The Incredible Hulk is the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; despite coming right after Iron Man, the Hulk movie’s storyline was barely touched upon in The Avengers, while lead Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in the Bruce Banner role The upcoming Captain America: Civil War is going to finally let certain elements of Incredible Hulk out of the family attic for a spell, though.
William Hurt is already confirmed to be returning to the role of General “Thunderbolt” Ross in the next Captain America movie, reprising the antagonist role he played in The Incredible Hulk. It’s not clear yet exactly how he fits into the larger storyline of the film, but Hurt has already teased that Ross won’t be the same man that we saw during his last onscreen appearance.
During an interview with IGN to promote his new TV show Humans, Hurt talked a bit about Ross and how things have changed for him since he popped up in the Incredible Hulk post-credits sequence (where he was shown drowning his sorrows in a bar, when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) showed up wanting to talk about a certain ‘initiative’). Here’s what he offered on the matter:
“I loved playing Ross the first time because I was able to try and create an ego as big as the monster he was chasing. And one that was as warped too. [Ross in Civil War] is different because it’s a different style. It’s a more modernized style. And what they’ve done is they’ve taken a character who was the Ross from the older film and made a new version. This is a much newer Ross. A much different Ross. And I liked that a lot. I haven’t had a lot of time to understand it, but I’m doing the best I can. And they haven’t fired me yet.”
Captain America: Civil War is shooting in Atlanta, Puerto Rico, Berlin and Iceland, with seemingly every superhero who’s appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe making an appearance. Most of the active Avengers will appear, with Iron Man poised to serve as the film’s unlikely antagonist, and Paul Rudd coming back to reprise his Ant-Man role. The freshly cast Tom Holland looks to make his Spider-Man debut in a brief cameo, too.
In light of all that, Hurt returning as General Ross makes sense. It’s a story that pulls in (almost) all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and it’s one with a particularly militaristic bent: in the comics, Civil War is the story where the United States government pass a law forcing all super-powered people to register as deputies of SHIELD, or risk imprisonment. With Mark Ruffalo indicating the Hulk will appear in the film (or be referenced in some way), the stage is set for Ross to (potentially) return to his giant green man-hunting ways.
Similarly, Incredible Hulk remains part of the canonicity of the MCU, so now’s as good a time as ever to acknowledge its existence. There may not be a new actor playing General Ross now (a la the change in Bruce Banner actors), but perhaps Hurt’s suggestion of a “different, new” Ross means the character’s getting his own personal reboot.
Ant-Man releases in theaters on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.