Starting in 1978, Marvel Comics did something right when it came to television
adaptations. They successfully brought one of the most non-TV friendly characters
to television with the Hulk. The story of a mindless monster rampaging across
the U.S. and the world fighting other beasts seemed unlikely for TV, especially
at the time, therefore the focus became Dr. David Bruce Banner and his search
for a cure.
In case you're not familiar, the Hulk was another creation by Stan Lee
and Jack "the King" Kirby when Marvel Comics first came to prominence.
Unlikely at the time, it was a Jekyll and Hyde story set against the modern
day threat of radiation. After being exposed to Gamma radiation during a bomb
testing, anytime Dr. Banner gets angry he transforms into the nigh impervious,
super-strong behemoth dubbed the Hulk.
Wanting to forego the military connections, the show recast Banner as a scientist
that is exposed to Gamma radiation in a lab accident and is believed dead. He
then transverses the country looking for a way to cure himself of the monster
that overtakes him every time he gets angry. The first of the two movies in
this set "The Incredible Hulk Returns" picks up several years after
the television show ended.
Dr. banner has settled into a complacent existence and has not transformed
into the Hulk in a number of years. He's discretely working on a cure
while living with his girlfriend. The Hulk makes a disastrous return as a student
shows up wielding the hammer of Thor and the god of thunder appears. Believing
the Hulk to be a Troll, the two fight as they would in any good crossover until
they realize they might be on the same side after all. What side would that
be, the side that wants to stop the theft of the Gamma technology?
In this film, Thor is played close to the Norse roots from which the character
was first derived and only borrows the idea of an alter-ego from the comic.
The Thro presented here is one that's not familiar with this world and
clearly hasn't been flying around and saving the day. Because of this,
he comes of unfortunately funny at times and compared to the depth and emotion
the original show displayed at times, it ruins the mood and feel of the film.
The second film is "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk" and it fares
about the same. Marvel again attempts to introduce another hero to the "Hulk's
Universe" in the form of masked crusader Daredevil. Like the recent film
and the comic if the same name, Daredevil is Matt Murdock, a criminal defense
attorney by day and blind, super-powered vigilante by night. He's brought
on to defend Banner for a crime that his didn't (obviously) commit.
Despite the fact that Daredevil's costume looks like a second rate costume
left from America Ninja 2, the rest of the storyline is actually quite decent.
The Kingpin (John Rhyes Davis) wants to control the entire criminal underworld
and has developed a plan that will allow his to do just that. Somehow, as these
things always go, the Hulk manages to get involved and plays an integral role
in helping Daredevil stop the Kingpin and his plans.
Like the other film, compared to the original TV show, things are a lot campier
here, as the added heroes don't quite fit into the world that was originally
developed for the Hulk on TV. Despite that, the fell of the old show is still
present and both of these will be enjoyed by old fans and anyone with a fond
memory of the Hulk.
Video: For a fifteen-year-old TV movie, the video looks good,
if only a little washed and soft. Colors aren't as bright and vivid as
a new release, but all said and done it's an easily viewable print that
will not annoy in the least.
Audio: The original mono soundtrack is present and has been
cleaned up nicely. It's an even re-master with no adverse lows or highs
and easily audible vocals.
Extras: Once again, Marvel has provided a lot of extra content
on these discs. The two discs contain lots of art and over 2-hours of documentary
footage. Disc 1 contains an almost 30-minute interview with Stan Lee and 15-minute
interview with Lou Ferrigno, who play the green behemoth. Both are interesting,
with Lee being the better of the two, simply because the man has a way with
words that makes you want to listen.
Disc 2 has a 1 hour and 20-minute documentary about Ferrigno and the troubles
he faced growing up partially deaf and how he became to be the bodybuilding
powerhouse that was eventually chosen to portray the Hulk on the small screen.
It's an excellent extra look at an interesting character that helped define
the Hulk in the late 70's and 80's.
Overall: Fans of the show will no doubt pick this up. If you
want to see some of the best the show had to offer, pick up the television premiere
that was just released on DVD as well and keep this on hand for the kids and
for your memories.