Between Ang Lee directing one, and Edward Norton starring in the other, you’d have thought one of the Hulk movies would have been great. Or at least really good. But they both fell somewhere between boring and tedious—even while being well acted and well directed.
Because, I would suggest, they didn’t understand the character’s value. I have a vague memory of a review—I thought it was Roger Ebert, but a quick check suggests not—that suggested that watching a guy who feels like he can’t get mad get chased around was going to be fundamentally boring.
In fact, I think this deleted scene from the Avengers may do a better to explain why the Hulk as a character has the potential to matter.
The initial “Sage or Butterfly” exchange is funny, but the substance is at the very end:
“I know where I can do the most good, but it’s where I can do the most harm.”
“Well, that’s no different than anybody else.”
To do good requires changing things as they are—but anytime we are a force for change, there is the possibility that we won’t be successful, that the changes won’t take the form we wanted, or have the outcome we desired. That, in the end, we will end up being a destructive force. The Hulk is merely this truth writ large—which is why I think the other movies failed: the alternatives Banner was always being presented with were to do nothing, or be destructive, never to effect change for good. They were only ever showing half the coin.