After the riotous success of “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios introduced everyone’s angry green giant into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk.” Of all the Marvel Studios productions, “The Incredible Hulk” stands out. It’s not quite an origin story, essentially relaying the Hulk’s (Edward Norton) creation through the opening credits and a series of flashbacks. Additionally, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t really play a prominent role, and Bruce Banner’s later incarnation was played by Mark Ruffalo in “The Avengers.”
Still, the ’08 iteration is full of hidden goodies, and essential lore. “The Incredible Hulk” marked the first mention of the super soldiers, a main component of the MCU, and crucial in the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Captain America: The First Avenger” would later explore the concept of super soldiers in-depth. Another central figure in Marvel media is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who appears in a brief post-credits scene. There’s also a canister labeled “Stark Industries” which shows up in a lab during “Hulk.” It reads “Dr. Reinstein,” which was a moniker employed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who developed the super soldier serum.
For dedicated fans, a few mildly-obscure references spruce up the second Marvel Studios entry. When Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) and Banner communicate, they use the code names Mr. Blue and Mr. Green respectively. Clever viewers will note this was borrowed from Bruce Jones’ Hulk comic series. After an epic fight on the Culver University campus, two students capture footage of Hulk’s rampage. They’re Jack McGee (Nicholas Rose) and Jim Wilson (P.J. Kerr). McGee was originally a character from the 1970’s Hulk television series, while Kerr hailed from the comics.
As usual, there’s the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, which is on-point as always, but a few other guests make “The Incredible Hulk” a joy to watch. Lee plays an elderly man poisoned by gamma radiation from a soda bottle containing Banner’s blood. Like most superheroes, Hulk has progressed through multiple iterations, and past Hulk actors Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, and Paul Soles each pop up. Soles portrayed Stanley, a pizzeria owner. His pizza shop, named Stanley’s, feels like a Stan Lee reference, and Soles even rocks the bushy white moustache. Bixby depicted Banner on the 70’s TV show, while Ferrigno played Hulk. Ferrigno received a role as a body guard in “The Incredible Hulk,” and voiced the transformed Hulk throughout the film. While Banner (Norton) watches television, Bixby can be seen quickly on-screen in a clip from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”
Although future roster changes in “The Avengers,” coupled with less obvious ties to the MCU make “Hulk” feel detached from the rest of the Marvel Studios flicks, it’s still inherently, and intricately, connected. We touched on several Easter eggs, but there are few we didn’t cover here. What Culture has a detailed list that’s worth checking out.