The Incredbile Hulk is a 2008 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Universal Pictures, it is the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It was directed by Louis Leterrier from a screenplay by Zak Penn, and stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner alongside Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, and William Hurt. In the film, Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk as an unwitting pawn in a military scheme to reinvigorate the "Super-Soldier" program through gamma radiation. Banner goes on the run from the military while attempting to cure himself of the Hulk.
After the mixed reception to Universal's 2003 film Hulk, Marvel Studios reacquired the rights to the character though Universal retained distribution rights. Leterrier, who had expressed interest in directing Iron Man for Marvel, was brought onboard and Penn began work on a script that would be much closer to the comics and the 1978 television series of the same name. In April 2007, Norton was hired to portray Banner and to rewrite Penn's screenplay. His script positioned the film as a reboot of the series, distancing it from the 2003 film to give the new version its own identity. Norton was ultimately not credited for his writing. Filming took place from July to November 2007, primarily in Toronto, Canada, with additional filming in New York City and Rio de Janeiro. Over 700 visual effects shots were created in post-production using a combination of motion capture and computer-generated imagery to complete the film.
The Incredible Hulk premiered at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California, on June 8, 2008, and was released in the United States on June 13, as part of Phase One of the MCU. It received generally favorable reviews and was considered to be an improvement over the 2003 film. The film grossed $264.8 million worldwide, making it the lowest-grossing film of the MCU. Norton disputed with Marvel over the final edit of the film and was replaced in the role of Banner by Mark Ruffalo for future MCU content, starting with The Avengers in 2012.
At Culver University in Virginia, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross meets with Dr. Bruce Banner, the colleague and boyfriend of his daughter Betty, regarding an experiment that Ross claims is meant to make humans immune to gamma radiation. The experiment—part of a World War II-era "super-soldier" program that Ross hopes to recreate—fails. The exposure to gamma radiation causes Banner to transform into the Hulk for brief periods of time, whenever his heart rate rises above 200 beats per minute. The Hulk destroys the lab and surrounding area, killing several people inside and injuring the General and Betty, and others outside. Banner becomes a fugitive from the U.S. military and Ross, who wants to weaponize the Hulk.
Five years later, Banner works at a bottling factory in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, while searching for a cure for his condition. On the internet, he anonymously collaborates with a colleague known only as "Mr. Blue." He is learning Yoga techniques to help keep control and has not transformed in five months. After Banner cuts his finger, a drop of his blood falls into a bottle, which is eventually ingested by an elderly consumer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, giving him gamma sickness. Using the bottle to track down Banner, Ross sends a special forces team, led by Emil Blonsky, to capture him. Banner transforms into the Hulk and defeats Blonsky's team. After Ross explains how Banner became the Hulk, Blonsky agrees to be injected with a small amount of a similar serum, which gives him enhanced speed, strength, agility, and healing and begins to deform his skeleton and impairs his judgment.
Banner returns to Culver University and reunites with Betty. Banner is attacked a second time by Ross and Blonsky's forces, tipped off by Betty's suspicious boyfriend Leonard Samson, causing Banner to again transform into the Hulk. The ensuing battle outside the university proves futile for Ross' forces, and they retreat, though Blonsky, whose sanity is faltering, attacks and mocks the Hulk. The Hulk severely injures Blonsky and flees with Betty. After the Hulk reverts to Banner, he and Betty go on the run, and Banner contacts Mr. Blue, who urges them to meet him in New York City. Mr. Blue is actually cellular biologist Dr. Samuel Sterns, who tells Banner he has developed a possible antidote to Banner's condition. After a successful test, he warns Banner that the antidote may only reverse each transformation. Sterns reveals he has synthesized Banner's blood samples, which Banner sent from Brazil, into a large supply, to apply its "limitless potential" to medicine. Fearful of the Hulk's power falling into the military's hands, Banner wishes to destroy the blood supply.
A recovered Blonsky joins Ross' forces for a third attempt to take Banner into custody. They succeed, and Banner and Betty are taken away in a helicopter. Blonsky stays behind and orders Sterns to inject him with Banner's blood, as he covets the Hulk's power. The experiment mutates Blonsky into the Abomination, a creature with size and strength surpassing that of the Hulk. He attacks Sterns, who gets some of Banner's blood in a cut on his forehead, causing him to begin mutating as well. The Abomination rampages through Harlem.
Realizing that the Hulk is the only one who can stop the Abomination, Banner convinces Ross to release him. He jumps from Ross' helicopter and transforms after hitting the ground. After a battle throughout Harlem, the Hulk defeats the Abomination by nearly strangling him to death with a chain, but spares his life upon hearing Betty's plea and leaves the Abomination for Ross and his forces to arrest. After having a peaceful moment with Betty, the Hulk flees New York.
A month later, Banner is in Bella Coola, British Columbia. Instead of suppressing his transformation, he begins to transform in a controlled manner with a slight smirk. Later, Tony Stark approaches Ross at a local bar and informs him that a team is being put together.
- Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, a nuclear physicist and biochemist at Culver University who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into an enormous green humanoid monster when enraged or agitated.
- Lou Ferrigno provides vocal performance as the Hulk.
- Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, a cellular biologist and Bruce's former girlfriend, from whom he is separated as a result of his condition.
- Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky / Abomination, a Russian-born officer in the United Kingdom's Royal Marines Commandos loaned to Ross who, lusting for the Hulk's power, is injected with various serums that transforms him into a near-skeletal humanoid monster more powerful than the Hulk himself.
- Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns, a cellular biologist who develops a possible antidote to Banner's condition.
- Ty Burrell as Leonard Samson, a psychiatrist who is in a relationship with Betty during Bruce's absence.
- William Hurt as Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, Betty's father and a U.S. Army general who has dedicated himself to capturing the Hulk.
Robert Downey Jr. has an uncredited cameo as Tony Stark at the end of the film. Downey appeared as a favor to Marvel Studios, which he acknowledged as a smart move on Marvel's part, because when he was promoting his film he would also have to mention their other production. Hulk co-creator Stan Lee cameos as a man who becomes ill when drinking the soda poisoned by Banner's blood. Michael K. Williams appears as a Harlem bystander, a role that was written for him by Norton, who is a fan of The Wire. Paul Soles, who voiced Banner in the 1966 The Marvel Super Heroes animated series, appears as Stanley, a kindly pizza restaurant owner who helps Banner. Additionally, the late Bill Bixby appears, in a scene on his TV comedy-drama The Courtship of Eddie's Father on a television Banner is watching at the beginning of the film. Rickson Gracie has a small role as Bruce Banner's martial arts instructor; despite Gracie's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background, he is credited as an Aikido instructor. Brazilian actress Débora Nascimento makes a cameo as Martina, Banner's colleague at a beverage factory. Peter Mensah plays a small role as General Joe Greller, one of General Ross' military friends/associates. Christina Cabot portrays Major Kathleen Sparr, General Ross' personal aide. Hulk supporting characters, Jim Wilson and Jack McGee, make cameo appearances as Culver University students played by P.J. Kerr and Nicholas Rose, respectively. Martin Starr plays a college student, credited as "Computer Nerd". This character was retroactively revealed to be Roger Harrington, Starr's role in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), as confirmed in May 2019 by Feige.
The Incredible Hulk earned $134.8 million in the United States and Canada, as well as $128.6 million from other territories, for a worldwide total of $263.4 million. The film, even though it barely passed its predecessor, and only equalled it if the smaller budget of the first film is taken into account, was still considered moderately successful. Entertainment analyst David Davis told The Hollywood Reporter, "The first Hulk had such high expectations after the NBCUniversal merger and was supposed to be critical favorite Ang Lee's breakout commercial blockbuster. Then with the new Hulk film, Marvel was able to underplay the importance of the success after the great success of Iron Man this summer. So the new one overdelivered, relative to its underpromise."
The film earned $55.4 million in its opening weekend, becoming the top film at the box office. Behind Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, it was the second-highest gross for a film released over the Father's Day weekend. This surpassed industry expectations of a $45 million opening, following the disappointing response to the 2003 film. Universal believed word of mouth would contribute to the film breaking even eventually.
The Incredible Hulk also opened in 38 other countries, adding $31 million to the total opening. The film outgrossed the 2003 film in South Korea, while its openings in Mexico and Russia created records for Universal. The film grossed 24 million yuan (roughly $3.4 million) in its Chinese opening on August 26, outgrossing the previous film's overall gross of 10 million yuan.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 67% approval rating with an average score of 6.20/10, based on 238 reviews, an improvement over the 2003 film's 62% score. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Incredible Hulk may not be quite the smashing success that fans of Marvel's raging behemoth might hope for, but it offers more than enough big green action to make up for its occasionally puny narrative." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.