W.A.F. Reviews: "The Trial of The Incredible Hulk" (1989)
After NBC purchased the rights to “The Incredible Hulk” from rival CBS, they decided to bring about a series of TV movies featuring the return of the iconic Marvel Comics character. The first, as I covered before, was “The Incredible Hulk Returns” in 1988, which teamed the Green Goliath up with another Marvel character, the Mighty Thor. It was the very first time that another character from the comics would interact with this particular iteration of the Hulk, and NBC decided to keep things going with their next Hulk outing.
This time around, Dr. David Banner, under the pseudonym “David Belson”, is still trying to live a quiet life so that he doesn’t become angry and turn into a giant green rage monster. He soon finds himself in a city that it under the control of a man named Wilson Fisk, who comic book fans also know as the infamous Kingpin of Crime! Two of Fisk’s lackeys, after robbing a jewelry store, attempt to accost a woman on a subway train. Banner, seeing this, tries to stop them, but things get crazy, and the Hulk eventually emerges!
Incidentally, Banner is the one who is arrested and charged with the crime. While sitting in a jail cell awaiting his day in court, he is introduced to the defense attorney assigned to his case: a blind man by the name of Matt Murdock. David is very uncooperative, but Murdock believes he is innocent and plans on clearing his good name. One night, David has a bad nightmare about turning into the Hulk while on the stand, and it jars him so much that he actually does change and proceeds to break out of prison.
It’s soon revealed that Banner’s blind attorney is actually a crime fighter under the name “Daredevil”, who has been battling against the Fisk Empire for quite some time. Together, the Hulk and Daredevil are able to form a team and take the fight right to Fisk’s doorstep. Fisk does get away, and Banner ends up being cleared of all charges. A pact is made between David and Murdoch that neither shall ever tell the other’s secret. David decides to move on and continue his search to find a cure, while Murdoch, knowing that the Kingpin is still out there, stays in the city determined to continue the fight against crime.
This is a somewhat decent film. It follows pretty much the same template that both the TV series and the previous film created, while expanding the Marvel Comics universe at the same time. The addition of not one, but TWO characters from the comics was a welcome one. Although this version of Kingpin left a lot to be desired, you could tell that John Rhys-Davies had to utilize what they gave him. Of course, this could also be attributed to it being an early version of the character, as like the previous film, this was also being used as a backdoor pilot for a possible spinoff series featuring DareDevil and his war against the Kingpin. Sadly, this did not pan out, and ended up being the only time the two characters would be utilized in a live-action way until 2003’s big screen adaptation “DareDevil”, and of course the current Netflix series.
Daredevil’s costume looks decent for the budget they had, and what’s interesting is this black costume was actually used 4 YEARS before Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear” comic, which would then also be used for most of the episodes from Season 1 of the Netflix series. Bill Bixby returns to the role of Dr. David Banner, and he once again pulls off a wonderful performance. He’s been doing that character for so long up to that point that it was probably second nature to him. And the massive Lou Ferrigno dons the green paint and wig again to portray everyone’s favorite Green Goliath. These two are actually the only ones from the original series to return. Jack Colvin, who had reprised his role as nosy reporter Jack McGee in the previous movie, did not come back to that role ever again, sadly.
All in all, I’m okay with this movie. It’s funny to me how all these years later, there’s been two big-budget Hollywood films based around the Hulk, and more of his comic roots, and he was even featured in “The Avengers”, but it’s this version and Bixby’s Banner that seem to resonate with people. That’s not to say guys like Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo didn’t do a good job with their respective films, cause they did pretty well. Especially the latter, in my humble opinion. But there was just something about Bixby’s portrayal of David Banner that left fans constantly wanting more stories with him. And NBC knew this. And they had a pretty interesting plan for the series that would have seen some drastic changes. However, in order to get there, a death had to come first. Just not the death they were expecting…