The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989)

It’s been a while since David Banner has been on the road and he’s now looking for new lodgings in New York (aka Canada) under the guise of David Belson. After an incident involving a pair of jewel thieves on a train attacking a woman, David is forced to invoke the monster of the Hulk, which results in unfortunate casualties. After wreaking havoc as the green monster, David is arrested and is shocked to learn the women he saved on the train from the robbers is claiming David attacked her. He’s also being blamed for the unfortunate shooting of an elderly man during the attack. Realizing the pair of criminals were under the pay of local crime boss Wilson Fisk, David tries to clear his name along with his new attorney Matt Murdock. Little does David know that Matt is a vigilante by night known as Daredevil.

For fans of the character this is about as good as it got for us in the late eighties, in the way of live action representations. For the most part, Rex Smith does a very good job playing Matt Murdock, a humble blind lawyer who is a menacing crime fighter at night. We never get to see Daredevil in his signature red garb, but Smith does invoke a lot of what makes the character so interesting, including his courage, ace martial arts skills, and ability to take on most foes. What’s so interesting about “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” is that David and Matt realize slowly that they share a common enemy with Wilson Fisk, who is seeking to silence the woman who had her run in with his thugs. He also plans to rise to the top of the crime world by taking down Daredevil and beginning a new operation.

“Trial of the Incredible Hulk” is a more grim and stern reunion movie than its predecessor and works as a crime thriller with David and the Hulk having to intervene. As always David finds himself thrust in to a major crime operation and a villain he has to put an end to, but he at least finds an ally in Matt Murdock. Director Bill Bixby seems to understand the concept of Daredevil and gives the character his own spotlight, with a ton of moments involving him taking on thugs, and interrogating leads in the city, all the while doing his best to sell the often derided black costume/squash uniform. One of the major downfalls of the movie is the performance by John Rhys Davies, who isn’t just wrong for the role, but looks silly with slicked back black hair, a thin goatee and the constant presence of shades, even when sitting in a dark office.

I won’t even mention the ridiculous open door ending when Fisk escapes on a flying vehicle as Daredevil stands by helplessly. As a backdoor pilot for a “Daredevil” series, “Trial of the Incredible Hulk” is goofy fun and I wouldn’t have minded they at least attempt a TV series with a few alterations. In an era where no one wanted to gamble on a superhero property, I’m not surprised “Daredevil” never took off. As a sequel, though, “Trial” watches so much better than “Return” with some solid direction by Bixby, and a bit more of a hopeful aesthetic.