You may not like him when he’s angry, but boy is it fun to watch him on screen. Since 2008, the Hulk has become a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Along with Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, he is one of the most recognizable Avengers. He hosts some of the most famous lines from THE AVENGERS like “Puny god!” or “I’m always angry.”

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The incredible thing about the Hulk is that he has remained a crucial part of the MCU without having a starring role in a movie since 2008’s THE INCREDIBLE HULK. The Hulk has managed to stay an integral character in the Marvel franchise due to his fantastic portrayal in the AVENGERS films.

Joss Whedon’s writing, Mark Ruffalo’s acting, and the phenomenal CGI make the Hulk the memorable character he is. With THOR: RAGNAROK being released this weekend we are going to focus on the man, the myth, the angry legend himself, Hulk.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK: The Hulk Vs. The World

THE INCREDIBLE HULK was Marvel’s second attempt to start a Hulk film franchise. To differentiate this from the Ang Lee’s artsy and slow-paced movie HULK, Marvel decided to take a more traditional approach to the character of Bruce Banner/Hulk.

Whereas the previous film was criticized for its boring action sequences, this film would depict the full power of the Hulk as he smashes tanks and buildings. Marvel also wanted to help this film by connecting it to the critically and financially successful IRON MAN, which had come out months before.

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Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

THE INCREDIBLE HULK takes much of its inspiration from the original comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In the movie, Bruce Banner is on the run from the military as he tries to look for a solution to combat becoming the Hulk.. Bruce is now a pariah to society due to his condition.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is really about Bruce Banner accepting himself as an outsider. While he loathes the Hulk side to him, he learns that it is an essential part of who he is. By the end of the film, Banner learns to turn into the Hulk voluntarily, therefore setting himself up to become a hero in THE AVENGERS.

While THE INCREDIBLE HULK is an entertaining movie, it suffers from general blandness. At this point, the MCU was still finding its footing and did not know the tone they wanted to strike with their characters. Edward Norton is a satisfactory Bruce Banner, but he doesn’t capture the nuance that Mark Ruffalo would soon bring to the character.

As for the Hulk, I remember the CGI of the creature being impressive at the time, but now it is very outdated. While THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a good movie, it is the weakest of the MCU films with only 67% critic score and 71% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

THE AVENGERS: The Hulk Become a Hero

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige chose for Edward Norton to not return as Bruce Banner in the sequel and instead Mark Ruffalo was cast as the character in THE AVENGERS. THE AVENGERS’ Hulk is technically the same character as the one that appeared in the prior film.

After INCREDIBLE HULK, Bruce has settled in Calcutta where he quietly assists people as a doctor. After Loki’s escape from the Tesseract, Nick Fury recruits Bruce under the guise of wanting him to study the cosmic cube. In reality, Fury wanted to use Hulk as the juggernaut of his global superhero task force.

Earlier in the film, Bruce has trouble keeping the Hulk under control. However, by the end, Bruce uses the Hulk to destroy Loki’s armies alongside his fellow Avengers. This is the first time that Hulk becomes a hero to the people of the world.

Bruce can use something that he viewed as his greatest flaw and direct it against evil. It is an inspiring arc as the usually depressed Banner reconsiders his place away from society. He begins to believe that the Hulk can fight for justice just like Captain America or Iron Man.

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At this point, it should be obvious, but Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is phenomenal. He understands the subdued, quiet nature of Bruce Banner. He also captures the underlying anger and tension inside Banner that forms the Hulk. While watching Bruce in THE AVENGERS, the audience truly believes that Banner could transform into the Hulk at any moment.

A lot of the credit for this goes to Joss Whedon’s incredible writing and direction. The special effects for the Hulk are spectacular. The motion capture effects manage to depict the subtle facial expressions of Mark Ruffalo. Among the vast cast of characters in AVENGERS, many people, including me, found Hulk to be the biggest standout from this movie.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON: The Beauty & The Beast

By the point of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, Bruce Banner has embraced his role as an Avenger. Bruce has become quite close to his teammate, Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow and he begins to see a possibility of a normal life with her. Those plans shatter when Scarlet Witch possesses Hulk, stimulating his rage, and the Green Goliath wreaks havoc in South Africa.

After that point, Hulk realizes that he can no longer be an Avenger. After the team defeats Ultron in Sokovia, the Hulk leaves the atmosphere in the Quinjet. Banner believes that he is too much of a danger for people on Earth. So, he sequesters himself from humans, so that he can live a peaceful life as the Hulk.

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Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Once again Mark Ruffalo excels in this movie. His Hulk looks so lifelike and the CGI blends almost perfectly with the practical objects onscreen. Both in human form and as the Hulk, you can see the pain that he is going through just by looking into his eyes. It takes a genuinely phenomenal actor to display this amount of emotion without speaking. AGE OF ULTRON also provides us with the best action sequence featuring the Hulk when Iron Man takes out his Hulkbuster suit.

This scene is genius because it shows how even with Tony Stark’s preparedness, it is still nearly impossible to quell the Hulk. However, AGE OF ULTRON was a film that could not balance its characters. Hulk was the one character whose role was substantial enough to feel worthwhile. Once again, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk stole the show in another AVENGERS film.

THOR: RAGNAROK: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Around the time of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, Marvel realized that a solo Hulk film would never work. Partially this was because Hulk is a complicated character to portray as a protagonist. While Bruce Banner is an interesting character, it is challenging to make Bruce Banner a very active character in human form.

Usually, Banner is reacting to issues brought about by becoming the Hulk. The Hulk is active, but it’s difficult to portray him as heroic for long periods of time. Even if Marvel wanted to make a solo Hulk film, they could not do so without approval from Universal, since that studio has partial distributing rights; because of this, Marvel decided it would be best to portray Hulk permanently as a supporting character.

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Hulk giving you a quite greeting in THOR: RAGNAROK. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

That’s exactly what they decided to do for this year’s THOR: RAGNAROK. THOR: RAGNAROK is first and foremost a Thor movie, however, the Hulk has a dominant supporting presence.

I love the idea of a Hulk/Thor buddy-cop-comedy in which they save the universe. I am also excited that we are going to receive a Hulk story (partially) inspired by PLANET HULK. The film won’t exactly replicate the events from the PLANET HULK comic, but the connection is still nice.

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THOR: RAGNAROK finds Hulk as a gladiator on the planet of Sakaar after the events of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. The twist is that Hulk has remained the Hulk for two years. The Hulk has formed his own separate personality different from Bruce Banner.

In THOR: RAGNAROK it looks like both Banner and Hulk will compete over the same body. It is ingenious to make Hulk and Banner into separate characters, and I expect a lot of the comedy in the film will come from this.

INFINITY WAR & Beyooooond

While promoting THOR: RAGNAROK, Mark Ruffalo revealed that he and Kevin Feige are planning a Hulk trilogy within THOR: RAGNAROK, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, and AVENGERS 4.

They clarified that Hulk would have a major arc running from THOR: RAGNAROK to AVENGERS 4. Fans are already speculating about what this arc will consist of.

AVENGERS: An Avenger Must Die In INFINITY WAR

While we don’t know a whole lot about INFINITY WAR at the moment, we do know that the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy will face Thanos. Even without his infinity gauntlet, Thanos can go toe-toe with the Hulk. It is possible that Thanos will use the mind stone to brainwash the Hulk into turning against his teammates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR while he claims the rest of the Infinity Stones.

This could be the MCU’s interpretation of the PLANET HULK comic sequel, WORLD WAR HULK. I think WORLD WAR HULK is a smart choice because it is the summation of everything that Bruce Banner fears. If the Hulk wreaks endless destruction on Earth, he would have become the monster he believes he is.

After AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, the Hulk’s action would have horrified Bruce Banner. AVENGERS 4 could serve as a redemption story for the Hulk. It will probably be up to Black Widow to convince Bruce that the Avengers need him one final time to save the universe. I see it as an inevitability that Hulk will sacrifice himself in the fight against Thanos. Only then can he end his internal struggle and prove to the world the true heroism of the Hulk. This would be an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the Hulk’s arc, as in the end, the man defeats the monster.

A Marvel Legend

The MCU has made the Hulk an unforgettable character in film culture. He is no longer just an iconic comic book character; he is an iconic film hero. Marvel and Mark Ruffalo have done a genuinely terrific job displaying the relatable conflict of the Hulk.

Whereas Captain America and Thor’s power were derived from gifts, Hulk’s strength derives from a curse. Bruce does not let his condition keep him down. He resists his foul urges and pushes himself to turn his monster into a hero. Hulk is the most inspiring character in the Marvel films due to his ability to overcome such enormous obstacles.

I look forward to seeing who else Hulk will smash in THOR: RAGNAROK!

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