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We watched… The Incredible Hulk

⭐️⭐️ – I now understand why many MCU fans discount The Incredible Hulk. I won’t blame the actors as the story itself leaves a lot to be desired, which is unusual for an MCU film. (Katy)

⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ – If it wasn’t a Marvel film it would be alright but doesn’t compare to the other films. (Steph)

As a lover of gothic literature, it is impossible for me to watch The Incredible Hulk and not want to draw comparisons with The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I mean, both centre around characters who have the unique trait of turning into a different person, even a beast, at a moment’s notice. 

This type of story lends itself almost too easily to an analysis of one particular theme: the battle between the person we present to the outside world and the emotional ‘beast’ inside of each of us. The thing is, this theme isn’t confined to the comic books and gothic novels of the world. In fact, I’m going to present an argument for Paul dealing with a very real-life version of this theme in his letter to the Galatians.

Identifying the beast in the Bible

It’s difficult to spot when Paul uses this metaphor as there aren’t any green monsters in purple trousers running around. He doesn’t even use the familiar ‘beast vs human’ terminology. Instead, he talks about a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. 

Just check out Galatians 5. Paul dedicates a whole section of his letter to explain the concept of the flesh and the Spirit. He instructs this church of young Christians to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” In other words, to avoid sin by choosing to be like Jesus, with the Holy Spirit’s help.

What does this have to do with The Incredible Hulk?

A story based around an alter ego who runs amok with the emotions that the main character does his best to suppress. Emotions like anger, rivalry, strife, enmity…

Hang on a moment, that list sounds familiar.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

Galatians 5v19-21a

Yes, all those emotions that we see Bruce Banner trying to suppress and avoid are on the list Paul gives the Galatians as works of the flesh. It is easy from here to jump to all kinds of conclusions about how the Hulk is actually a metaphor for our own struggle with sins. But finding one that is going to stick… Yeah, that isn’t as easy.

You see, this is where the similarities end. There is no metaphor for one simple reason: Bruce chooses to give in to his ‘beast’. Paul, in contrast, warns against the ‘works of the flesh’. Instead, he encourages the Galatians to embrace the fruit of the Spirit:

“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”

Galatians 5v22-23

The thing is that Bruce appears to give in to the Hulk, a literal green monster alter-ego, at the end of the film out of love and kindness. However, in order to wake up this monster when it is needed, Bruce has to give in to his anger. To quote Bruce in a future film, “That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry.” While the Bible supports the concept of righteous anger, to live a life fuelled by anger is not something to be emulated in the real world.

Rather, it is Bruce at the beginning of the film whom I think follows Paul’s advice most closely. He is shown learning to control his pulse through breathing, meditating, and being generous with his skills at the bottling plant he works at. While this is in part motivated by fear of the Hulk, Bruce also reveals himself to be generous, kind, and loving. Even when faced with situations where anger would be a right response, Bruce chooses self-control and tries to find a better solution.

Two world views

To me, early Bruce is on route to embracing the fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately, the MCU doesn’t make room for God in its films so this is still a flawed metaphor. Yet this also tells us a lot about the world’s view of our ‘inner beast’. Early Bruce is portrayed as weak and fearful, scared of what lies within, despite being kind and loving to those around him. By the end of the world, Bruce has become a hero by giving in to his anger.

In Galatians, Paul teaches the exact opposite; that actually we should embrace the fruit of the Spirit over the works of the flesh. To be honest, we shouldn’t be surprised that the world is trying to convince us something opposite to the Bible. The reality is that a life fuelled by anger isn’t going to bring fulfillment. 

The Incredible Hulk shows us a world view that encourages us to not just engage with but to give in to our inner beast. But, as I hope I’ve shown, the Bible shows us a different world view where we are not called to give in to our inner beast. Instead, the Bible challenges us to a higher standard focused on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The only question left is to ask: which worldview are you going to adopt?

“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
Galatians 5v22-23

The Marvel Lockdown || Comparing the World View of The Incredible Hulk to Galatians 5