The Incredible Hulk [IMDB link] delivers on a lot of personal scores for me. The main point which can not be denied is the homage to the 70s T.V. show. I posted a few weeks ago about the Hulk marathon that the SciFi channel was running and it was fun to reminisce. I remember that I had watched the show when I was a kid but re-watching it now, it’s hard to see how I related to it then. It’s dark and sometimes somber attitude is kind of a downer as far as superhero stories go. It is clear now, however, how it has informed some of my perceptions on the world and life.
What that show gets right is the melancholy of living with an affliction. Bruce Banner (in the TV show David) is a smart and in most ways down-to-earth man. It’s only when he is pushed to the brink that the Hulk comes in to smash. Because of Banner’s inability to control his rage he purposefully rejects stability and becomes a lone drifter. In another world he would be a respected scientist but in this world he is hunted and spurned.
In retrospect there may be something to the mind of a youngster which looks at uncontrollable rage and society’s need to repress it and finds communion with Bruce’s situation. What I personal enjoy about the character, however, is the lone drifter style. The fact that this inability to control rage and rejection by society forces Banner to never fully reach stability. He wanders town to town relying on the help and hospitality of others. I don’t practice what I preach but I feel most at home when I’m away from home. Travel and those who seek it — especially in its extreme form as a nomad have always attracted me.
The drifter senario may be ultimately indicative of the 70s, when people were more free -wheeling and likely to trust. I remember hearing stories growing up of people hitch-hiking from one place to the other. It’s not that it doesn’t happen now. But it’s more that it’s not prevalent or more aptly the heart just isn’t there. Society is much too jaded now for any one to think its a good idea or even possible to make it from place to place without a plan, without a focus and with little to no money. Yet this is precisely the premise of the Hulk. Banner hitch-hikes from town to town with no money expected to barter or get hired in odd-jobs. Mostly he relies on the hospitality of others and where the movie and T.V. show become appealing is in their passing glances at normal, mom and pop businesses who extend a hand sometimes job to Banner before the Hulk comes and forces him to move on.
There’s a Horatio Alger in there somewhere, taking odd jobs, having adventures and moving on. Placelessness to me is a relatable concept. The fact that it all pins on a secret just makes the stakes higher and the concept sadder. Given a choice Banner would probably give up his powers and seek a normal life. His affliction, however, is endemic. It makes the placelessness all the more despondent.
There is nowhere for me that this feeling of being constantly uprooted, feisty and rejected is better projected than in the theme from that show – something I posted about when I mentioned the SciFi Channel Marathon. This is again an area where the movie borrowed and rightfully so. While the character wanders from place to place we hear that same sad theme. It’s an ode to the lost and the broken-hearted and in the Hulk pantheon a hint of the lurking underbelly – the rage within.