Skip to main content

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was at the very beginning. Iron Man had just been released, and it was a huge success.

Fans and industry insiders alike were excited to see what was next for the ambitious comic book-based project.

Unfortunately, what happened next was The Incredible Hulk, and wasn’t able to match the success of Iron Man. It’s widely remembered as a flop, but not everyone thinks that’s fair. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was just getting started

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

In 2008, the same year Iron Man was released, Marvel debuted the character of Bruce Banner in The Incredible HulkIt featured Edward Norton as Banner, and it told the Hulk’s origin story.

Banner takes part in an experiment by General Thaddeus Ross that was designed to make humans immune to the effects of gamma radiation. But the experiment went awry, transforming Banner into the Hulk. 

After the triumph of Iron Man, the hopes for this next installment were high. But although the movie was initially generally well-received by critics and fans alike, it never managed to get much traction at the box office. The enthusiastic response to Tony Stark’s superhero just never appeared for the Hulk. 

‘The Incredible Hulk’ was considered a failure

The lukewarm response at the box office was poorly timed. Although there have been other MCU movies that didn’t do well, this one happened to come along at the beginning of the franchise.

Marvel Studios simply couldn’t afford to have viewers lose interest in the project. Norton once said in an interview with SyFy that he had hoped to go on to make at least two more Hulk movies, but they never materialized. 

A few years later, the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, announced that Banner would be played by Mark Ruffalo in the 2012 movie The Avengers.

His announcement said that the decision was made because of “the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”

Norton seemed to feel that the statement was a shot at his acting abilities, and he responded by saying, “That was cheap.”

The whole thing left a bad taste in many MCU fans’ mouths, and The Incredible Hulk is thought of as a failure. But now some people say that the movie’s bad rep is unfair. 

Some think the movie failed because of when it was made


Hulk Could Have Been the Most Powerful Avenger — What Happened?

In a recent discussion on Reddit of The Incredible Hulk, fans brought up the idea that it was unfairly judged. Some seemed to feel that it would have been executed better if there had been more Marvel movies before it. As one person pointed out, it was only “the second movie in what would become the MCU.”

They went on to say that being one of the early installments made it harder to create an effective story.

“Writers and directors were actually limited by going first, and the studio was still learning how to make superhero movies in its own style.”

Fans seemed to feel that the writers would have been able to give the movie more life if they’d had more experience with the genre. Because it was made before they’d really developed the familiar tone of the MCU installments, it simply didn’t have “enough jokes like the rest of the MCU films.”

Others agreed, saying that the fact that the Hulk wasn’t a part of anyone else’s story also made it fall flat in a way the other movies didn’t, especially as the universe grew and people became familiar with the different characters.

One of the strengths of the MCU is how the different characters interact, and their stories affect each other. The Incredible Hulk “tells it’s own story that does not connect it to anything that would ultimately become the MCU. For THAT reason, it feels rather disconnected from the MCU.”

It may not be much comfort to Norton, and fans of Ruffalo don’t seem interested in bringing him back for another try at playing the Hulk. But maybe things would have been different if his story had been told later.