Summary

  • The official timeline for The Incredible Hulk disregards any connection to the previous Hulk movie, Ang Lee’s Hulk.
  • The events of The Incredible Hulk take place in 2010, five years after Bruce Banner’s first transformation into the Hulk.
  • This eliminates the possibility of the MCU Hulk timeline lining up with Lee’s Hulk, which was released in 2003.


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It is no secret that the MCU’s main timeline is a separate entity from the comic book movies of the last few decades, but the recently confirmed timeline for The Incredible Hulk has foregone the opportunity to pay homage to his first cinematic outing. As a character, the Hulk hasn’t exactly been Marvel’s most successful, with his cinematic debut in 2003 receiving middling to poor reviews, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk holding the record for the lowest-grossing Marvel movie until very recently. Despite this, Bruce Banner is now one of the most popular MCU heroes.

Ang Lee’s Hulk was very much an origin movie that detailed Bruce Banner’s childhood and the events that led to him becoming the titular green giant for the first time. The Incredible Hulk, meanwhile, was among the first MCU movies to successfully circumnavigate the need to tell an origin story, instead condensing these events into a three-minute montage at the beginning of the movie. While the two movies are, in fact, canonically entirely separate, they share one glaring similarity both in-universe and in the real world that Marvel has now decided to ignore entirely.

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The MCU Confirmed When Bruce Banner’s Hulk Origin Happened

Edward Norton's Hulk looks menacing in The Incredible Hulk (2008)

While The Incredible Hulk shows Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, which has a handful of differences to the events of Ang Lee’s Hulk, the movie’s main narrative begins in earnest five years after his first transformation. This time jump is conspicuous, as it is the exact amount of time that transpired between the Hulk’s first and second cinematic outings. Marvel’s official timeline of events, however, has completely flouted all connections between Lee’s Hulk and the MCU’s The Incredible Hulk, even if only as a nod.

The release of the book Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline came with a plethora of clarifications that were previously left up to speculation and deduction. While many events in the MCU often took place around the time that the movies in which they transpired were released, Marvel confirmed the bulk of the events in The Incredible Hulk took place in 2010, after Bruce Banner had been on the run for five years. This means that his first transformation occurred in 2005 or, as the book puts it, “the mid-2000s.”

Hulk (Eric Bana) looks placid in Ang Lee's Hulk (2003)

Hulk

Release Date
June 20, 2003

Director
Ang Lee

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
138 Minutes

Distributor(s)
Universal Pictures

The reveal is somewhat frustrating as it kills the implicit link between The Incredible Hulk and Hulk. Had The Incredible Hulk taken place in the same year that it was released, then the five-year gap would have lined up perfectly with the events of Hulk. While The Incredible Hulk already showed the events of Banner’s first transformation to be different from Hulk, this could have drawn at least a tongue-in-cheek connection between the two movies, making Hulk’s cinematic presence more substantial than it currently stands.

Banner’s popularity is mostly due to his actions in the events of the MCU’s Avengers movies, and his heavy involvement in Thor’s third solo movie: Thor: Ragnarok. Yet it has been 15 years since his last solo outing. Though that’s largely due to a rights issue, it only makes Hulk seem like a secondary character to his fellow Avengers. While there are currently no confirmed plans for a sequel to The Incredible Hulk, however, the hope is that the presence of Hulk’s son, Skaar, foreshadows an upcoming Hulk movie that centers around the World War Hulk comic book run.

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