EDITORIAL: Why Mark Ruffalo's HULK Works So Well
We have seen The Green Goliath in three movies now, played by there very different actors. But have we see the best possible incarnation of the character in Marvel's The Avengers? I believe so..
In Comic Con , Mark Ruffalo made his first major appearance as the casting replacement for the Avengers’ Incredible Hulk, and was booed. Now I’m not here to get on a soap box or judge, I’m a fanboy too, and we’ve all had times when something we love seems like it might be ruined by Hollywood decisions. But I just wanted to say, after checking out Avengers twice, I think Mr Ruffalo is the best actor to play this role.
I’ve been trying to think about why that is, and I’ve boiled it down to 3 main aspects. Which is to say, EVERYTHING about the character
The Alter-Ego of HULK
All the actors who have played Bruce Banner have got the brooding down. Eric Bana got the shy and quiet aspect. Edward Norton got to be the darker, repressed Banner on the run. While I still would have loved to see Edward Norton in this movie, I have to say Mark Ruffalo does the best job, because he seemed like a happy marriage of the two, without feeling like either of the previous versions at all. Also, between you and me, he was the most believable ‘scientist’ cast in the role. Who really believes a ripped dude like Bana or a bad ass like Ed Norton would be insecure or got picked on? This might be a backhanded compliment, but Mark Ruffalo was the perfect dork for the job!
Ruffalo worked with Downey before on Zodiac. RDJ, arguably the actor that drives this ensemble forward, had the best scenes with Banner of the group, and the quality of his performance brought out the best in Ruffalo.
The LOOK of HULK
Face-mapping. In my opinion, all 3 versions of the hulk looked state of the art. Ang Lee’s first movie was a brighter green but it was impressive in 2003, particularly the transformations and the quieter scenes where he might not be doing anything but breathing. In 2008, Hulk is much paler, yet darker-looking at the same time. (they claim to be going for the original comic gray, but I don’t think it reads.) He’s veiny, and ‘grittier’ (see: uglier) than Ang Lee’s cleaned up version, and while both those films claim that we don’t lose the actors in the CG creations, Avengers can triumphantly say that Ruffalo is still completely present as the green giant. There’s no arguing this, because we can SEE his face in the Hulk.
The result, is the most emotive version of Hulk we’ve ever seen. Believe me, for someone who checks out the moment CG creatures overwhelm the action (its like watching someone else play a videogame) this made all the difference in the world.
The USE of HULK
Hulk has had his share of memorable screen moments. Whether it’s using cars as boxing gloves or throwing an army tank across the city, there’s always a little something to showcase how “incredible” he can be. Heck, I still think the scene of him leaping for miles across the desert is a highlight of the first movie. But I don’t think either of those movies match the sheer carnage and destruction unleashed by this version. From how he comes out in the final battle, to when he meets villain Loki one on one, what Joss was able to do with him (with a relative small amount of time) is undeniably satisfying.
Every single movie has tried to use the suspenseful technique of hiding the beast until a big reveal, but I think Whedon really mastered it. This is mostly though the behavior of other characters when they are around Banner- particularly Black Widow, who was established as a badass, so when we see that even this fearless assassin is scared of him, it makes the fear tangible and real for everyone. I was never afraid of Hulk in the other movies. I shouldn’t be excited to see him, I should dread it. Joss really understood that.
Then of course there’s the comedic bits. I won’t get too spoiler-ish, but let’s just say its these moments that make the character arguably the show-stealer of the entire film! This was a masterful stroke of genius by Whedon, who simultaneously taps into fanboy glee, and fully rounds out the character to being something more than just a mindless brute, as he’s depicted in the other movies. This hulk has a functioning intellect and personality.
Imagine if he had a whole feature of his own to play around with even more material. Running from General Ross, and making doe eyes at Betty (who I’d keep as Jennifer Connely, my preferred choice) I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the humble actor to go through what he did back at Comic Con, or even in the months to follow. After all the fanboy gossip, and all the trash-talking, all the doubting, the best compliment I can give, is it makes me wish Whedon and Ruffalo were there from the start.
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