The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) Featuring Thor Movie Review

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool,

Hulk 2.jpg

In 1988 after being absent from television for several seasons, NBC revived The Incredible Hulk television series, which had previously been broadcast by CBS, for three stand alone TV movies.  The first of these was The Incredible Hulk Returns which saw the return of Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner (and as the Executive Producer) and Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk.  The special also introduced us, for the first time ever, to a live action Thor played by Eric Kramer.

The special aired for the first time on May 22, 1988, or just as I was finishing up my junior year of high school.  I vividly remember watching it at the time and being somewhat disappointed in Thor who was not up to my comic book expectations.  However, after re-watching it for this article I must admit I was wrong, Eric Kramer as Thor was actually quite entertaining.  While this special started off a little slow it soon picked up and was an enjoyable, if not simplistic, movie.

Hulk 3.jpg

Lou Ferrigno looking as huge as ever as The Incredible Hulk in the 1988 The Incredible Hulk Returns TV Special

In The Incredible Hulk Returns, Dr. David Banner (which differs in name only from the comic books "Bruce" Banner) believes that he has found a potential cure for his transformations into the Hulk.  However, he is sabotaged by the arrival of Thor, who has been banished from Valhalla. The two then team-up to battle a criminal organisation.  Like I said, the plot is simplistic and very "comic booky". Bill Bixby returns as Banner and Lou Ferrigno reprises his role of the Hulk. Eric Kramer makes his first and only appearance as Thor and Steve Levitt stars as Donald Blake. This was also Jack Colvin's last appearance as reporter Jack McGee, thankfully, as his character had gotten long in the tooth by this point.

Hulk 4.jpg

Eric Kramer as the Mighty Thor

While not nearly as much fun as the Hulk-Thor team up in the recent Thor: Ragnarok movie, this made for TV special was still a good deal of fun especially whenever Thor was on screen.  Thor was portrayed as a merry, fun loving, oaf but differed from his comic book version in that he and Dr. Donald Blake (played by Steve Levitt) are two totally separate people who do not transform back and forth between one another.  Instead, Blake simply summons Thor from a sort of limbo whenever he is needed.  Also, Thor's hammer is never referred to as Mjolnir nor does it seem to possess the same magical or supernatural powers as the comic book version.  

The Incredible Hulk would return a year later in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (featuring Daredevil) and the two Hulk revivals would be occasionally played back-to-back as weekend movies on NBC.  There would be a third, lesser known and final, Hulk made for TV movie titled The Death of the Incredible Hulk which would end the franchise once and for all.

If you don't want to use Patreon but still want to support When It Was Cool then how about a one time $5 PayPal donation? Thank you!