Can Anyone Play Dr. Bruce Banner? (Editorial)
We've had three different Hulk movies with three different actors. Does it really upset the Marvel cinematic universe if it is always someone different?
Many of us were very upset when we heard that Edward Norton wouldn’t be returning as the HULK in the “Avengers”. Many of us got very excited when Mr. Norton said he would return if the fans wanted him and when that petition appeared to get Mr. Norton back into the role. Many of us scoffed at the idea that anybody but Edward Norton could play Bruce Banner. Now that very same lot of us consider it blasphemy for anybody but Mark Ruffalo to play Dr. Banner whether it be on TV or in the movies. Are we just fickle fans? Was Mr. Ruffalo’s performance truly so overwhelming that it dwarfed Mr. Norton’s? Or is Bruce Banner such a plain Jane character that almost anybody can step into those shoes. I contend for the latter.
Hulk is by far my favorite comic book character and I, like many of you was upset with the idea of Edward Norton not returning in the “Avengers”. Like many of you I signed the petition to bring him back and I like many of you considered it a cardinal sin for anybody but Edward Norton to portray Dr. Banner. Well we’ve now had 3 movies where the Hulk has appeared and 3 different people have played Bruce Banner. Out of all the problems I’ve had with these movies never once has it been with the portrayal of Bruce Banner. Why is that? The answer, like it or not, is that Bruce Banner is a flat character. Hulk is the reason we go to see Hulk movies not Bruce Banner. There’s not a whole lot that is interesting about the good doctor. Sure he’s a tormented character, but his torment has always been tempered by his sense of proportion and noble heart with a sum result of just another unassuming face in the crowd.
Bruce Banner is not like Tony Stark, Thor, or Steve Rogers. Each one of the aforementioned characters are inseparable from their super hero identities. As Tony Stark said “I am Iron Man”. So because of this, the actor portraying each one these characters has a lot to do with the personality of that character. I firmly believe that no one can be Tony Stark other than RDJ. RDJ has infused his motor mouth wit coupled with his own dark history of drinking into a character that demands nothing less and has thereby branded his own personal stamp of ownership into the Iron Man armor. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t just look the part of Thor but has cemented a real sense of authority and honor into the god of thunder. We were all leery of Chris Evans as Captain America given his track record with other CBM’s but he managed to hit it out of the park by imbuing Steve Rogers with perseverance, selflessness, and tough as nails innocence. As for Bruce Banner, he’s no Dos Equis man. Can you honestly say that anything remarkable stood out about him between the 3 different actors that played him? I don’t think you can and I think that’s the way it is supposed to be. Banner is unremarkable, unassuming, and in control. For God sakes the man actively tries avoid stress and conflict…the very things that make any character interesting. While the Hulk is a demanding, out of control force of personal and urban destruction. The attractive tension between Banner and “the other guy” is that one is so boring that you probably wouldn’t notice him unless he bumped into you, while the other is so engaging that the world has no choice but to take notice. The Hulk and not Banner over stimulates our interest levels and that is why just about any male actor with talent and the appropriate age can play Bruce Banner.
Now with all this said, I will say that Edward Norton was my favorite Bruce Banner. However that is only because Eric Bana looked too young and Ruffalo looked too buff to be Banner…and that’s it, no other reason other than the physical appearance. It does enhance the visual dichotomy between Banner and the Hulk if Banner is small, lean, and possibly looks like he's got a touch of scoliosis.
So if and when that Hulk TV show finally does hit the small screen and we find Nick Stahl getting a second chance and making his big come back by playing Dr. Banner, don't Hulk out about it, instead just remember you're watching the show to see the Hulk.
This of course is all just my opinion. Feel free to hate me with all the rage and fury of a Hulk down in the trenches of comment board.
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