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We saw many times throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe how hard it was for an individual to harness the power of one just Infinity Stone, so calling on the power of all six seems unimaginable. And yet, two characters were able to survive such a task: Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and Hulk in the latter half of Avengers: Endgame. In the Green Goliath’s case, he walked away with a permanently damaged arm.
However, we’ve seen numerous times that The Hulk can take a lot of punishment because like his comic book counterpart, he has a regenerative healing factor. So why didn’t Hulk’s arm heal by the time Avengers: Endgame was over. That’s just what a fan asked directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and this was their response:
Joe Russo: The Hulk has never come up against every Infinity Stone in a Gauntlet and the pure power of those Stones. And Thanos is nearly invincible and he didn’t heal either. So clearly when you wield the full power of the Infinity Stones, it’s irreparable damage to your being.
Anthony Russo: If it doesn’t even kill you.
It’s one thing to get a beatdown from The Abomination or Surtur, but as Joe Russo laid out while he and his brother were answering fan questions about Avengers: Endgame for WIRED, the Infinity Stones are on a different level. These artifacts have been around since the beginning of the universe, and if you’re wielding that much power, there’s no way you’re going to come out of the experience unscathed.
Just look at Thanos. At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, he was damaged on the left side of his body and appeared weakened after wiping out half of all life in the universe, and when the heroes tracked him down at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame after he used the Infinity Stones again to destroy the Stones, the left side of his face was noticeably scarred. We saw Thanos kick Hulk to the curb in Infinity War, so if even The Mad Titan was permanently damaged by the Infinity Stones, Hulk had to be as well.
And, as Joe Russo noted, most folks who use all six Infinity Stones probably won’t survive the experience. That’s what happened to Tony Stark, who, albeit incredibly intelligent, was ultimately just a normal human and perished when he used the Stones to turn 2014 Thanos and his forces to dust. Hulk’s lucky he was still breathing after his experience.
Still, this was something Hulk needed to do. Five years after Thanos committed genocide, Ant-Man managed to break free from the Quantum Realm regrouped with the surviving Avengers, leading them to realize they could use the Quantum Realm to travel through time, retrieve the Infinity Stones from different points in history and bring them back to the present to undo The Decimation.
Ultimately they were successful, and not only did Hulk bring the dusted back to life in 2023, he ensured they were returned safely. By the end of Avengers: Endgame, Hulk’s arm was in a sling, and while one can imagine it’ll regain basic function eventually, if Hulk appears in the MCU again, he won’t be at his physical peak thanks to this heroic act.
Avengers: Endgame is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, and be sure to look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what this franchise has coming up.