Great Debate: Why Mark Ruffalo Shouldn't Be Hulk In The Avengers

Like you, we were pretty surprised to hear earlier today that Mark Ruffalo is in "advanced negotiations" to replace Edward Norton as The Hulk in The Avengers, after Marvel unceremoniously fired Norton late last week. We'd heard the rumor the studio would going with an unknown, then it seemed like David Tennant could get the job, but for some reason they were choosing an actor known for his easygoing charm and everyman demeanor-- not exactly what you'd be looking for from a scientist cursed with a green monster living inside him.

To work out our feelings, we-- being Eric Eisenberg and Katey Rich-- took to IM to talk it out. By way of background, Eric is a diehard comic books nerd, while Katey couldn't care less about comics. Either way we were both pretty skeptical about Ruffalo's casting and think you should be too. Check out our conversation below.

KATEY: OK Eric, so when I texted you the news that Mark Ruffalo was up for the Bruce Banner part, what was your first thought?

ERIC Firstly I was amazed that they managed to get such a notable name so quickly. But then I thought about every Ruffalo movie I've seen and determined that he's just not right. Hulk is meant to be an angry guy. Ruffalo isn't angry

KATEY: Well, at least not from what we've seen

ERIC: Exactly

KATEY: You and I both saw The Kids Are All Right recently, and it's a great Ruffalo performance that's basically the opposite of everything we know about Bruce Banner

ERIC: That was the first movie I thought of.

KATEY:Though I'm kind of talking out of my ass, since I'm very much not a comics expert

ERIC: No, you are 100% right

KATEY: So what do you think is in it for Ruffalo here?

ERIC: Frankly he has everything to gain. The role brings mainstream appeal and would give him an opportunity to flex his talents. He may have hidden range.

KATEY: I'm certain he has hidden range. But I seriously wonder if The Avengers is the place to show it off. It seems entirely possible he would get an Oscar nomination for The Kids Are All Right, or at least a lot of attention.

ERIC: I'd support that.

KATEY: He'll be more in-demand than ever for serious roles that require real acting. But The Avengers will be this giant clusterfuck of name-brand actors vying for screen time. Even if Joss Whedon wrangles it all well, Ruffalo would still have a fraction of the screen time he might get in a smaller movie.

ERIC: Totally agree. It would be one thing if they were going for a direct sequel to The Incredible Hulk, but that's not what's happening here. In fact, they're saying that Banner's screentime will be completely limited.

KATEY: Although how hilarious would it be if they just rebooted the Hulk AGAIN. "We'll get it right this time, we promise!"

ERIC: I'm a long time defender of Norton's movie, but I don't suppose this is the time or place

KATEY: Well, it's all apparently in the past now. Forget it ever happened! Moving on!

ERIC: Exactly

KATEY: I think my main question about casting Ruffalo is, why are they going for a name actor anyway? They've already got Robert Downey Jr, Sam Jackson and ScarJo anchoring the movie with big names. And they cast all the other Avengers as essentially unknowns.

ERIC: And if they plan on muting Banner in favor of a CGI Hulk

KATEY: Exactly-- why does it even matter?

ERIC: Well, from a comics stand-point it's actually a travesty that they wouldn't share screentime.

KATEY: Banner and Hulk, you mean?

ERIC: Yeah

KATEY: Explain

ERIC: It's a Jekyll and Hyde story. If it was all Hyde all the time, who cares? The character's depth is in the struggle for control. Reducing him to just a piece of green meat with big fists defeats the purpose.

KATEY: But will there even be time for depth in The Avengers? If audiences have twice failed to be all that interested in a Hulk story, won't they just stick him in the Avengers for the name recognition and let Cap or Tony Stark do the emotional heavy lifting?

ERIC: It matters because of what has been proposed as the plot of the film. Right now it looks like Loki will be using his powers to control the Hulk and cause mass destruction. If we don't see the human element of the Hulk character, why the hell should Iron Man or Cap give two shits about blowing him away? He's supposed to be a teammate, but without Banner there's no humanity.

KATEY: Good point. I suppose we can count on Ruffalo to bring the humanity even with limited screentime, since you just like the guy. But I worry that he's signing on for a fairly thankless role.

ERIC: And, frankly, it would start at Comic Con if he shows up. He'll be sitting on stage and there will be a barrage of questions about Norton.

KATEY: Yup. Though I guarantee he'll show up if he's the guy. If Marvel doesn't trot out the new Hulk at the Hall H panel on Saturday, all the stories will just be asking why not.

ERIC: Exactly.

KATEY: And they need to go into damage control after that snarky statement from Kevin Feige.

ERIC: Which was just totally uncalled for.

KATEY: OK, so in conclusion-- if Ruffalo is the guy who trots across the stage next Saturday, how will you be feeling?

ERIC: Upset that Norton will officially not be back, and pity that a great guy like Ruffalo will always be seen as the "other man." You?

KATEY: Basically the same, while also wondering, once again, why he'd even go with it. Should we promise to talk about this ad nauseam from Comic Con? Or do you think we'll have moved on to something even more ridiculous by then?

ERIC: Maybe not ad nauseam. "More on this story as it develops."

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.