Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 9:42 pm | Fair 63º


Cinema in Focus: ‘The Incredible Hulk’

Moral lessons abound in action film with plenty of thrills.

3 Stars — Engaging

During the early 1900s, Freud’s studies of the primal emotions (fear, anger, happiness, love) opened a window for us to better understand our passions. The observation that these emotions often function at a level below our conscious awareness, yet still greatly influence our behaviors, captured the imaginations of many creative minds. Two creative artists were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who imagined what would happen if a person were to be taken over by anger so that it dominated his or her conscious mind. Would such a person lose touch with the other primal emotions and become a vicious monster, or would he or she be able to feel love and happiness as well? To explore this question, Lee and Kirby first published their TV series with the same name, it has been brought to the screen four decades later by director Louis Leterrier and screenwriter Zak Penn.

Returning to the original tale, this latest film version ignores previous attempts to bring the story of Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) to the screen. Using a montage of images in the opening credits, we realize that Banner is an experimental subject at a university lab in which Gamma radiation is being used to enhance human physical capability. When a lethal dose of the radiation is accidentally or unpredictably given to Banner, he experiences a complete cellular transformation in which he becomes a green-eyed monster of personified anger. With a physique that matches his rage, Banner harms his beloved Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and kills several others. When he comes out of his tantrum, Banner goes into hiding to try to discover a cure. It is at this point that the film begins its tale and it is Norton’s portrayal of Banner’s brooding loneliness in isolation and deep love for Betty that humanizes the Hulk and takes the film deeper than merely a comic book story.

Although mostly an action film, the moral lessons in the tale are told on several levels. The question of whether a person can control his or her anger is ambiguously answered, but the question of whether a person loses his or her other primary emotions is not. Love can be present even when anger is throwing a destructive tantrum — if the person has love in his heart. But if there is no love, if a desire to fight is the primary passion of a person, then he would lose his humanity and become an Abomination — the name given by Lee and Kirby in the original comic books for the Hulk’s archenemy.

Though in the original series, Abomination was a KGB agent who intentionally exposes himself to Gamma radiation to gain the Hulk’s powers, in this film Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is presented as being “born in Russia and raised in England.” Having distinguished himself as a fighter, Blonsky is on loan from England to serve the special needs of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). When Blonsky realizes Ross is in charge of a secret program to mutate humans into super-soldiers, he asks to become enhanced himself. Although it is Blonsky who becomes a monstrous human, it is clear that Ross is also an “abomination.”

Leaving the film open to sequels that can tell the classic tales of the Hulk, this first film is an entertaining study of anger, love and relationships that is too graphic for children but engaging for adults.


» What do you think happened to the General that would cause him to become such a heartless person?

» When Samuel Sterms (Tim Blake Nelson) is willing to take his science experiments wherever they take him, he creates an “abomination.” How do we protect ourselves from science that has no moral compass?

» The risk that Betty is willing to take to express her love for Banner comes from a selfless place. Have you ever experienced such a love that you would be willing to die for someone? How has such a primal passion affected your relationship?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara, and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >