After the… well, I don’t wanna say success exactly, but SOMEONE must have watched it… of the Incredible Hulk Returns, a follow up TV movie hit the airwaves with all the impact of a punch delivered by an arthritic wrist.
The previous adventure, which saw Bill Bixby’s outlandishly lonely David Banner and the giant, green anger-ogre he flat shares his subconscious with, meet up with randy, boisterous Norse God Thor and beat up street level criminals for kidnapping. While obviously low-rent, frequently absurd and sporadically boring the Hulk and Thor parts of the film proved to be entertainingly silly and even endearing in some parts, so fans of bargin basement Marvel Team Ups rejoice because it’s time to make way for Daredevil: the man without fear!
We pick up with David working on a farm under one of his half hearted aliases – this time the barely useful David Belson – despite the fact that manual labour is really I’ll advised considering his unique problem. Restraining himself from dealing out some green tinted instant karma on a bully, he leaves to go to the big city (possibly New York – if New York looked a lot like Vancouver) to start over for what must be the umpteenth time.
Meanwhile, Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin Of Crime oversees a daring jewelry heist via CCTV in which a bunch of guys (one of whom acts like he’s receiving his share purely in meth) split up and hop on the same subway car as David. After transforming into the Hulk after trying to thwart a sexual assault on a woman by one of the thieves on the underground (so it IS New York, then!), Banner is framed for the crime and locked up in jail but good news is on the horizon. The lawyer assigned to him is none other than blind hotshot Matthew Murdock aka the radar sensed vigilante Daredevil, who, at night, dresses like someone heavily into interpretative dance and balaclavas and gives crime the business end of a knuckle sandwich.
Adamant that he can’t stand trial due to a nervous disposition that can punch a hole in a bank vault, Banner is initially reticent to aid Murdock but who soon bond after a rage fuelled jail break and an ambush by Kingpin’s men mean that they learn each other’s secret identities. Can they rescue a material witness from the Kingpin’s clutches while restoring Daredevil’s confidence after falling for a simple trap?
And if this really is Vancouver, what part of the city does Daredevil protect if not Hell’s Kitchen; Hell’s Laundry Room? Hell’s Garage?
Of the three Hulk movies that graced televisions from 1988 to 1990, The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk probably holds together the best despite curiously containing a climax that not only DOESN’T feature a last act appearance by it’s title character (interesting choice) but doesn’t even feature an actual trial either – unless dream sequences count I guess…
Sure, the Thor stuff from the previous feature was ridiculous, cheesy fun but Daredevil, featuring no super strength or other outlandish powers to budget for, actually comes off really well. Maybe it’s Rex (Street Hawk himself) Smith’s determined performance or maybe it’s the fact that his costume has been rendered 75% less stupid by the fact that Charlie Cox spent almost the entire first season of Netflix’s Daredevil wearing something remarkably similar. Admittedly, there’s no red suit or horns here, but he does have an ankle holster for his billy club and there’s even an appearance of Turk, a recurring criminal informer from the comics (yet no Foggy or Karen).
He also has the benefit of something no Marvel character had been given at that point and that’s actually having an honest to God comic villain to play off. Despite having way too much hair, a preference for wearing hideous mirrored ray-bans and an odd, unhealthy fascination of video taping EVERYTHING, John Rhys-Davis is actually somewhat of an inspired choice for the Kingpin. He may not be the expert in hand to hand combat like he is in the funny books but he sure has the voice even if his performance is a little… broad.
With all this Daredevil talk you may think that Banner and Hulk are left a little in the cold and the for the latter it’s certainly true (his best scene is actually a dream sequence that features possibly the first ever Stan Lee cameo) but Bixby (also directing) plants himself firmly to the left of the blind crime fighter and acts as like some sort of life coach for crime fighters.
Not as trashy and goofily entertaining as his relationship with Thor (who had far more of a bromance with the Hulk) you wonder why either the Odinson or Daredevil didn’t get their respective shows from these rather odd pilots.
While not exactly setting the world of comic adaptations on fire, this, like the previous movie, is an interesting and mildly diverting footnote in live action Marvel properties that show ambitious, if limited vision. Bit like Daredevil, really…