Warning: SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame are ahead!
After getting a beating from Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, not only did Hulk not emerge for the rest of that movie, that ended up being the last time we saw the Green Goliath in this brutish form. During Avengers: Endgame, sometime in the five years after The Decimation occurred, Bruce Banner merged his intellect with Hulk’s brawn, resulting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the Professor Hulk personality.
However, it turns out we could have seen a more intelligent Hulk earlier in the MCU, as Stephen McFeely, who co-wrote both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame with Christopher Markus, revealed:
We originally had Smart Hulk in Infinity War.
You’ll recall that in Avengers: Infinity War, Bruce Banner tried several times to get the Hulk to come out, but his monstrous other half refused, requiring Bruce to don the Hulkbuster armor when Thanos’ forces invaded Wakanda. While some speculated that Hulk was scared to jump back into battle after being pummeled by Thanos, directors Joe and Anthony Russo explained that Hulk had actually “had enough of saving Banner's ass.”
Either way, as Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus explained to Fandango, originally the plan in Avengers: Infinity War was for Bruce Banner to fix his “communication problems” with Hulk and transform into Smart Hulk just in time for the final conflict in Wakanda. However, it was decided late in the creative process that this shift didn’t feel tonally right, so it was scrapped and saved for Avengers: Endgame.
Which brings us to the above moment that was shown in the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer, where Hulk is charging into battle alongside his allies. Obviously that moment never occurred in the movie, but rather than simply being filmed to fool audiences, this was originally intended to be an actual scene, only rather than getting more of normal, angry Hulk, that’s a Hulk with significantly improved intelligence who’s getting ready to kick some ass.
This makes for a cool ‘what could have been’ scenario (another if Hulk had been dusted), but within the actual MCU timeline, it took a little longer for Bruce Banner to finally achieve a balance with The Hulk. When he finally stopped looking at Hulk as a problem and instead as a solution, Bruce brought the best of both worlds together through gamma radiation, allowing him to finally achieve a sense of peace and the world to see Hulk as a proper superhero.
The emergence of Professor Hulk marked the conclusion of the special Hulk “trilogy” that began in Thor: Ragnarok. There’s no word yet on if we’ll be seeing more of Hulk going into the MCU’s Phase 4 and beyond, but Mark Ruffalo has at least one movie left on his contract, so perhaps Marvel Studios will give fans another taste of this more reasonable and dignified version of the Green Goliath in action.
Make sure you read CinemaBlend’s review of Avengers: Endgame and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the biggest updates concerning the MCU. If you’re curious about what movies the superhero franchise has coming, check out our comprehensive guide.