Incredible Hulk, The (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.
Length: 114 minutes
Grade: AC-C+B+=B+
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $263 million (135 U.S., 128 Intl.)

Written by: Zak Penn (X-Men 2+3, Fantastic Four, Elektra, Behind Enemy Lines, The Grand, Inspector Gadget, and Last Action Hero), with an uncredited heavy rewrite from Edward Norton.
Directed by: Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2, and Danny the Dotg)
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt.

In this alternate universe re-boot of the Hulk franchise (ignoring Ang Lee’s version in 2003), Dr. Bruce Banner hides from the military in South America while he tries to cure himself of the condition that makes him the big green beast whenever he gets excited. When they find him, he flees home, rediscovers his beloved Dr. Ross, and must battle a soldier who has allowed himself to become the Hulk’s longtime nemesis, “The Abomination,” by undergoing an experimental super-soldier treatment. It’s a comic book, duh!

Entertainment Value: A
I enjoyed this thoroughly. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I was watching a two hour comic book brought to life on the big screen. There was good action paced with good story and just enough wicked cool impossible stuff to keep it fun. As much as I did enjoy Iron Man, I definitely liked this more. Plus, you gotta love the cameos with Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno (including voicing the Hulk).

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C, Language C+, Illegality B
There’s no problematic drugs here, but there’s plenty of chemical experimentation, so I wanted to mention that. There is some mild profanity. There is one not quite sex scene (his heart rate endangers the moment). But the obvious concern here is violence, and the scenes are pretty scary for younger kids, lots of mayhem and even some killing. Spencer started this one, but we stopped letting him watch it after about 15-20 minutes.
Significant Content: C+
Science is dangerous. The military is dangerous. Love is really important. And self-control is a crucial trait. Clean up your messes, if you can. It’s a Hulk movie, not a sermon.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Again, just for doing such a brilliant job of bringing a famous comic book character faithfully to life onscreen. Not so much for thought value. However, as many people have noted over the years, the Hulk is a brilliant metaphor for Christianity and sin. When we give in to anger, he literally takes over our lives and we wind up destroying things we regret after it’s over. This danger is always with us and cannot be stopped just by better self-control. What we need is a total cure, you know, a Savior.

Discussion Questions:
~How would you explain Christianity to someone using the Hulk?
~In what sense is Major Blonsky’s sense of identity tied to his fighting ability? Is this his idol? What does his declining physical ability prompt him to do because of this?
~In what sense is Bruce Banner’s sense of identity tied to his intellectual skills? Is the Hulk unacceptable to him because of the destruction he does or because of the loss of intelligence he suffers? Would you describe the Hulk’s condition as the result of intellectual greed, even though pursuing a good cause?
~What impression of the military does this film give? Compare it with the impression given by the Iron Man movie.
~What messages is this movie sending about science and technology? Can you name some other movies that have sent this same message? Why are we so worried about the dangers of technology even as we embrace technology? In what sense might you say that we have all suffered a “hulk-effect” from technological development?
~How might the Hulk plotline be an argument against any arms race and even for pacifism?
~Is self-control something that we practice like an athletic skill or something that comes directly from God as a gift of His Spirit? What are the dangers of thinking of it as a skill? What are the difficulties of thinking of it as a gift?
~Do you ever find yourself getting really angry? Does the Hulk’s example help you to calm down or encourage you to think that anger is cool?
Overall Grade: B+
Entertaining. Really entertaining. Hulk like. Hulk not smash.

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