The Incredible Hulk 2 is a 2015 film set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the sequel to 2008's The Incredible Hulk, with Justin Lin replacing Louis Leterrier as the film's director. It is the first film in the 3rd Phase of the MCU and the sixteenth film overall. The film was a co-production of Universal Studios and Marvel Studios, due to a rights sharing agreement for individual films about the Hulk. The film was better received than its immediate predecessor, rated at a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing with just over $400 million at the worldwide box office.
Despite the reasonable success of The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and the popularity gained by the character after his appearance in The Avengers, there was some degree for reluctance on the part of both Marvel and Universal for a sequel. While one was always planned, the length of time between the original and its sequel (seven years as opposed to two or three for other heroes in the MCU) was due to primarily no real story to go on. An early script written by director Stephen Sommers would have seen the Hulk fight Dracula and also featured the character of Morbius, who's origins would be explored in the subsequent Blade series on Netflix. This script was jettisoned, in favor of one written by Fast & Furious screenwriter Chris Morgan, who had previously worked with director Justin Lin, who came on board in mid-2014. Rumors circulated that the story would lead into an overarching "World War Hulk" story, which was eventually confirmed at the end of the film.
All major characters from the original Incredible Hulk reprised their roles, with Nick Robinson and Jason Statham joining the cast as Rick Jones and Mr. Hyde respectively. The inclusion of a cameo appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in a post-credits scene was a closely guarded secret by Marvel, as preview prints included a small preview scene from Captain America: Civil War in place of the real post-credits scene. Filming on The Incredible Hulk 2 began in October of 2014 and ended in February of 2015.
The events near the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron are shown, in which we see the Hulk coerced into a Quinjet and flying away at hypersonic speeds. The jet is seen in the distance, eventually crash landing in the desert. Hulk stumbles out of the jet, yelling out in rage, but eventually transforming back into Bruce Banner as he falls unconscious. His body is found by a young man passing through. He notes the jet wreckage, but grabs Bruce and takes him in his car, driving him off to parts unknown.
Elsewhere, Thunderbolt Ross, the director of SHIELD, is currently pouring over data trying to track the Quinjet after it left Sokovia. He gets a new set of data from SHIELD agent Glenn Talbot, who informs him that there was an unexplained crash somewhere in the Nevada desert. Ross disregards it for the moment, doubting that Hulk could have gotten that far in the Quinjet and thinking it probably crash landed in the Indian Ocean instead. Talbot asks if Ross has been in contact with his daughter, thinking that Bruce will contact her like he did last time. Ross replies that his daughter wants nothing to do with him, and in any event last he knew she had moved on with her life. He says once Bruce finds out Ross is in charge of SHIELD, he'll go underground again anyway, so they need to head that off. Their best bet is to keep an eye on Stark or one of his other buddies and hope Banner contacts them. Talbot nods, but then notices Jennifer Walters picture in the file. He grabs it for further research.
Back in Nevada, Bruce enters inside a trailer where a young man is pouring himself a cup of coffee. The man says his name is Rick Jones, just a kid who's traveling the country in his camper and trying to find his way in the world. Bruce withholds his identity at first, but Jones admits he knows who Banner is, saying there wasn't a kid alive who didn't know about the Avengers after New York. Banner asks if Rick has heard anything else about the Other Guy more recently, but Rick says he hasn't. Bruce asks for a phone to try and call Tony, but stops himself and decides to call his cousin instead. He calls Jennifer, but she quickly tells him now's not a good time. We cut to Jennifer's apartment to reveal it being searched by Talbot and his agents. Talbot notices her on the phone, and takes note of the Area Code of the caller on a piece of tracing technology.
At a medical conference, Betty Ross is watching Leonard Samson give a presentation on multiple personalities, and how they can be repressed until a traumatic event. Also with her is another doctor by the name of Calvin Zabo. Zabo comments to Betty about how she would know all about split personalities in people; how they can be one thing one minute and another thing the next. Betty tries to ignore him, but he seems to try and force himself on her. Samson intervenes, chasing Zabo off, and muttering that he always seemed a little "off." Betty goes up to Samson and gives him a kiss on the cheek, saying that she hopes more investigation into the psychological trauma might prove helpful for those with this kind of condition. Her cellphone goes off and she answers it. Talbot is on the other line, saying he's trying to get a-hold of Bruce Banner. Betty asks who this is, but Glenn simply hangs up. Disturbed, Betty and Leonard go to a restaurant and discuss what is happening, unknowingly being followed by Zabo, who is pining for Betty. Betty explains her past relationship with Bruce, which she had kept something of a secret up until now. She explains that for the past several years she's been working on theories to try and help Bruce out, psychologically if not physically. Samson agrees to go with her to help Bruce, but does ask if Bruce knows about them, which Betty doesn't answer. They visit Jennifer and find out she's been in contact with Bruce, and together they start traveling to Nevada.
Talbot takes charge of the Hulk Task Force behind Ross' back, saying that Ross had engaged in this kind of behavior before with his little Thunderbolt stunt. To that end, he arranges the release of Samuel Sterns, a former professor at Empire State University and someone who had worked on Hulk's case before. Following their last encounter, Sterns had been mutated by a sample of Hulk's blood, causing his cranium to mutate and his intelligence to grow significantly. Sterns agrees to help track down the Hulk and, if given the opportunity, pacify him. He's been working on a device for just such an occasion.
In Nevada, several miles outside Las Vegas, Banner is trying to live quietly with Jones until the heat on him for Johannesburg dies down. He is surprised, though, when his cousin, Betty and a guy he doesn't know arrives to visit him. He and Betty embrace but it's obvious that she has some degree of reticence that Bruce picks up on, but doesn't comment on. At a local diner, he explains the situation and that he just needs to lay low for a while. He also introduces Jones as a friend when Jennifer eyes him suspiciously. Betty tries to explain Leonard's profession as a psychologist, particularly one dealing with mental illness. She surmises that the Hulk may in fact be part of another persona of Bruce, one he needs to come to terms with if he's to gain more control over his life. Banner agrees to listen to Leonard's ideas and theories. Unbeknownst to them, Calvin Zabo has followed Betty and Leonard to Nevada, stalking Betty, and overhears their conversation.
Doc Samson and Bruce begin talking about past childhood traumas, Bruce explaining a little about his father and his anger issues. They don't get very far when Bruce says he hears a commotion outside. Jennifer looks out the window and doesn't see anything out of the ordinary, but she quickly deduces that they've been tracked here. They send Rick's car with Jones and Samson out as a diversion, drawing out Talbot's forces while Bruce, Betty and Jennifer try to escape in their car. They are stopped, however, by Zabo, who tries to intervene and kidnap Betty. This triggers Bruce somewhat, though he fights to stay in control, as Jennifer deals with the weaker Zabo quickly. The commotion of the moment is finally too much for Bruce to bare, and he transforms into the Hulk. Talbot's forces spot him and try to engage, but he easily dispatches them and causes collateral damage, including to an armored tank. In the course of his rage, however, Jennifer is severely wounded trying to calm him down. Hulk does calm down when he sees Jennifer hurt, and Bruce seems to come back to himself, though still as the Hulk. Frightened, Hulk runs off into the desert as Jones and Samson are temporarily arrested but later released, Zabo is taken into custody and Jennifer is taken to a medical facility.
Thunderbolt Ross arrives in Nevada and dresses down Talbot for not only conducting the operation without prior authorization, but also for involving Sterns. Talbot defends the latter's action, saying Sterns is arguably the best authority on gamma radiation besides Bruce Banner. Betty comes storming into their office, having ignored guards as she did so, dressing down her father and Talbot, whom she recognizes from a blind date, for dragging this up in Bruce's life again when she was trying to help him. Thunderbolt replies it's not about creating a weapon, it's about holding Hulk responsible for the people hurt in Johannesburg and today, including Jennifer. He also alludes to some last measure at dealing with the Hulk, but doesn't elaborate. Speaking of Jennifer again, it is revealed that she is suffering from some internal bleeding, and due to a rare blood type, it is not clear if she will survive.
We cut to Sterns working on some kind of ray-based device, which he calls a gamma suppressor, which may trigger a transformation of Hulk back into Banner if fired correctly. He also speaks with Zabo and gets more of his backstory, about his unrequited affection for Betty and his obsession with power and strength. Sterns acknowledges this and says he might find a way to help Zabo in the future. Before their conversation can continue, Thunderbolt Ross enters and says he needs to find Banner before anyone else gets hurt. Sterns says he's built a gamma tracking system that could probably find the Hulk provided he hasn't reverted back to Banner. Betty approaches Sterns and asks if he can cure Bruce this time, but Sterns is mum.
In the desert, Hulk is still wandering, and we transition from the real world into a daydream sequence featuring Hulk and Banner talking to one another. Banner tries to talk to the Hulk, who ignores him, but eventually gets to the crux of what he wants: Hulk wants to live. Hulk wants to be only one there is. Banner weak. Hulk strong. Banner agrees with the latter part, but says that Hulk can't stay in the world forever. He promises he won't try and eliminate Hulk from existence, having gotten used to his powers now, but he needs to come back so he can try and help Jennifer. Bruce knows that Jennifer has a rare blood type, and that he possesses it. Hulk thinks for a moment, and nods his head, temporarily trusting Banner. In the real world, Hulk reverts back to Banner and begins hitchhiking his way back to the town. In a SHIELD helicopter, Talbot notices the gamma tracker has shut off, and they need to find a new way of tracking Hulk.
Jones and Samson come across Banner hitchhiking and tell him not to come back to the town. Banner says he has no choice, he has to save Jennifer. He manages to get back to the hospital and finds Jennifer lying in a medically induced coma. He sneaks into her room and draws some blood from his own arm, rigging up a transfusion as much as he can in limited time to replace the blood in her system. He manages to get some in her, disregarding the possible side effects. He rushes out when Talbot spots him from a distance, and runs off into the night in an attempt to escape. However, before he can turn back into the Hulk to run away, he is distracted by Betty. She pleads with him to stop running and accept their help, but Banner says he can't do that anymore. He has a responsibility to try and help the world as best he can. The delay is long enough for Sterns to show up with his gamma suppression ray which knocks out Banner. Jones and Samson, who helped Banner get to the hospital, are also detained. Inside the hospital, Jennifer begins to stir and glow green from Banner's blood.
Back in the nearby laboratory, outside Las Vegas, Banner is hooked up to several machines when he comes to. He sees Betty staring at him, saying that she only wants to help him. Bruce doesn't believe what he's hearing, saying he still loves Betty, but Betty admits that she doesn't love Bruce anymore, saying that she's engaged to be married to Samson. Bruce also adds that he can't believe she'd try and help her father or Sterns after everything they've done, but Sterns chimes in and says that's certainly not the thanks he was expecting. Sterns explains that Banner's blood mutated him and gave him some subtle powers of manipulation, allowing him to get as far as he did with little difficulty. Talbot and Thunderbolt, standing by, say that Bruce will soon be transferred to NATO authorities, but they want to conduct a little experiment to try and deal with the Hulk once and for all. Banner tries to transform, but the gamma suppressors are still in effect. Betty continues to try and rationalize this as trying to move on with her life, but Samson says that's not the Betty he knows, breaking her free of whatever control Sterns had over her. Sterns withdraws a small amount of Bruce's blood and places it in a concoction, saying it might be the key ingredient to that oh so powerful super soldier thing that Ross is after, but he's after other things. At that time, Sterns flips a switch and activates a gas drone in the control room where Talbot and Thunderbolt are, knocking them out. Sterns activates another machine, a more powerful gamma suppressor, that will attempt to drive out the Hulk's strength from within. Meanwhile, Zabo has snuck into the room, having been set free by Sterns, and grabs the vial of Sterns created. He drinks it, mutating into an Abomination-Like monster in the process. As the machine begins to work, causing Bruce imminent pain, Betty tries to stop it, only to be smacked down by Zabo, who tries to drag her off. This only triggers Banner more, and Sterns is amazed as his gamma suppressor is approaching its energy intake faster than expected. Bruce begins to bleed from the nose, trying desperately to overload the machine and trigger his transformation.
At that moment, though, a green mass bursts into the room, and a female Hulk-like figure emerges and smashes the machine. She says that her cousin's blood did wonders for her, calling herself a lean green She-Hulk. With the machine destroyed, the gamma energy radiates back into Banner. Sterns hides himself behind a personal forcefield device he and been tinkering with earlier, and Hulk is distracted by Zabo, who now calls himself Mr. Hyde. Sterns opens a door to try and escape, claiming that he will be back to find a way to lead humanity, but he is stopped by She-Hulk, who knocks him unconscious.
Hyde and Hulk fight out of the laboratory and into Las Vegas. The two fight up and down the Strip, tearing into cars and other areas. Hulk's rage continues to grow more and more, and inside his head we can hear Banner try to talk sense to him. Hulk replies to himself that Banner broke his promise, not understanding what had happened. Back at the lab, She Hulk collects Jones, Betty and Samson and follows Hulk, while Thunderbolt calls in SHIELD to deal with Sterns and try and save Vegas. Eventually the fight between Hulk and Hyde ends, with Hulk winning and forcing Zabo to revert back to normal. Betty approaches the Hulk and tries to calm him again, but Hulk looks at Samson, remembering her admission of their engagement from before. Hulk starts towards Samson, and Jones bravely stands in his way. Unfortunately Sterns, who had broken free from SHIELD agents and stolen a Quinjet, attacks with the guns on said jet and drives Hulk further into a frenzy before flying away. In the gunfire though, Betty is accidentally hit and dies. This drives Hulk to his ultimate rage, and he begins smashing things indiscriminately. She-Hulk is forced to try and fight Hulk herself, but she can't control him for long. Thunderbolt calls a flip phone and hits a single number. He then orders helicopters to lead Hulk away from the city, and to a nearby launchpad back at the base. We see the caller ID that Ross had called says "Tony Stark."
The helicopters, along with an unknowing She-Hulk, do their job and lure Hulk into a waiting ship, where an installed gamma suppressor weakens him enough to trap him on the Vibranium laced ship, that promptly launches into space. On board, Hulk watches a brief video showing Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Nick Fury and Black Bolt explaining that the four of them designed this rocket to be a way to get Hulk away from where he could ever hurt people again. Hulk, in his rage, finds he can't smash the Vibranium laden fuselage, as Stark explains that Richards found a habitable planet that's devoid of human life in the Cosmos, where Hulk and Banner can live out there days in peace, and that if any way is found to cure Banner, they'll come and find him. Hulk simply replies there is no Banner...only Hulk.
Back in Vegas, She-Hulk nearly breaks Thunderbolt's neck for his actions, but lets him go. Zabo is taken back into custody while Jones and Samson are released. The final shot is of Hulk's ship flying into space, Hulk giving a simple minded monologue of his conquest and vengeance may come if he ever returns. As he stares into the black void of space, he simply says to himself:
Hulk is Strongest One There Is.
Hulk is Only One There Is.
[We cut to the inside of Avengers Tower. Tony Stark distraught over the fate that had befallen his friend. Reed Richards and Nick Fury are nearby, to console him.]
Reed: I understand what you're feeling Tony. But in the end we made the only decision that we could.
Stark: I still feel bad. Like maybe we should have told him.
Fury: Told him when? I'm sorry Tony but Reed is right, the Hulk was too dangerous to be left on Earth. Power like that can't be controlled.
Stark: I just want to make sure we did the right thing.
[Off camera, an ethereal voice is heard speaking to the group.]
Strange: We made the best possible choice out of the millions that were possible.
[The camera turns and we see Doctor Strange levitate in off screen, the Eye of Agamotto around his neck.]
Strange: Whether or not it was the right decision...only Time will tell.
[Cut to Black.]
Summary of Changes
The Incredible Hulk 2 is an entirely original film in the Earth-11584 continuity, with no counterpart in the mainline MCU.
- Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk- A scientist who due to accidental exposure to gamma radiation, becomes a super-strong beast whenever agitated or angry.
- Liv Tyler as Betty Ross- A medical doctor in search of a cure for Bruce's condition
- William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross- The director of SHIELD and a retired general who oversaw the project that created the Hulk.
- Nick Robinson as Richard "Rick" Jones- A college dropout who finds Bruce Banner in the desert and hides him for a brief time.
- Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns/The Leader- A former genetic biologist who, due to exposure to the Hulk's blood, has become a super intelligent criminal mastermind.
- Malin Akerman as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk- A former lawyer and Bruce Banner's cousin who, in the course of the film, is exposed to Bruce's blood and becomes the She-Hulk.
- Ty Burrell as Leonard Samson- A psychologist and fiance to Betty Ross.
- Jason Statham as Calvin Zabo/Mr. Hyde- A psychologist and colleague of Leonard Samson who is obsessed with Betty Ross and has unrequited feelings for her. Becomes an enhanced individual by drinking a concoction created by The Leader.
- Chris O'Donnell as Glenn Talbot- A SHIELD agent assigned to lead the taskforce to bring down the Hulk by Thunderbolt Ross. Also went on a blind date with Betty Ross at one time.
In addition, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Adrien Brody and Matt Bomer reprise their roles as Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Bolt and Reed Richards respectively in both a closing scene and a post-credits scene. The latter scene also introduces Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange. Stan Lee cameos as an armored car driver who's vehicle is destroyed by one of Hulk's rampages.
The film received mostly positive reviews upon its release, with review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 74% with an average score of 6.1/10 based on 315 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Buoyed by a strong lead performance and a stellar second half, The Incredible Hulk 2 finds just the right amount of green-based action and psychological pathos to be an enjoyable film." Critics were divided over the film's seeming two halves, criticizing the set up of the story but lauding the second half, particularly the fight scene in Las Vegas and the introduction of She Hulk into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film grossed 52.1 million dollars in its opening weekend, making it to date the only film in the MCU to not finish #1 in its opening week box office (losing out to Spectre, which earned just over 70 million dollars). However the film would prove to have strong legs and narrowly edge out its competition with $201 million dollars cumulative at the domestic box office, on its way to a worldwide total of $400.8 million dollars.