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SYFY WIRE Louis Leterrier

How 2008’s The Incredible Hulk Was Inspired by Classic Monster Movies Like King Kong & Frankenstein

First introduced to readers in 1962, the Hulk serves as a monstrous reflection of the Atomic Age.

By Josh Weiss
The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) from The Incredible Hulk (2008) appears surrounded by (L-R, T-B) King Kong from King Kong (1933), Frankenstein from Frankenstein (1931), the werewolf from An American Werewolf in London (1981), and a monster from Cloverfield (2008).

First introduced to comic book readers in 1962, Marvel's Incredible Hulk reflected the monstrous terrors of the Atomic Age. Bruce Banner and his mean, green alter ego were — for all intents and purposes — a post-World War II Jekyll and Hyde, a walking embodiment of the unimaginable destruction waiting to be unleashed by the laughable assumption that our species could be trusted to wield the awesome power lying within the very building blocks of the universe.

Viewed through a more macro lens, the Hulk represents humanity's scientific hubris, a theme that stems back well over 200 years to the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Indeed, the greatest monsters found throughout popular culture have always stood for something larger than themselves. They're not just scary for scary's sake — they also shine a light on our faults and baser instincts. No matter how advanced civilization becomes, humans will always be the scared and superstitious cave dwellers huddled around a fire.

How 2008's The Incredible Hulk was inspired by classic monster movies

The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) roars in The Incredible Hulk (2008).

And so, when he was offered the job of directing 2008's The Incredible Hulk (now available to own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), Louis Leterrier viewed the project less as a cut-and-dry comic book adaptation and more as an opportunity to add his voice to the great monster movie tradition. 

RELATED: How The Incredible Hulk’s Final Battle With Abomination Pays Homage to Iconic Hulk Hands Toy

"My favorite movies growing up were Frankenstein, the original King Kong, werewolf movies," the French filmmaker explained while rewatching the early Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster alongside MTV's Josh Horowitz. "And [with] the Hulk TV show being so formative, I was just like, 'Of course! Yes!' They saw what I couldn't see. They saw that I was the guy that could do this movie."

The Frankenstein allusions are, of course, obvious: science run amok creates a monster, which is shunned by society and forced to go into exile. Echoes of King Kong can be felt during the cave scene when Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) elicits some tender shades of humanity from Banner's raging personality. Leterrier was also influenced by An American Werewolf in London, particularly for the sequence where Banner (Edward Norton) attempts to cure himself in Samuel Sterns' lab. And finally, there's a shaky cam ode to Matt Reeves' Cloverfield in the third act when the military finds itself under attack by the newly-created Abomination (Tim Roth).

"I love Matt Reeves, I love J.J. [Abrams]," Leterrier said. "I just think that what they brought to modern filmmaking, the simplicity of their directing and storytelling..."

"It's very visceral," offered Horowitz. "You're kind of in the boots of them."

Leterrier's most recent blockbuster for Universal — Fast X (the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year) — can be found exclusively on Peacock.