Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Incredible Hulk Reunion Movies

After going for five seasons of David Banner hitch hiking across the United States and meeting people who need his help and sometimes the help of the Hulk, The Incredible Hulk series was cancelled and there was no proper ending. David was still on the move, he would still become the Hulk when angry, and Jack McGee was always on the trail of the Hulk. Even though that guy was responsible for David being on the run.

While I understand that there's a lot of fan favorite episodes that I missed by stopping after the first three episodes of Season Two when Netflix took the show off (for now), skipping ahead to the reunion movies that began in 1988, I didn't feel like there was anything I missed out on when it came to understanding the characters.

The Incredible Hulk Returns finds David "Bannon" (Banner would change his last name to conceal his identity, a standard through the show) helping to work on a machine that can draw out gamma radiation and convert it to energy. He intends to use it on himself secretly to finally be rid of the Hulk, but he is interrupted by former colleague Donald Blake who tells him how he discovered the tomb of Thor, and taking the hammer, was granted the ability to summon Thor, who needs to make up for his life of irresponsibility by doing good deeds before he can enter Valhalla. Blake summons Thor, who damages the machine, which makes David turn into the Hulk.

This sets David's experiment back and after a crime group targets the machine and David's current lady, winds up creating a standard "Hulk and Thor eventually beat up the bad guys and rescue the girl" situation.

The second movie, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, has David "Belson" get thrown in jail after a woman claims he assaulted her on the subway. David's defense attorney? Matt Murdock. After discovering the woman was kidnapped and forced to lie by a gang run by Wilson Fisk (played by John Rhys-Davies), Matt and David reveal their alter egos of Daredevil and the Hulk to each other in a combined effort to take out the gang.

Both of these movies aren't too different from the TV show's original formula, ending with David back on the road. What they do differently is give other heroes for David/Hulk to work with. These were also supposed to be backdoor pilots for Thor and Daredevil shows, but they didn't take off. I couldn't help but feel that it might have been a better idea if CBS had done story arcs with Captain America and Dr. Strange instead of their pilot movies. Hulk on his own with regular people gets rather repetitive, but like the movie The Avengers would show people 23 years later, Hulk is best when he has other colorful characters to work with.

Thor again strays from his original comic origin, but Daredevil sticks to it, but Foggy Nelson has been replaced by a female lawyer named Christa Klein. Trial doesn't have a "real" trial scene, the only time David's in a courtroom is in a dream scene, which marks the first Stan Lee cameo in a live action Marvel movie.

The final one was released in 1990 and was titled The Death of the Incredible Hulk. Wow, guess how this ends?

David "Bellamy" manages to find a Dr. Pratt whose work might actually rid David of the Hulk once and for all. However, the work is pushed ahead by funding getting cut and then interrupted as a European spy ring tries to steal the research thanks to pulling in wannabe retired female Russian spy Jasmin who tries to double cross the other spies when she falls in love with David. The Hulk ends up confronting the leader of the spy ring on a plane, and when they try to shoot him, he makes the plane explode. He falls out of the plane onto the pavement below, where he turns back into David Banner and dies.

The ending doesn't really ring true to the nature of the Hulk as the character is supposed to be able to endure major injuries, and David even mentions that turning into the Hulk and back causes him to surprisingly recover from things such as gunshots. What should've been a major moment for the character feels like a poorly written cop. Also, why on earth wasn't Jasmin just Black Widow?

There had been plans to do another movie where David is revived, and something about an Iron Man follow up, but The Incredible Hulk reunion movies saw gradually poorer ratings, so future plans were cancelled. Three years later, Bill Bixby died of cancer. Lou Ferrigno's future would see him voice the Hulk in a 90s animated series and again for films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He would also appear in cameo roles as security guards in the Hulk-solo movies Hulk and The Incredible Hulk.

Given that they had once proposed a reunion crossover with the quickly-cancelled Amazing Spider-Man show, we could see all the CBS/NBC live action TV Marvel properties as one universe. The Death of the Incredible Hulk wound up being the final entry in the tales of that universe, and\frankly, I'm glad they basically went on to do a much better TV universe in the animated shows that popped up in the 90s.

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