The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)

theincrediblehulkreturns

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Before the classic throwdown in 2012’s The Avengers, Marvel’s Green Goliath faced off against The God of Thunder in this 1988 made-for-TV movie that made a welcome return after the series end in 1982.

It has been a long six years since Dr. David Banner has become the Incredible Hulk. He has finally found happiness with no longer feels the anger of becoming the Hulk. He is in a stable relationship with Dr. Maggie Shaw. He has found a stable job at the Joshua-Lambert Research Institute as part of a team who is putting the finishing touches on a Gamma transponder, which will allow David to possibly be finally cured of becoming the Hulk. However, one day, he runs into a former student of his, Donald Blake. Blake tells him that on a trip to Norway, he discovers a very mysterious hammer, which contains the soul of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder.

When Blake unveils Thor for the first time, an accident causes David to once again transform into the Hulk. A brief fight causes the Hulk to escape and Thor to return to the hammer. Jack McGee, the reporter who had attempted to get a story on the Hulk for years has heard of the sighting and makes his return. Meanwhile, a mob leader, Jack LeBeau, kidnaps Maggie in exchange for the transponder, David has no other choice but to become the Hulk again but this time, he’s going to need some help from none other than the Mighty Thor.

While a generation of fans will enjoy the rivalry turned legendary alliance of the Incredible Hulk and the Mighty Thor in The Avengers, a full fourteen years before that legendary throwdown, the Hulk and Thor had faced each other in live action form. This follow-up to the 1978-1982 hit series reunites the duo of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Dr. David Banner and his superhero alter ego. What’s very interesting is that we start with David Banner, who we are led to believe that since the series’ finale, he has not turned into the Hulk as it has been six years since his last transformation.

Joining Banner and the Hulk are the duo of Donald Blake and Thor. Blake is well-played by Steve Levitt as a somewhat nervous and confident former student of Banner. Meanwhile, Eric Allen Kramer is fun to watch as Thor as we see him now so much unleashing thunder but showing why he has been banished from Asgard. We see Thor always wanting beer and always wanting to pick a fight.  However, unlike the original comics, Blake and Thor are two separate entities with Blake having the ability to yell Odin which allows the hammer Mjolnir to unleash Thor.

Another welcome return is Jack Colvin as the nagging reporter Jack McGee, who has been down and out again until he learns of the Hulk’s re-appearance. Lee Purcell does well as Maggie, the woman who has tamed Banner and shows she is in love with him. Meanwhile, Tim Thomerson and Charles Napier make for some good Cajun villains for this genre as boss Jack LeBeau and number one Mike Fouche. The brief brawl between the Marvel heroes is what you would expect for a modern day TV movie but their eventually alliance is even better and well, if you’re a fan of the series, you can guess who this one will end. This may have led to a Thor series, but sadly it was never meant to be.

The Incredible Hulk Returns is a welcome back for Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Add to the mix a fun performance from Eric Allan Kramer as Thor and you have a precursor to an epic showdown turned alliance.

WFG RATING: B

New World Television presents a Bixby-Brandon Productions film in association with Marvel Enterprises. Director: Nicholas Corea. Producers: Bill Bixby and Nicholas Corea. Writer: Nicholas Corea; based on the television series created by Kenneth Johnson; based on the characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber. Cinematography: Chuck Colwell. Editing: Janet Ashikaga and Briana London.

Cast: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Jack Colvin, Lee Purcell, Steve Levitt, Eric Allen Kramer, Tim Thomerson, Charles Napier, John Gabriel, Jay Baker.

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