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A month before Thor: Ragnarok came out, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feign revealed that the movie would be the first part of a special Hulk trilogy. The big payoff to that arc came in Avengers: Endgame, when Bruce Banner and Hulk were finally merged into one being: Smart Hulk, or Professor Hulk, if you prefer.
However, originally the plan was for this intelligent version of Hulk to surface during Avengers: Infinity War, but it was decided that that movie wasn’t the right time for the transformation to occur. Now Christopher Markus, who co-wrote Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame with Stephen McFeely, has elaborated on the reasoning behind saving Smart Hulk for Endgame, saying:
Smart Hulk was in the third act of Infinity War. We wrote it, we shot it, and went on to shoot most of Endgame, and he achieved union with the Hulk while inside the Hulkbuster. He kicked Cull Obsidian’s ass. But it didn’t work. It was the wrong tone for the movie. But we had already shot Endgame, where he was already Smart Hulk.
So had Hulk’s story in Avengers: Infinity War progressed as initially conceived, Bruce Banner and the green monstrosity would have fixed their “communication problems” in the middle of the Battle of Wakanda to deliver a well-deserved beating to Cull Obsidian, the brutish member of Thanos’ Black Order. It sounds cool on paper, but tonally speaking, it just didn’t work for the creative minds.
Instead, Hulk didn’t come out again after his brawl with Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, which directors Joe and Anthony Russo attributed to the Green Goliath getting tired of always having to save Bruce Banner. Fortunately, Banner was still able to defeat Cull Obsidian in Infinity War; he just did it in the Hulkbuster armor.
As for the problem for Smart Hulk already existing at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame during the movie’s main shoot, this was rectified by filming the diner scene during reshoots where Bruce Banner explains to Captain America, Black Widow and Ant-Man how in the five years between The Decimation and the time heist, he worked in the gamma lab for 18 months to fuse the brains and the brawn together, resulting in the birth of Smart Hulk, the best of both worlds.
This decision ultimately paid off in better balancing Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Christopher Markus also added during his panel with Stephen McFeeley at San Diego Comic-Con:
A big sequence where you see the union takes away from the attention of the story. A scene where Hulk eats a stack of pancakes [...] I’ve never seen that in a movie.
While Avengers: Endgame marked the end of one chapter of Hulk’s life and the beginning of another, it remains to be seen if we’ll explore this new chapter further. There are still no plans to give him another solo movie, and it’s hard to say if he could pop up in another hero’s movie like he did in Thor: Ragnarok. Rest assured, we’ll be sure to let you know if/when Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk returns to the big screen.
Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for more updates on what’s happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For now, you can learn what the franchise has coming up in our handy guide.