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Long before Mark Ruffalo or Edward Norton or even Eric Bana played the Hulk in live-action, there was Lou Ferrigno. The bodybuilder turned actor portrayed the green Marvel Comics character in the 1978-1982 television series The Incredible Hulk and its follow-up TV movies opposite Bill Bixby, who played Dr. David Banner. As something of an authority on the character, Lou Ferrigno was not happy about Hulk’s change into Smart Hulk in Avengers: Endgame, as he explained:
What’s happening is that the first two Hulk movies, the CGI was improving, but the last one, Endgame, I was disappointed. Because the Hulk needs to be hideous, he needs to be a creature. You see in Endgame, Mark Ruffalo — I think it has a lot to do with him and Disney — I didn’t like the way it portrayed [Hulk]. It took away that beauty, that quality of the Hulk. That’s why a lot of people liked the series.
After their internal power struggle in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and The Other Guy had finally worked things out in Avengers: Endgame. The result was Smart Hulk, who could talk clearly and appeared as an amalgamation of his two identities, with Bruce Banner’s mind controlling a Hulk body. This was not at all to Lou Ferrigno’s liking.
Lou Ferrigno acknowledges how CGI has improved the look of the Hulk over the years in the character’s various cinematic incarnations, but to him it’s what you do with that technology that matters and he was very disappointed with the direction they took the character in for Endgame. His disappointment seems to stem primarily from Endgame’s depiction of the Hulk as essentially Bruce Banner, but big and green.
As he said at Canada’s Hamilton Comic Con (via Comicbook.com) Lou Ferrigno did not like that portrayal because to him the Hulk is supposed to be a hideous creature, not a guy wearing glasses and a cardigan taking selfies with kids. For Lou Ferrigno, what worked about The Incredible Hulk TV series was what he dubbed the beauty of the character, that he is a monster.
So for him, seeing the Hulk, which he portrayed as a savage creature, as Smart Hulk, kind of felt like a betrayal of his vision of what the character is supposed to be and that’s why he wasn’t happy about it. Lou Ferrigno attributes Hulk’s change in Avengers: Endgame to Disney and Mark Ruffalo, although he doesn’t elaborate on what exactly he means by that. You can stream Smart Hulk in all his glory on Disney+, as Avengers: Endgame was included on the new service at its launch. You can use this link for a free 7-day trial.
It is worth noting that while Mark Ruffalo portrays the Hulk in the MCU completely now, from 2008's The Incredible Hulk through Avengers: Age of Ultron, Lou Ferrigno provided the voice for the character he once donned green paint to become.
Opinions will vary but you can understand Lou Ferrigno’s frustration with the Hulk in Avengers: Endgame. He has a very specific vision of the character and the film went in the opposite direction. We’ve all probably experienced this at some point with a superhero film, but for him there’s an extra level to it because he has played this character before.
As far as the substance of his argument goes, there are probably a lot of people who agree with him and want to see the Hulk as a huge rage monster, not as a character struggling to summon the will to smash as he was in Endgame. I was actually a bit disappointed that Endgame didn’t give Hulk a standout moment in the final battle where he got to really cut loose.
On the other hand, the Smart Hulk change has precedent in the comics, where there have been multiple different versions of the Hulk, so it wasn’t something that Disney and Mark Ruffalo just made up for some reason. And the change does show some growth for this character that has been in the MCU for over a decade. It’s not like he hasn’t been a rage monster in multiple films already. But Lou Ferrigno prefers it to stay that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dynamic.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in the MCU. The damage to his arm is supposedly permanent but he’s still alive and could still show up somewhere, perhaps Disney+’s She-Hulk series.Could he revert back to a more monstrous state? We'll see, but Mark Ruffalo has some ideas for Hulk's return.
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