0:00:55 – Opening credits, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross
The Incredible Hulk ignores Ang Lee’s Hulk for a new version of the character heavily influenced by the television series, the mini-series Hulk: Gray by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, and the Hulk run by Bruce Jones. Edward Norton (who also rewrote the script by Zak Penn) takes over the role of Dr. Bruce Banner, who first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 (1962). Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were inspired to create the Green Goliath by Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and the Jewish legend of the Golem.
Ed Norton had a rather contentious relationship with Marvel. He had been given approval over the final cut of the film, but Marvel edited it to a faster pace and emphasized action over story. The special edition DVD and the Blu-ray both have a wealth of deleted material including an alternate opening where Banner tries to kill himself in the solitary expanse of the Arctic Circle. Instead, he turns into the Hulk and causes the ice to collapse, which briefly uncovers the frozen Captain America.
The origin of the Hulk is lifted directly from the TV show with Banner being exposed to gamma radiation inside a device similar to the one seen in the show’s pilot and opening titles. Peter David, the most prolific writer of the Hulk comics, revealed that Banner suffered from dissociative identity disorder resulting from an abusive childhood and the Hulk was a manifestation of his repressed rage. This was expanded upon, with much derision, in Ang Lee’s version as Banner’s father cast as the murderous villain. Banner’s DID also resulted in different variations of the Hulk from mindless brute to intelligent hero. He was even a ruthless mob enforcer under the alias Joe Fixit.
The experiment takes place at the fictional Culver University in Virginia, a reference to the Culver Institute where Bill Bixby’s Banner became the Hulk.
Liv Tyler plays Betty Ross, the long-time love interest of Bruce Banner and the daughter of Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, played here by William Hurt. Originally a mooning girlfriend, Betty’s personality changed with the times and she became a brilliant scientist in her own right. She was once exposed to gamma radiation as well, transforming into a winged creature known as the Harpy and later the Red She-Hulk.
0:01:25 – William Hurt as Gen. Thunderbolt Ross
Gen. Ross was the officer in charge of the gamma bomb project and dedicated his life to capturing the Hulk in the most myopic and Ahab-esque manner. He is usually seen commanding a squadron nicknamed the Hulkbusters. Recently, he has joined the Avengers as the Red Hulk with all the strength of his former archenemy combined with a brilliant tactical mind. William Hurt takes over the role from Sam Elliot, who was also in Ghost Rider. Hurt has a connection to another actor from Ang Lee’s Hulk, Jennifer Connelly, as they worked together on Dark City. This is Hurt’s second comic book movie after A History of Violence, which was based on a graphic novel published by DC Comics.
0:02:33 – Stark Industries, SHIELD
The logos for SHIELD and Stark Industries can be seen as General Ross requisitions equipment for his Hulk hunt, including a Stark designed sonic cannon. Stark Industries also built the gamma device that turned Banner into the Hulk.
0:02:45 – Nick Fury
Nick Fury’s name is emblazoned on the header. The document notes that while SHIELD has not taken an active role in the hunt for Bruce Banner, it has kept tabs on his whereabouts. This is confirmed when Black Widow meets Banner for the first time in The Avengers.
The names Leonard Samson and Rick Jones are listed as known associates of Bruce Banner. Jones also made his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #1 alongside Banner and the Rosses. Rick Jones appeared in earlier draft of the script, but never made it to the final version. Rick was inadvertently responsible for the creation of the Hulk when he wandered onto the test site for the gamma bomb. The explosion hit Bruce as he threw Rick into a protective trench. Since then, Rick became a sidekick for the Hulk, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and even Rom the Spaceknight.
More on Samson later.
0:04:16 – The Courtship of Eddie’s Father
Though Bill Bixby died of prostate cancer in 1993, the filmmakers still found a clever way to have him make a cameo with Banner watching an episode of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, which aired on ABC from 1969 to 1972.
To control his anger, Bruce Banner learns breathing techniques from Rickson Gracie, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master and member of the legendary Gracie family.
0:13:00 – Stan Lee
Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo shows that Bruce Banner’s blood can be extremely potent. Banner once gave a blood transfusion to his cousin Jennifer Walters, which transformed her into She-Hulk. After it was cancelled, the series was spun-off into three made-for-TV movies featuring the Hulk teaming up with Thor and Daredevil. She-Hulk was slated to appear in the third, but plans never materialized. A She-Hulk feature film once went into development to be written & directed by Larry Cohen and starring Brigitte Nielsen. Nielsen even posed for promo pics as the character.
0:14:00 – Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky
We already have Mr. Green, Mr. Blue, and now there’s Mr. Orange, Tim Roth. Emil Blonsky was originally a KGB agent, who exposed himself to massive amounts of gamma radiation that permanently transformed him into The Abomination. He first appeared in Tales to Astonish #90 (1967). In the film, Blonsky is a Russian-born Brit and a member of the Royal Marines.
Peter Mensah from Spartacus: Blood & Sand plays General Joe Greller whose role is expanded in the deleted scenes and makes allusions to other failed experiments by General Ross.
0:32:25 – The Super Soldier Program
The Incredible Hulk sets the stage for Captain America: The First Avenger with numerous references to the government’s decades old attempts to create super-soldiers.
0:36:35 – Paul Soles as Stanley
Banner seeks refuge at Stanley’s Pizza. Stan Lee’s Pizza, get it? Stanley is played by Paul Soles, who performed the voices of Bruce Banner and Happy Hogan on the 1966 Marvel Superheroes cartoon as well as Spider-Man in the eponymous 1967 animated series.
0:37:40 – Lou Ferrigno
Lou Ferrigno famously played the Hulk on the original TV show as well as providing the voice for the green goliath here and on the animated series that aired on UPN. Ferrigno also did a cameo as a security guard in Ang Lee’s Hulk, alongside Stan Lee.
Dr. Leonard Samson was created by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe and first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #141 (1971). He is a psychiatrist exposed to gamma radiation while attempting to cure Bruce Banner. Unlike the Hulk, Samson retained his intellect while still being blessed with great strength and a relatively normal human appearance, aside from bright green hair. Ty Burrell from Modern Family plays a non-gamma irradiated Samson here and most of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Burrell also performs the voice of Captain Mar-vell on the Super Hero Squad cartoon.
Weapon Plus is the all-encompassing codename given to a series of programs by the U.S. government to create super-soldiers. Project: Rebirth which lead to the creation of Captain America falls under the auspices of Weapon I. The tenth program, Weapon X, involved experimentation on mutants, including the adamantium bonding process used on Wolverine.
Dr. Reinstein is an alias used by Abraham Erskine, the inventor of the super-soldier serum, when he escaped from Nazi Germany.
The batch number states that this is the second version of the formula. Erskine took the secrets of the serum and the vita-ray process to his grave. Attempts to recreate the original serum have largely failed and resulted in the test subjects becoming mentally unstable, especially when they have not been treated with vita-rays. In the comics, the only vita-ray machine was destroyed during Erskine’s assassination. However, that did not occur in Captain America: The First Avenger and the stamp on the lower right corner shows that the serum itself was treated with vita-rays.
0:53:00 – Jack McKee and Jim Wilson
The two witnesses to the Hulk’s rampage are named Jack McKee and Jim Wilson. Actor Jack Colvin played Jack McKee, a tabloid reporter for the National Register on the TV show, who traveled across the country in search of the Hulk. Jim Wilson was the nephew of Captain America’s ally, the Falcon, and debuted in the comics in 1970. He was a friend and sidekick to the Hulk before dying of AIDS.
1:04:28 – Purple pants
The Hulk was frequently seen wearing torn purple pants because Stan Lee thought green and purple went well together. Later, it was explained that Bruce Banner bought many purple suits in an effort to emulate Albert Einstein, who, legend had it, wore the same outfits so he wouldn’t waste time thinking about his wardrobe. Interesting bit of trivia: the Hulk was originally gray and became green after a coloring error.
1:09:29 – SHIELD
General Ross accesses the SHIELD operation database to search for the aliases Mr. Blue and Mr. Green. Mr. Blue’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Hulk made his debut in 1962.
1:26:49 – The Leader
Samuel Sterns first appeared in Tales to Astonish #63, published in 1964. Here, Sterns was a meager janitor working in a chemical plant where he was exposed to gamma radiation. Rather than gaining great strength, Sterns was granted with an exponentially increased intelligence and became known as The Leader. Recently, the Leader transformed General Ross and Betty Ross into red versions of the Hulk and She-Hulk.
To coincide with the Avengers, Marvel released the 8-issue The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week, which ties up loose ends. Here, it’s revealed that Sterns is shot in the leg by the Black Widow shortly after his transformation and placed into suspended animation by SHIELD.
1:28:50 – The Abomination
As Dr. Erskine explains to Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, the super-soldier formula brings out the best or worst in the subject. Good becomes great, bad becomes worse. Thus, not only are Blonsky’s abilities enhanced, but also his aggressive and violent tendencies. This combined with what is likely an imperfect duplicate of the serum explains Blonsky’s mental and physical deterioration.
Random cameo: Here’s Michael K. Williams whose role was trimmed down to a few scant seconds. Williams was cast because Norton was a huge fan of The Wire.
1:38:00 – “Oh, shit”
Bruce Banner diving out of the helicopter to hulk out is inspired by a similar moment in The Ultimates when Banner is thrown out of a chopper by SHIELD agents to trigger his Hulk out. The scene is almost the reverse of the ending to the third telefilm, The Death of the Incredible Hulk. There, the Hulk dives out of an exploding plane, then crashes to the ground before reverting to Banner and dying. Tentative plans to do a fourth film, The Revenge of the Incredible Hulk, never came to fruition due to Bill Bixby’s illness.
A recurring theme in Ed Norton’s script is how the Marvel heroes have become the mythological gods of modern day society. The battleground surrounded by Greek columns accentuates that and serves as a reference to “Clash of the Titans.” Louis Leterrier would go on to direct the 2010 remake.
1:45:15 – Tony Stark
Tony Stark pays a visit to General Ross in what was initially intended as a post-credits sequence. The scene was actually pushed up to before the credits following the runaway success of Iron Man. Tony’s cameo actually doesn’t gel with the events of Iron Man 2 because Stark has refused to join Fury’s “super secret boy band” and his arrogant, reckless behavior is deemed a detriment. It also seems as if they are putting a team together to go after the Hulk. This scene is expanded upon in the short film, The Consultant, which is available on the Thor Blu-ray.