Avengers Prep Review – “The Incredible Hulk Returns”

Following a successful five year run, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno brought the Hulk back to television in 1988, introducing their version of the Hulk to a new version of Thor.

Cast and Crew Information

Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner
Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk
Jack Colvin as Jack McGee
Lee Purcell as Maggie Shaw
Steve Levitt as Donald Blake
Eric Allan Kramer as Thor

Written by Nicholas Corea
Directed by Nicholas Corea, with a lot of uncredited input from Bill Bixby.

Availability Information

This is available on DVD, packaged along with the subsequent Trial of the Incredible Hulk introducing Daredevil to television.


David Banner hasn’t turned into the Hulk for two years, and has almost finished a cure while working for the Lambert brothers. The younger Lambert enlists thugs to try and destroy that which his older brother has worked for, jeopardizing the woman Banner loves in the process. A doctor he barely knew from ten years previous tracks down the man who is supposed to be dead to ask for help for no apparent reason. This doctor can now summon Thor, and ancient King who Odin barred from Valhalla until he performs enough good deeds to earn his place in that Viking heaven. In this version, Donald Blake and Thor exist as seperate entities at all times.

High Point

Jack McGee knocks on the door to Banner’s apartment, and Thor answers.

Low Point

Making Donald Blake a character from Banner’s pre-Hulk past is a good idea, justifying their quick rapport and allowing the audience to be brought up to speed on the Hulk situation vicariously. Had Banner sought Blake, the Doctor, when looking for a cure, that could have made sense. Instead, Blake searches for the physicist who was believed dead to ask him a question about mythology and archeology. That piece of the premise makes little or no sense.

The Review

The idea of using TV movies as backdoor pilots for superhero series had been around for at least a decade. (See Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. Don’t see Captain America, Nick Fury or Dr. Strange, although they do support the previous statement.) It’s also a unique take on Thor, by virtue of ignoring much of the source material. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were minimal, and often poor. The Hulk transformation sequences still work, with the extreme close up footage of Lou Ferrigno flexing his way out of various articles of clothing, but the Thor effects (lightning superimposed over the hammer and other objects) aren’t particularly impressive. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story suffers from being a back door pilot. We’ve got some great interactions between our heroes, and a fantastic exchange between Jack McGee and Thor, but the villains again have poor motivation and minimal dimensions. I give it 3 out of 6.

The acting is pretty good. Bixby and Ferrigno knew how to do their parts, while Levitt and Kramer were well cast in their roles. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production feels dated for 1988, due in part to the somewhat defensible choice to maintain the style established in the 1978 TV series. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response is pretty good. So far, it’s been the most enjoyable of the Avengers Prep Reviews. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a worthy diversion for fans, but there is no mistaking it for a budget-limited 1980s made for TV movie. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, The Incredible Hulk Returns receives 27 out of 42.