Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) Featuring Daredevil Movie Review

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool,

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Following the revival of the Incredible Hulk TV franchise in 1988 with the made for TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns, the following year NBC tried their luck again with The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.  Both specials earned exceptional ratings but both ultimately failed to relaunch the series or the spin-off series of the guest characters.  Why?  Demographics and such as that mainly.  The ratings were great but NBC was wanting to move in a different direction and their specific target demographics were soft for the two specials.

There was ultimately one last Incredible Hulk TV special from the Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno era called Death of the Incredible Hulk which also did well in the ratings but the planned relaunch of the TV series never materialized and, despite plans to resurrect the Hulk, the TV Hulk stayed dead after 1990.

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Lou Ferrigno turns green again for The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and teams up with Daredevil (Rex Smith)

In The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, we find David Banner again on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the monster inside him.  He his bullied on a job site in a pretty cheesy scene and decides to move on.  To where?  "The city".  "The city" is clearly New York but is oddly unnamed in the special.  It is in "The city" where he again finds trouble.  While on the subway he inadvertently gets in the middle of an attempted sexual assault and turns into the Hulk when he is attacked.  Now we have a big green monster running loose in the subway system of "The city".  Hulk eventually morphs back into David Banner and the police take him in believing him to the be the criminal in the situation while the female victim, Ellie Mendez (Marta DuBois), lays unable to speak in a hospital.

The men who tried to assault her are actually part of Wilson Fisk's (The Kingpin in the Marvel Comics series) gang who had just pulled off a jewel heist.  Mendez is essentially threatened into keeping quiet about the whole thing and letting David Banner take the fall.  But Banner is appointed a lawyer while in jail who turns out to be Matt Murdoch and if you read comics or have watched the popular and successful Daredevil Netflix series then you already know that Matt Murdoch moonlights as the masked vigilante Daredevil.

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John Rhys-Davies as Wilson Fisk

From there the special offers very few surprises.  Banner and Daredevil team up to take down Wilson Fisk and occasionally Banner hulks out to become the Incredible Hulk... but rarely.  While the TV special is actually quite good, the superhero action is limited mainly to Rex Smith's Daredevil and this special really is more of a Daredevil adventure than a Hulk one.  That being said, Rex Smith's Daredevil is actually very good and very similar to the modern era Netflix version.

Also, the title is a bit misleading as the Hulk never actually goes on trial except in a dream sequence where David Banner dreams of turning into the Hulk in the middle of a jury trial.  The only thing notable about the dream sequence is that Marvel Comics Stan Lee is the jury foreman.

Of course, the budget and effects are not nearly what Netflix offers today and the fight scenes are super simplistic.  There are two cringe worthy scenes near the end where Daredevil burst through a Styrofoam movie screen and Wilson Fisk ultimately escapes in what can only be described as a flying bass boat. 

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Daredevil heroically bursts through a Styrofoam wall.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV special is a fun and simple viewing experience. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was good, it certainly wasn't bad, and if you are a big fan of the Netflix Daredevil series then this might be fun for you to check out as Rex Smith's Daredevil is very similar in a 1980s kind of way to the current version of Daredevil.

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