MCU Mondays: The Incredible Hulk - The Nature of My Enemy
(I apologize in advance for the lack of video clips)
While it doesn’t get a lot of love from fans or critics (It’s often treated like it doesn’t exist), 2008’s THE INCREDIBLE HULK, the second offering from Marvel studios, is not a abd film. And, truth be told, I vastly prefer Edward Norton over Mark Ruffalo as Banner, even though Ruffalo’s version was quite good. One of the things that make HULK unique from the other Phase 1 films is that the titular character is a fugitive, both from the authorities and from himself. Unlike the other heroes who employ most of their self-loathing prior to be reborn an Avenger, Banner liked himself better before going through his rebirth process than he ever could afterwards.
(Also, for the record, opening credits are pretty amazing)
There are two major semi-theological themes I picked-up on watching HULK, the first of which is the illusion of control, particularly applicable to believers. In the film’s opening minutes, all the way from the credits to the first, fantastic “Hulk” sequence in the empty factory, we see Bruce Banner trying every way he knows how to control the monster within himself. You can read more about this in last week’s post, here.
The second theme is that of the nature of Bruce’s enemies. In the film he faces two primary foes (General Ross and Blonsky) with a sequel-baiting friend-turning-foe thrown in at the end (thanks for that, Marvel). All three share something in common.
The desire to control what Bruce has.
It’s striking that all the main characters (aside from Betty Ross, who really doesn’t much to do in this picture besides pawn a locket and interrupting a perfectly good execution) struggle with the same root problem here: control. Bruce want to wrest enough control away from the Hulk that he can rid himself of it. Ross want to control it as a weapon, Blonsky as source of personal power, and Dr. Sterns, Bruce’s erstwhile ally in his search for a cure, wants to use it as the next evolutionary step for mankind.
Neither Ross nor Sterns are suffering from inherently evil desires, but both turn their desires southward with their insatiable need to control it. To own it. To be the masters of this great power, this great thing. Neither are willing to let it be as it is, they must make it into their own image.
Bruce says it best leading up to the finale when he readies himself to Hulk-out and face the Abomination that Blonsky has become. When asked by Ross if Bruce thinks he can control the Hulk this time Bruce says, “Not control it, maybe aim it.” Bruce has begun to figure it out.
Back to Blonsky for a second, though. He’s added a batch of Bruce’s blood to the dose of experimental super-solder serum that Ross gave him and now he’s become an Abomination (literally). Blonsk’y desires are the only ones that are really unredeemable as they are completely predicated on personal gain. As a result, he becomes the most monstrous of all.
And also, a naked monster. Which is probably symbolic.
Back to the main point, though, since we see in Ross and Sterns the most dangerous of natures. While bands of marauding aliens as seen in AVENGERS, might seem more threatening on their face, the simmering desire for control can be difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to combat. I compare to the story of Simon the magician in Acts 8. After turning away from his career of illusions mixed with black-magic, he asks to buy from Peter and John the ability to gift the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. Instead of gently correcting him as one might expect, Peter essentially tells him, “Your and your silver will burn in hell together.”
Why the violent reaction?
Simon has attempted to Blonsky the Gospel, to mix it with the unholy and profane and use it for his own personal good. Let Peter’s response serve as a warning to us all about trying to combine the power of God with our own designs for personal gain and promotion. It may seem innocent on its face, but underneath is an insidious design. The desire to control God instead of being controlled by God. This is not the nature of Christ.
This is the nature of our enemy.