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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, and 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 is forced to Take 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 completely normal. Well, better than normal; 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: A particularly 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 that's 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 action to be a Summer Blockbuster.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Bruce's father, Brian, was renamed "David", likely as a Mythology Gag to The Incredible Hulk 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 out as a hard-working, but loving father, so unlike in the comics. Though David does eventually become antagonistic, mostly for different reasons.
  • 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', and Bruce is hounded by the authorities because any moment he could turn into a giant green monster.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Surprisingly averted with the Hulk. His seemingly senseless rampages in the labs and military bases throughout the film are all attempts to destroy the gamma research before they fall into the wrong hands. He overpowers soldiers but never attempts to kill them.
  • Anti-Villain: General Ross, as opposed to his The Incredible Hulk version. Considering the long history of Hulk comics neither is exactly 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 was passed on genetically when Bruce was conceived. 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 in order to rebuild 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, and it's implied to be the reason why the Hulk is green. But bioluminescence isn't having green skin, it's the ability to emit light from your skin, and the Hulk's skin clearly 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 make in this film just do not work. Something of that much mass would weigh a couple of tons, and yet he jumps like gravity is reduced for him. Gravity does not 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 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: Reversed from the usual; after Hulking Out, ripples are seen in a pool of water next to an unconscious Talbot as the Hulk leaps away in huge bounds.
  • 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 was 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 to turn back into his human form.
  • Big Bad: David Banner, who is 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 separated at the end, and Betty is under constant surveillance from the government for her own 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 in the beginning of the film.
  • Book-Ends: Both the beginning and the end of the film show a shot of the color green.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Early in the film, Hulk-Bruce uses Glenn Talbot as a melee weapon to beat two other people into unconsciousness. After Bruce is captured, Talbot, who is 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 attempt does work and the morgue is exactly 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.
  • Composite Character: David Banner's powers are a combination of the Absorbing Man and electrical elemental Zzzax from the comics. The fact that his form is apparently unstable and he will deteriorate 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 1970s.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The explication of Bruce's transformation into the Hulk in this film, and why the Hulk notably has the ability of becoming bigger and 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 really healthy tween. The bad part is that they also respond to psychological trauma, so when he gets angry they just keep on buffing tissues until you get an big 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, when she was a child she was picked up and set down by Bruce. This also happens during her first encounter with the Hulk when he picks her up and places her on top of her car. The difference being that, in Betty's dream, Bruce is shown as a threatening presence to Betty, while as the Hulk, he's not a source of danger but a protector.
  • Elemental Shapeshifter: After injecting himself with Bruce's reformed DNA, David Banner becomes a very strong and diverse shapeshifter, but he really takes after the elements in the climax, going through electrical, rock, and water-based forms in quick succession.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: Bruce and Betty both. The film could have just as 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 actually trying to find a cure for his son and treating him as a test subject — and indeed, the proof of what he was trying to accomplish.
  • Groin Attack:
    • While the Hulk is fighting 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 up by its legs and punches it in the groin.
    • When Talbott's men shoot sticky foam to contain the Hulk, it's first sprayed at Hulk's crotch.
    • Hulk does this to himself in one of the film's truly funny moments, during the scene when the tanks are attacking him. When he tears the turret off one of them, he's standing over the barrel and racks himself.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Said one by David Banner in an intense fashion.
  • 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, and 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; a secondary superpower of the Hulk. Specifically, they used starfish DNA.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Talbot is blown up after his attempt to kill the Hulk with a grenade launcher fails miserably.
    • David Banner gets exactly what he wanted so much, his son's dormant powers... too bad it's too much for him 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 arguably even becomes an outright 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 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 slams 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 cancelled the year after the film was released and the RAH-66 never entered service.
  • Knockout Gas: Averted 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 a lot of split-screens, flashbacks, wipes and surreal imagery to convey the impression of a mentally damaged individual.
  • LEGO Genetics: David Banner injects the DNA of of many animals 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 colour; and after it fully 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: Talbot gets literally punched through the wall by Hulk and is still conscious, and takes a second hit 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 braced - 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).
  • 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 his work was completely denied by the military.
  • 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 tag line in Spanish, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
    • The mushroom cloud in Bruce's memory invokes the gamma explosion that turned him into the Hulk in the comics.
    • The score by Danny Elfman occasionally samples the score of the live action series.
  • 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' fault David was unable to cure Bruce. Also happens for a certain value of "hero" at the end. With the super-powered Bruce and David Banner throwing down and Bruce over-loading his father's absorbing powers, Ross decides the best solution is to hit them both with a gamma bomb. As that wasn't exactly 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 Hulk Dogs.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Gamma bombs are used as an alternative to nuclear weapons being detonated inside the United States.
  • Offing the Offspring: At first, he David tried to kill baby Bruce, after Ross shuts him down and finding no other way to cure him. Though 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 at all for Hulk at the box office, where it made a record drop in revenue from first to second week. It was so bad that film franchise was rebooted after only four years.
  • Overclocking Attack: How Bruce defeats his father.
  • Painting the Medium: Certain shots are framed in comic book panels to give the feeling that the film is based on a comic book.
  • Parental Abandonment: David was imprisoned for his experiments (and killing his wife), and Bruce was taken away to be adopted.
  • Parental Issues: The major 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 parents and wanted to keep her safe. 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 test on human 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 just 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 in fact act as a sequel to the general elements of this film. The subsequent Avengers film calls back to this by having him in a similar situation, hiding and providing help to the poor in India.
  • 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. Ross, despite being a Control Freak, falls on the "nature" side of "nature vs. nuture", one of the film's multiple subtexts.
  • Sliding Scale of Parent-Shaming in Fiction: David Banner is a Type IV.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The film is deeply cynical.
  • Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue: The film focuses on the visuals with little 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 constantly regenerates 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 exact 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: Bruce's transformation into the Hulk is thoroughly explained 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, but it is a hugely different process to go from the fairly 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, the complete line is given as a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner in Spanish.


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