The Incredible Hulk: The Avengers Disassembled

SPOILER NOTE: This is a review of a character from the 2012 film “The Avengers”. It will contain spoilers. I recommend avoiding this review until you’ve seen the film.

“It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

-Tony Stark, The Avengers


The Incredible Hulk
A Complex Brute

The Incredible Hulk is a complex creature.  Born in 1962 from the pen of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he’s always been a monster released by anger and stress – but it’s not as simple as that.

Bruce Banner’s dad was abusive, the comics said, and the Hulk was a physical manifestation of the rage that had become Banner’s way of coping with reality.

Several times, the two have even been separated, but their need for one another is overwhelming and they’re always reunited.

But the core of the character is always the same; as seen in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner is a divided, risky, consumed man.

A Divided Man

Hulk was always intended to be a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Stan Lee intended him to be something adolescent boys could relate to as their bodies changed and spiraled out of their control.  But he turned into something we can all identify with.

See, Bruce Banner is so inseparable from the Hulk because, quite simply, he IS the Hulk.  When he tries to remove the monster, he fails; when he tries to restrain his anger, he fails.  By the time Agent Romanoff meets him to recruit him for the Avengers, Banner has given up.  The Hulk is a part of him.

A very dangerous part of him.

We Only Hulk Out on the Ones We Love

All right.  We can agree that the Hulk is actively dangerous, right?  He starts out unbelievably strong and gets stronger the madder he gets.  In The Avengers, he punches a space monster the size of a nuclear submarine and knocks it backwards.

But unfortunately, his danger isn’t always focused on the bad guys.  He puts his friends and family in danger time and time again.  In the opening scene of his standalone film, he puts his fiancee in the hospital.  In The Avengers, even the most powerful demigod in Asgard can’t stop him from putting everyone aboard the Helicarrier at risk.

But he’s not just actively dangerous.  Even when he’s the mild-mannered scientist, he’s still passively dangerous.  He’s a fugitive, so anyone who helps him is a criminal.  He’s on the edge of turning into the Hulk, so anyone nearby when he’s mad will face his wrath.

He’s not a safe guy to be around.  You wouldn’t like him when he’s hungry.

A Poisoned Soul

Banner’s condition isn’t just dangerous to those around him.  Living with GAMMA poisoning, as Mr. Blue says in The Incredible Hulk, is not safe.  So unsafe that risking the combined might of the US Military would be preferable.  When Stan Lee’s character drinks a soda with a drop of his blood inside, he falls over almost instantly.

And it gets even worse.  The more Banner gives in, the harder it is to stop him.  And when Emil Blonsky gives in to Banner’s poisoning, he becomes an abomination.

Worst of all, though, is the aftermath.  The shame of endangering those close to you, the weakness that Banner always shows after he returns to normal, and the alienation of being ostracized from society are the best you can hope for; at worst, you kill others and cause untold destruction before you die.

“Well then, son, you’ve got a Condition.”

But if we really understood the danger of what lurks inside us, we’d run and hide, too.  We’d be even more insistent that we “don’t want to control it.  [We] want to get rid of it.”

See, Banner’s poison is Gamma radiation.  Ours is much more subversive.

Our sin is a part of us.  It’s part of us by choice – like Banner chose the procedure, so we chose to sin.  It’s part of us by nature – Banner’s very cells were green, and ours too are tainted by the sin we cling to.  And it’s part of us continually – over and over, we choose to sin, giving in to our rage monster and putting others at risk.

Our sin poisons our lives, too.  Romans 7:15 is about a man who wants to get rid of his sin, but can’t; “I do not understand my own actions,” he laments.  “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  The poison runs deep, dividing us into different people, hurting those around us, and leaving shame and destruction in its wake.

And like Banner, we’re completely helpless against it.  Our ongoing struggle will always be – how do we have a normal life, with this poison running through our veins?

A Way Out

As helpful as Betty Ross, the Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D. can be, they’re just comforters and helpers.  Bruce Banner is in trouble, and he doesn’t have a way out.  Not even death, as he reveals in The Avengers.

But we have a way out.  We’re being pursued – not to destroy us or to capture us, but to restore us and free us of the poison.  Christ is chasing us down – in Luke 19:10, He tells us that His mission is to “Seek and Save the lost;” and in Romans 5:7-8, we’re told that “while we were still sinners” – poisoned, hopeless – “Christ died for us.”  He laid everything down for us on the cross.

All we can do is hope in Him.  Until then, we’re always angry.

• • •

This was post 2 of 5 in the “Avengers Disassembled” series. Earlier, we looked at Captain America; over the next weeks, we’ll take a look at Thor, Iron Man, and the “puny god,” Loki.

The Incredible Hulkand The Avengers” are available to watch instantly on Amazon.com, and buying them through these affiliate links helps support Redeeming Culture at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Captain America: The Avengers Disassembled

SPOILER NOTE: This is a review of a character from the 2012 film “The Avengers”. It will contain spoilers. I recommend avoiding this review until you’ve seen the film.

“Aren’t the stars and stripes a little…old fashioned?”

“Everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light— people might just need a little old fashioned.”

-Captain America and Agent Phil Coulson, The Avengers


Captain America in 2012's "The Avengers"A Hopeful Genre

Superhero films have undergone an interesting transition in the last several years. Last decade, they seemed obsessed with the bleak, unsure, and angsty; Spider-Man, Elektra, The Dark Knight and even Superman Returns showed superheroes who were unsure about their missions, didn’t want the great power or great responsibility that had been bestowed upon them, and sometimes seemed to shirk their responsibilities.

But in the last few years (Man of Steel aside), a more hopeful hero seems to have come into vogue, and Captain America rides at the forefront of that wave. From the outset, Rogers was much more interested in helping the downtrodden than in lording his heroism over anyone else. “I don’t like bullies,” he says in The First Avenger, “I don’t care where they’re from.” He’s dedicated to righting wrongs, to making life better for the downtrodden. Even as he’s nearing almost certain death, he doesn’t question his decision to do what is right.

An Old-Fashioned Superhero

In The Avengers, the Captain has been taken out of his time, but he hasn’t lost his sense of truth, justice, and the American way. He’s an utterly unabashed superhero; pleased to be doing his part. In contrast to the other three jaded, flawed heroes we’ll be talking about later, he has no major, fatal flaw; he’s a good guy doing a good job. He’s ready to jump into action when he’s needed, he doesn’t back out at the first sign of trouble, he’s willing to make the sacrifice if he’s needed, and he doesn’t try to grab all the credit for himself. It’s a very old-fashioned idea.

And like Coulson says, maybe that’s exactly what we need. This century is an uncertain one thus far. Terrorism, financial crisis on multiple continents, civil unrest and protest, fear, recessionthe enemies we face may not be as colorful as Loki or the Red Skull, but they are just as difficult for mortals to defeat. We face problems and fears daily that not only threaten our freedom and livelihood but demand that we kneel before them and allow them to consume us.

“We ended up disagreeing.”

When Captain America first leaps into action in The Avengers, he validates the old man’s insistence that there will always be something that demands our allegiance; a false god that demands we kneel. It’s true that we are made to bow our knees, but not to Loki, and certainly not to the weak and puny concerns we find ourselves surrounded by and threatened by every day. Captain America may be willing to give up his life, but he’s not willing to sacrifice himself to Loki’s unworthy cause.

Captain America’s optimism and hope are a reassurance that we can withstand our enemies; our battles can be won, if we have the right ally.

Clothes make the God?

The Bible talks about a similar, silver-tongued villain who insists we kneel to him, and an amazing Savior who tells him “not today,” insisting that the real God “does not dress like that” – clothed in lies, brandishing the power to make us forget who we are and fight amongst ourselves.  He looks attractive to us, but 1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan, like Loki, is “looking for someone to devour.”  We’ll talk about him more in upcoming posts, but what’s important is this: our battle against him will be hard-fought and long. It does not end until our life does, but if our Savior fights for us – and dies for us – victory will be ours. Christ made that commitment on the cross, laying Himself down to receive the blow meant for us.

He seems old-fashioned, but as The Avengers proves, we really need something old-fashioned right now.

• • •

This was post 1 of 5 in the “Avengers Disassembled” series. Soon, we’ll discover the truth in the life of The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Loki.

Captain America: The First Avenger”, “The Avengers”, andCaptain America: The Winter Soldier are all available to watch instantly on Amazon.com, and buying them through these affiliate links helps support Redeeming Culture at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

This review was originally written prior to the release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, and published prior to a Film and Theology event about the newer film. Follow us on social media for our upcoming review of Captain America 2, as well as more Marvel movies to come.

The Avengers Disassembled: Preview

The AvengersComing soon on Redeeming Culture, we’ll be examining the four co-stars from Marvel’s 2012 blockbuster The Avengers, as well as their trickster villain.

We’ll be taking a closer look at some of the themes and threads running through the lives of Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Loki. Keep your eyes out here and on our social media platforms to see them when they arrive. We look forward to hearing your input!

And, as the great Stan Lee says – Excelsior!