Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Death of the Incredible Hulk

Death of the Incredible Hulk is the last live-action, made-for-TV film in the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno series, as the name suggests. It was released in 1990.
David Banner is once again using an alias and working at a research facility as a janitor. He's breaking in at night and secretly helping the lead scientist with his genetic research. Eventually he's discovered and, instead of reporting him, the scientist adopts him as a son. They are on the very of curing Banner when Jasmin, an operative working for a spy organization, disrupts the procedure. The doctor is in a coma and Banner proceeds to help thwart the plot by the spies, eventually falling in love with Jasmin. 

Bill Bixby is, as always, top notch in this film. In the beginning of the film, Banner is acting like a dim-witted janitor and Bixby nails it. I actually started wondering if there was something that happened to make Banner meek and feeble. Ferrigno puts in a good final performance as well. The Hulk action is, as always, a highlight of the film.

The bad guys in the film are a little too vaguely defined for my tastes. Kasha, Jasmine, Zed, and Bella (Ashanko) all belong to an organization and prompt one another with things like, "You must do it for the cause for which we all believe!" But the organization or the cause are both not stated, thus leaving the goals of this group undefined. Why do they want the scientist's secrets? There are a few twists that you don't see coming (Jasmin's sister, who you think is held hostage, is actually the leader of the organization and wants to kill her own sister!) but after you stop and think about it, they don't make a whole lot of sense.

Likewise, the character's relationships seem artificially accelerated. Banner is adopted as a son to the scientist and his wife. He also falls in love with Jasmin (including a sex scene uncharacteristic of the series) very quickly. All of this is done to lend emotional weight to the Hulk's eventual death but it seems rushed.

The title itself is a bit grotesque. Anybody tuning in is watching to see the Hulk die. I don't know why they felt it was necessary to put such a definitive (and negative!) ending on the series. Why not let Banner heal himself and live happily ever after if you wanted to put a period at the end? They certainly don't do anything that extraordinary with their final opportunity to use the characters. The movie has the feeling of "just another episode" until the end.

The sequence in which the Hulk dies will live in infamy forever. Of all the ways you could imagine to kill the Hulk, falling from a plane isn't one of them. Watching Ferrigno lying on his back and flailing his oversized arms and legs like a baby as the camera zooms in to simulate falling is just sad. Bixby redeems the scene slightly with his masterfully delivered last line, "I am free." Now that's poetry. 

All in all, the series goes out just like the Hulk himself - with a wimper, not a bang.

1LR Review - 13 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

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