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The Ending Of Hulk Explained

Before Mark Ruffalo stepped into the overstretched jean shorts of the Incredible Hulk that we know today, and before Edward Norton gave the character his MCU debut, moviegoing audiences were familiar with the Hulk through another movie. 2003's "Hulk" marked a big achievement for portrayals of the Incredible Hulk in many ways. It was the first "Hulk" production to rely on CGI for the character's appearance, and it was arguably the deepest look into Bruce Banner's (Eric Bana) backstory of any film, as noted by Blackfilm.

The origin of Bruce's Hulkhood is roughly the same one that Marvel fans are familiar with. Bruce becomes the Hulk as a result of some potentially dangerous experimentation involving gamma radiation (with a healthy dose of inherited mutant genes), allowing him to transform into the Hulk whenever he becomes angry. However, Bruce's backstory is more comic-accurate in that much of the underlying anger that creates the Hulk is repressed aggression toward his abusive father — who is also responsible for Bruce's mutant genes in the first place.

The movie's conflict becomes more intense as Bruce's father, David (Nick Nolte), re-enters his son's life in a manipulative gambit to harness the Hulk for himself and make up for his days as a disgraced scientist. Meanwhile, both David and Bruce are hunted by General Thaddeus Ross (Sam Elliott). All of this culminates in a final conflict that pits the abused against their abuser and sees Bruce taking his first steps toward fitting in with a society that deems him a monster.

How Bruce overcomes his trauma at Hulk's climax

So far in the film, David Banner has shown himself to only appreciate his son for his value as an experiment gone horribly right. He wants the Hulk's powers for himself and desperately needs it to stabilize the absorption powers he attained in an earlier scene. After both father and son are captured by Ross' men, the two finally have an opportunity to hash things out.

However, the two start to fight after Bruce refuses to let David absorb his Hulk powers. David instead absorbs the energy from a nearby electrical wire and the two super-beings battle their way out of the military base and into the desert. Unable to defeat his father, the Hulk finally relents and releases all of his pent-up gamma energy. This proves too much for David, who is overwhelmed as Ross sends a Gamma Bomb to dispatch them both. Only Bruce survives the explosion, and he retreats to the Amazon Rainforest.

In many ways, both literally and figuratively, this sequence of events depicts Bruce facing down his lifetime abuser and dealing (at least in part) with his pent-up rage. In releasing his power to his father, Bruce finally acknowledges all of the trauma of his childhood (which has been repressed up until recently). He still struggles with anger and the fact he is also the Hulk, but he has faced and overcome his past, putting him on the road to recovery in the future.