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I gave you life, now you must give it back to me! Only a million times more radiant, more powerful!
~ David Banner to his son Bruce Banner.
David "Dave" Banner (formerly known as: "Dr. Banner") is the main antagonist of the 2003 Marvel film Hulk. He is a genius scientist and the father of Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk, who later transformed himself into a powerful energy being. He is loosely based on Brian Banner and Absorbing Man from the original comics.
He was portrayed by Nick Nolte, who also played Vincent in Over the Hedge.
David Banner was a genetics researcher who, in his quest to improve on humanity, experimented on himself; after his wife Edith Banner gave birth to Bruce, David, seeing that Bruce was not normal, barely showing emotion and gaining patches of green skin when he did, felt that he was responsible, realizing that his experiments on himself had affected Bruce. Trying to find a cure for Bruce's condition, David had his research shut down by Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross; going into a rage over the loss of his work and the hopelessness of Bruce's situation, David accidentally destroyed his laboratory and tried to kill Bruce only to accidentally fatally stab Edith, before being arrested and confined to a mental institution; blocking his memories of David killing Edith, which haunt his nightmares, Bruce was taken into foster care by Ms. Krenzler.
Thirty years later, David was released from a mental hospital and got a job as a janitor from Benny (after supposedly killing him for the job) at the research institute Bruce worked at, in the same field as his father. Confronting Bruce on the night after he was blasted with radiation and nanomeds, David revealed his relationship to him (Bruce had previously thought his biological father was dead) and stole some of his mutated DNA. Experimenting with Bruce's DNA on animals, David also saw his son's first transformation into the Hulk, which he soon became obsessed with copying that power.
Releasing three dogs he had mutated to kill Betty Ross, who had confronted him over what has happened with Bruce, David called Bruce and told him of this. Defeating the mutant dogs and saving Betty, Bruce was tranquilized and taken to a military facility, which David followed him to. As Bruce was held captive, David subjected himself to the same devices that gave Bruce the ability to change into the Hulk, giving himself the ability to absorb the properties of everything he touched. Finding Betty, David told her that he will turn himself in if he was allowed to see Bruce one more time, also revealing to her that he had intended to murder Bruce (believing he would mutate out of control) when his research was originally shut down and that instead he ended up killing Edith when she tried to stop him.
Taken to Bruce, David was placed in a room with him, where they were placed between two electrical generators that would kill both of them if things went out of hand. Bruce began to reflect on the memory of his mother and cried. His father attempted to comfort him, but Banner angrily refused, saying that maybe he was his father back then, but he no longer was now. Having descended into megalomania, David ranted to Bruce about how the military has ruined their lives, also stating that the Hulk was his true son, and Bruce was just a shell for him. Biting some electrical wires, David became a being of pure electricity while Bruce, upon seeing this, becomes the Hulk. Breaking out of the military facility and engaging each other, David and the Hulk crash into a lake, where David, becoming a being of stone and water, tried to absorb all the Hulk's energy, which the Hulk allowed. Unable to contain the Hulk's energy, David swelled into a gigantic energy bubble, which was blown apart by a Gamma Charge Bomb launched by General Ross, killing David.
David Banner is an extremely selfish, brilliant, egotistical, and megalomaniacal individual from nearly the most diabolical kind, who sees nothing more or less than killing his son in order to obtain his energy and become the most powerful being the world has ever knew.
It seems that his own personal hobbies were to wreak havoc and destruction, antagonizing to his son Bruce so the Hulk will come out and thus to be able to carry out his plan, and to gain more and more power.
Banner was sadistic, destructive, and psychopathic superhuman being that only wanted to obtain godlike power. While his wife's murder wasn't David's intention, it was David's attempt to murder Bruce himself when he was a child while Edith protected her son with her body. To that end, David believed that he was the one who was responsible for the creation of the Hulk because he is Bruce's father, and believed that if he wants to kill him, he must obtain his energy. Despite his actions, it is hinted that he may have cared about Bruce, as he cried and expressed remorse when finding out about his transformation into the Hulk, and could be a genuinely loving father at times when Bruce was a child and clearly felt remorse for killing Edith as he cried when confessing to Betty of the action.
Powers and Abilities
Superhuman Strength: David could lift a computer terminal and slam it on a security guard moments after being mutated. He was shown in both electric and rock form to subdue and restrain the Hulk.
Absorption: He had the ability to absorb or take on the properties of whatever he touched. He was able to merge with objects such as metal and rock to electricity and radiation. He could absorb the heat from a lake he merged with and cause it to be frozen at will.
He could only absorb so much power at a time which is why he was struggling in his attempts to absorb all the Hulk's energy and killed when the Gamma Charge Bomb hit him overloading him with too much energy.
A young David Banner
David Banner tries to kill his young son, Bruce.
Dr. David Banner.
Banner meeting his son Bruce.
Close up of David Banner's face.
Gamma Dogs, David Banner's "pets".
Unable to contain the Hulk's energy, Banner swells into a gigantic energy bubble.
Banner is blown apart by a Gamma Charge Bomb launched by General Ross.
In the novelization, David is depicted as far more callous. He experimented on young Bruce out of fascination rather than to cure him, subjects him to both emotional and physical abuse, and blows his lab up on purpose rather than by accident in the film-not caring that it may kill thousands of innocent people. He always blamed Bruce for "ruining" his life which was what drove him to kill his young boy. While he may have cared for Bruce at some point, he later showed regret and disgust for said feeling. He also continues to try to kill Bruce after killing Edith by accident. David seemed to have a distaste for children in general as he was disgusted by the idea of having Bruce even before he found out that he was infected, and always hated Edith for giving birth to him. He's also a master manipulator who plays on the emotions of others, as shown when he simply uses Edith's death as a way of gaining sympathy from others.
Despite being the incarnation of the Marvel comic book villain the Absorbing Man, this alias was never mentioned in the film and Banner never adopted it.
David Banner's name is a homage to the 1978 Incredible Hulk series where Bruce Banner was called David Banner instead.