Face of a Franchise: The Hulk!

[face of a franchise presents two individuals that’ve fulfilled the same role. your task — choose the better of the two and defend your choice in the rancor pit that is the comments section]

The Hulk is a pretty easy character to support. I mean, seriously, what’s not to love? Is it the fact that the dude is a research scientist hoping to improve the state of the world? Could it be the tremendous lengths he goes to while trying to win over the love of his life? Maybe it’s his incredible aversion to violence, the reticent willingness to engage in fisticuffs only as an absolute last resort?

Or perhaps it’s the fact that when the Hulk gets pissed off and push comes to shove, he fucking smashes.

Despite the general consensus about big green bastard’s appeal, a debate arises when discussing those depictions outside of the paneled page. Old school Banner-believers may cite the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno tagteam from The Incredible Hulk series as being the definitive portrayal. On the other hand, the more rabid fanboy-augurs amongst us are already claiming that the best Hulk-performance will be found in Mark Ruffalo. There’s no denyin’ that all three of these actors deserve recognition for their contributions to the superheroic Jekyll & Hyde mythos.

But when it comes to live-action dramatizations of the triple threat match between Banner’s id, ego, and super-ego, two actors stand above the rest.

In 2003′s Hulk,   Eric Bana used his supreme thespian skills to conjure up an image of a brutish, mentally-deficient being with enormous muscles. And that was just his take on Banner! Zing! Seriously though, the Aussie-actor guides the audience through a vision of the Hulk that must navigate his way through a whole mess of psychological pitfalls, including inferiority issues, Oedipal complexes, and the volatility of suppressed rage. Bana paints a portrait of the green goliath that uses both the broad strokes of intense violence as well as the subtle strokes of a shattered psyche.

Five years later, Edward Norton got the chance to bring the breaker of worlds to life in The Incredible Hulk. Somewhere in between a sequel and a reboot, this film tries to give fans exactly what they love about the character. Banner’s on the run, Betty Ross is lookin’ dope as hell, Thunderbolt Ross is bein’ a pain in the proverbial emerald ass, and there’s another monster for the Hulk to fight. Eddie Norton fit particularly well, as he looked the part of the scrawny science nerd but carried himself with the intensity of a man trying to iron out emotional wrinkles of the most brutal sort. Additionally, most fans agree that this second feature-length attempted was more successful than the first…but how much of that can be attributed to Norton?

This is a tricky one. Australia vs. America. Nero vs. The Narrator.

So who’s the best Hulk? Eric Bana or Edward Norton?