DNA when earlier it showed that the key to Bruce's power lay within his bloodstream, as David demonstrated on his dogs, regardless if he transforms or not. Not only is it stupid for that reason, but even then, the Hulk's skin is too dense and continually regenerating, so he can't get any in pieces either.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Ross doesn't think it's a coincidence that Bruce entered the same field that his father did, meaning either they're working together after all, or "I was going to say damned." When we later discover that David Banner murdered his wife, it adds a Papa Bear subtext to Ross' concern given that Bruce is dating his daughter.
  • Two-Keyed Lock: Combined with No OSHA Compliance as the locks are close enough for David Banner to activate the Self-Destruct Mechanism on the base after stealing both keys.
  • Voodoo Shark: The film thoroughly explains Bruce's transformation into the Hulk every step of the way. But then his father, who has taken the same meds and undergoes the gamma-ray bathing, turns into the Absorbing Man, for some reason. It's implied David Banner transformed so differently because his genetic treatments were self-administered rather than naturally born like Bruce's. Still, it is a hugely different process to go from the somewhat plausible "growing tons of muscle" to the fantastical "turn yourself into water, metal, concrete, electricity..."
  • You Won't Feel a Thing: As Talbot prepares to shove a nasty-looking drill-syringe in the Hulk's eye, he quips, "This might give you a bit of a sting here, Bruce..."
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Homaged when Talbot is roughing up Bruce, causing him to growl, "Talbot, you're making me angry!" before Hulking Out. At the end of the movie, Bruce gives the complete line as a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner in Spanish. Bruce also says the full line in one of the film's trailers.


Video Example(s):


Take it Back

The Hulk learns that the angrier he gets, the more gamma energy his father will steal. Bruce's solution? To test if Brian can live with so much power.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoingToGiveItMoreEnergy

Media sources:

Main / GoingToGiveItMoreEnergy