2008, Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans) -- Netflix
I love this movie. I really do. I am not sure why, because I am torn as to whether I like Edward Norton as Banner. He just does not seem scientisty enough for me. But it clicks for me. The tone is rather controlled, as if they were trying to exhibit the controlled breathing that Banner uses to keep the Hulk in check.
The whole opening sequence with him in Brazil working in a factory in the favelas; I love it. The favelas have always fascinated me in their appearance of being a shanty town, built from scrap, with no direction or skill, but always being amazed they have electricity and lights and streets and ... well, they are definitely not shanty towns. They are not Soweto, despite similar visuals. Banner finds a place for himself there, learning Portuguese, working in a pop bottling factory and flirting with the downstairs neighbour. Then he cuts himself and a drop of blood makes its way into a bottle, to be downed by Stan Lee. I am so over the Stan Lee cameos. But it would have been interesting to see Lee hulk out, and it also makes me wonder if said effect could have been properly bottled.
The drop of blood leads General Ross to Brazil where a team led by Tim Roth, a pasty, sweaty guy, has our first run in with this Hulk. There is lots of grabbing and slamming and throwing of stuff, but there is a decided PG rated feel to the fight. It feels wrong to me, like Wolverine and the bloodless slicing & dicing. I imagine Hulk would do more squashing than swatting. That said, the ill informed team does not capture the Hulk and Roth becomes obsessed with the big guy's power.
The focus of the movie is Banner trying to cure his "gamma poisoning" where he has been dealing with another scientist via encoded communications, Mr. Green chatting to Mr. Blue. It is this research and desperation that leads Banner back to his lab in Virginia, where Betty Ross, the General's daughter and Banner's lady love, still lives.
General Ross is tracking him, using some resources provided by SHIELD. He seems in with SHIELD, but we don't have any major influences or interventions, like we later see in Thor. This is an army action but SHIELD just has their fingers in it. You would have thunk Coulson would have been hanging around more, considering how utterly powerful Banner is. Alas, this is only movie number 2, so things are more hidden.
The General and his team track Banner to the lab run by Mr. Blue, a feverishly interested scientist played by Tim Blake Nelson, who while stating he wants to help Banner cure himself, is really just looking to develop some sort of super serum from his blood. Again, Banner is just being exploited. Interestingly enough, Nelson is playing Samuel Sterns, who is The Leader in Marvel mythology, and we even get a brief scene of his head getting all hulked out. I think its safe to say The Leader never emerges into the cinematic universe. Agents of SHIELD needs to reference him.
The movie climaxes with a battle between Tim Roth, now all gray hulked out as The Abomination, and The Hulk on Yonge St.... *ahem* in the Bronx. It was here I realized The Hulk is not as mindless as we think, he is rather in control, he just has more impulse control and is, of course, very very angry. But he is not dumb, despite his lack of monologues. He understands very clearly that Abomination is a threat to everyone and dives into the fray with no regard to his puny Banner body. The fall from the helicopter, as Banner realizes the purple formula is still kind of repressing the green guy, is a chuckle, but really he would have just went *splat* on the sidewalk, instead of plowing through it, to emerge as The Hulk.
The movie ends with General Ross tempered, The Hulk jumping away and ... well, we have no idea. When he next appears in The Avengers, there is no connection to this movie. It is really the only completely stand alone movie in the cinematic universe, that barely attempts to maintain the connections.
Considering the contentious relationship that Edward Norton had with the movie, its no hard to read all that in the movie that plays out on the screen. The opening sequence wants character development, which is dumped entirely for the latter half of the movie. I imagine Marvel just wanted to abandon this one, but needed it to fill out their idea of the Avengers roster.
And thus, Mark Ruffalo.