Latest Casting News in TV & Movies
facebook twitter Google+ YouTube RSS

Seeing Green: Comparing Bruce Banner in the Decades Hulk Trilogy

Posted at April 26, 2012 by 18 Comments

Bruce Banner and his alter-ego, the Hulk, are very well known in the general public. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962, he represented the powerless and those who fought back against those wielding power. The late 70s saw the TV series The Incredible Hulk come to fruition and took another three decades before the superhero would appear on the big screen, inhabited by three different actors: Eric Bana in Hulk, Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk and Mark Ruffalo in the upcoming film The Avengers.  Who’s to say which film was best when this CGI monster has struggled to find a proper adaptation in the last decade.

Before getting into the specific portrayals, here’s a basic history of the green behemoth:

Bruce Banner became the Hulk through mutation, due to his experiments with gamma bombs for the U.S. military. The G-bomb was intended to function as a reverse neutron bomb, making war bloodless by annihilating inorganic matter (like guns and tanks) and leaving behind living tissue unharmed (man). Getting caught infront of the gama rays, Bruce would transform into the muscled and gray Hulk. Wanting a cure, Bruce altered his mutation and got his trademark green-colored skin. The military would then hunt the Hulk, because he was perceived as a threat and Bruce Banner would transform into the monster due to a surge of adrenaline (in part by rage, fear and/or pain). There’s been many iterations that included childhood traumas, psychological maladies (Dissociative Identity Disorder) that would define the nature of Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk.

Eric Bana as Bruce Banner (The Hulk)

Ang Lee directed the first adaptation of the Hulk (2003) which didn’t do so well in theaters or on DVD and neither with fans (partly due to the X-Men franchise doing so well at the time). Eric Bana’s Hulk was much more of a “monster” than a hero. Similar to the comics, Hulk would increase in strength and size the angrier he became.  The “look” of the Hulk was overly muscled, sleek and green hued to the point that it looked too cartoonish (especially with those purple shorts). Playing to the kitsch of the comics and the TV series, the film was chock-full of clichés and it’s a surprise Bana gets through them without laughing, but he also looked the part by juggling all those elements with a sense of humor (albeit, unintentionally).


Edward Norton as Bruce Banner (The Hulk)

Then in 2008, Marvel Studios (after buying back the film rights) produced The Incredible Hulk. Directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, this version of the story would be a reboot of the superhero and would continue into The Avengers four years later. Norton’s portrayal was a little too serious for my taste, but dealt with the reality of becoming the Hulk by hiding away in South America and learning meditative ways to control his alter-ego. See what I mean? It all just reeks of absurdity (Norton had co-written the script to his liking) and although the film keeps continuity and nods to the comics more often, this version of the Hulk was less muscled and smooth, but leaner and more ragged. Instead of focusing on the origins of becoming the Hulk, the film dealt with that in flashback’s as to focus on the threat of the film: Blonsky, who’d later become Abomination. Becoming much more dangerous and cognizant in not killing humans during his altered state, there was an attempt with motion capture to enhance the more “human” emotions of the Hulk.

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (The Hulk)

Little is yet known of Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk as we haven’t seen The Avengers yet, but what we do know is that this version of Bruce Banner/Hulk will be the same in Joss Whedon’s Avengers as the one in Leterrier’s reboot film. With continuity intact, Ruffalo has taken the reins and could prove the most relatable Bruce/Hulk version yet. Thanks to both Rufallo and Whedon discussing this latest iteration of the superhero as being “less self-involved,  more flesh and blood, an extension of Bruce Banner and not a “CGI thing” roaring and leaping in the air”, but a Hulk that’s dangerous and could infact hurt someone. Whedon would go on to say that Ruffalo’s portrayal would be “graceful and awkward, meek and confident, funny and sad”. Essentially making him a walking contradiction reflecting the Bruce/Hulk dynamic and added humor to the character, Ruffalo spoke extensively with Whedon on how to portray the character:

“We kind of felt like, we wanted to just go to the next generation, just take what they’ve done before and keep moving through with it. We came to the Hulk where we left Banner, almost meditating to see if he could start to control when those eyes turn green so you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe he’s going to have some mastery over it.’ We took the last Hulk where he’s meditating and can almost do it and we just made him more mature,” he explained. “You come to a point in your life where you’re like, ‘Okay, this is who I am, this is the best me I’ll be and these are my shortcomings and these are my strengths. I’m gonna turn and face my life and accept it and stop trying to run from it and that’s what we thought Banner had, a world weary wry sense of humor about his situation.”

Based on what I’ve read and seen in the latest trailers, I wouldn’t mind seeing a new Hulk film with Mark Ruffalo in the lead. It seems that the character is now focused, “real” and much more dangerous than the cartoonish version with Eric Bana or the self-involved nature of Edward Norton’s performance. Each of the previous incarnations displayed elements of the Hulk-mythology and tone, fighting different villains each time (General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, Blonsky/Abomination and now Loki/Alien force) it would demonstrate the versatility of the character. Although, there’s the common thread with the Hulk, in that he’ll always be a danger to humans and himself.


The Original Mad Men  — Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno

Source: Dream Movie Cast

Movie News From Beyond!
Mario Melidona

About Mario Melidona

Mario has produced and written several screenplays and recently directed and edited a Black & White Short filmed on 16mm. His newfound love for postmodernism and the rise of existential cinema has been a great influence on his writings.

  • Keltari

    Norton was the best Hulk. I dont even remember Eric Bana in the first Hulk movie… I just remember it was horrible. Mark Ruffalo was ok as Banner in The Avengers. But the story wasnt focused on him, so there isnt much to compare with.

  • Kan9al

    Eric Bana was the better Bruce Banner.
    But The Incredible Hulk (Norton) had the better looking Hulk.

    I think Ruffalo was a real downer.
    Though that was a good thing, it made C’America, Widow and Hawkeye seem relevant.

  • Philip

    Norton was the best! When I watched Avengers I was the whole time thinking that Ruffalo doesn’t fit.

  • getreal451

    There is only one answer! Lou Ferrigno was the only actor to play the Hulk. So he is the best Hulk.

  • Roguedork19

    Norton was the best Banner, but Ruffalo was the best Hulk.

  • Gilberto Edwards

    Norton is the best Bruce Banner and Hulk than Eric. Bana

    • Bobman25

      Are you fucking serious.

  • Gilberto Edwards

    I want to see a new Hulk TV series with someone that looks. like

  • chaburchak

    Why does Norton’s Banner hiding out in South America and trying to control his alter-ego “reek of absurdity”? That’s where the Bana movie left him (helping people in the jungle) so it connected the two movies. The Norton version also had more humor and nods to Bill Bixby and the TV show, right down to using the “lonely man” piano theme. Really enjoyed it.

  • wahidullah

    the best hulk is and will be mark ruffalo and norton suck

  • gonso

    Lou rulez

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=775619203 Claudio González Ortega

    The 2003 Hulk was a great movie, but people seem to like more the stupid action of TIH. That Hulk was a threat for everyone, interact with the world (he grabs a tank and catch a missile, destroy part of the city…), and the story changes some aspects of the comics, but to make it more insteresting and intriguing. It does have action, in fact more than The Incredible Hulk, and Eric Bana was a nice fit as Bruce Banner,just like Jennifer Connelly or Sam Elliot, and of course Nick Nolte. The Avengers’ Hulk was fantastic, and more likely to average people, but Hulk (2003) is also a good take on the character, just no that heroic (but, it’s the Hulk, he is a monster first, not a superhero)

  • prrassler

    All in all The original Bruce with Bill Bixby and Lou as the Hulk was the best and most believable. Now for a full length movie mark Ruffalo is the best Banner and his CGI Hulk is the best cause the others b4 him were overkill

  • “Its MACHO TIME”

    I think out of all 3 films , the BEST “HULK” was the second one , with Ed Norton. They made HULK a real representation on how he actually looks in the comics, HUGE, I mean extreme muscular appearance . THATS how HULK should look like. The first Hulk had that blocky look and had an ugly cartoon green color. Now the Avengers Hulk was better than the first but, wasn’t that muscular, I mean No detail made on definition and the MASS that he was supposed to have plus the size . He was almost the same size as the rest of the Avengers when he was supposed to represent HUGE. As for Banner .ED Norton was also the BEST. Quite , calm person, LOL although Banner always gets pissed off but Ed made the exact representation of the character, Mark was cool but they made him kind of a smart ass or funny type. I’ve never remember seeing banner that way. Eric , I respect the actor but he didn’t fit for the character, sorry. Man, if with the Avenger movie they would’ve used the same Hulk computer character from Ed Norton’s film , the movie although to me was THE BEST superheroe movie ever, but with that Hulk would’ve been PERFECT. I had the first hulk film and sold it , have the second one and I can’t seem to stop watching it on how cool it is.

  • Fred

    Lou Ferrigno

  • Venge Drac

    Ed Norton was the best one of the three Bruce Banner. As for The Hulk. The Incredible Hulk movie had the Best Looking Hulk of them all. You could tell he was actually 7 feet tall. Like how he is in the comic.

  • Bobfranco

    Edward norton that movie was outstandingly amazing

  • Captain GZ

    Eric Bana has been the best Hulk, and Ang Lee’s film the best Hulk movie ever. I hated the “gamma dogs” like everyone else, but the rest of the movie is excellent.