Still on the run and hoping to find a cure for the condition that causes him to transform into the Incredible Hulk, David Banner (Bill Bixby) is now in New York and using the name David Belson. He’s grown a beard to keep himself from being recognized. I guess it’s like when Superman used to put on his glasses. When David sees a woman being harassed on the subway by two thugs, it’s too much stress for him and he transforms into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). When the Hulk turns back into David, he is arrested and charged with being a mugger. (No one believes the witness’s account of seeing a huge green man on the subway.)
Despite the title, the Hulk never goes on trial, though there’s a dream sequence where David turns into the Hulk in a courtroom. (Stan Lee plays the jury foreman.) Just having a nightmare about turning into the Hulk is enough to cause the transformation for real. No New York jail can hold the Hulk.
David’s lawyer is blind and yes, his name is Matthew Murdock (played by Rex Smith). Murdock thinks that the attack on the subway was somehow linked to a crime lord named … yes, Wilson Fisk. Fisk (John Rhys-Davies) wants to set up a national crime syndicate, as if Lucky Luciano didn’t already do that. Using the name Daredevil, Murdock tries to prevent that. David eventually ends up helping.
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is a huge tease. It promises the Hulk on trial but, instead, it’s just a backdoor pilot for a Daredevil TV series. Just like in The Incredible Hulk Returns, the Hulk is forced to make room for a new hero. But at least The Incredible Hulk Returns actually featured the Hulk working with Thor. In Trial of the Incredible Hulk, the Hulk is hardly present at all. Banner encourages Murdock not to give up, even after he’s badly beaten by Fisk’s men, and he works with Matt to help him prepare for a rematch. But the final battle is almost all Daredevil. Once he escape from prison, Banner doesn’t turn into the Hulk once.
Rex Smith isn’t bad as Daredevil. While he’s not as good as Charlie Cox, he’s still better than Ben Affleck. While the movie does not feature the classic Daredevil costume, it does at least get Daredevil’s origins and powers correct. John Rhys-Davies hams it up as Wilson Fisk. One of Marvel’s most intriguing villains is turned into just another generic bad guy in an office. It’s disappointing.
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk ends with Murdock pledging to protecting the city and Banner again hitchhiking away. Daredevil would have to wait for another 25 years before getting his own series. Banner would return in The Death of the Incredible Hulk.