Avengers 4 Is the Final Movie in the 'Hulk Trilogy'
Ruffalo's Bruce Banner has so far been in four MCU movies (five, if you count his appearance in Iron Man 3's post-credits scene), but the character is owned by Universal Studios and, as Ruffalo put it, "For some reason, they don’t know how to play well with Marvel. And they don’t want to make money." So, in lieu of making another standalone movie starring Ruffalo, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige decided to give Hulk a story arc that was spread across supporting and ensemble roles in three movies. Ruffalo explained:
"Basically, Kevin pulled me aside before this, and said, 'If we were going to do a standalone Hulk movie, what would it be?' And I said, 'I think it should be this, this, this, and this and this, and ends up like this.' And he's like, 'I love that. Why don't we do that in the next three movies, starting with Thor 3 and then we go into Avengers 3 and 4.' And I was like, 'That sounds great!' And so we are at the beginning of this arc."
Speaking to Fandango at the D23 Expo in 2017, Ruffalo said, "There's a huge change for Hulk and for Banner, and it doesn't get resolved in the first Infinity War, it kind of culminates in the second Infinity War." So, while Hulk's behavior in Infinity War was certainly weird, and the explanation given by Joe Russo doesn't completely make sense of it, it's one of many unanswered questions from that movie that will presumably be resolved in next year's sequel.
Avengers 4 May Unite Banner and Hulk's Personalities
Back when we first met the MCU's Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk (when he looked a little different), there was little indication that he considered his big green alter-ego to be an independent personality. He referred to and treated the Hulk like an unfortunate condition, and did his best to "cure" himself of it. At the end of the movie he appeared to have attained a level of control over the Hulk - first "aiming" it in order to take down Abomination, and then using meditation to voluntarily summon the change.
When MCU fans met Bruce again at the start of The Avengers, he was already referring to the Hulk as "the other guy" - setting up the dynamic that would eventually form the basis of the current Hulk trilogy: a push-and-pull between Banner and Hulk, with each fighting for control of the same body. Hulk effectively kept Bruce imprisoned for two years while on Sakaar, and in Infinity War he changed tactics and refused to come out at all. It seems clear that things are hurtling towards some kind of showdown in Avengers 4.
The outcome of this showdown could go a number of different ways. We could end up saying goodbye to both Bruce and the Hulk in some kind of heroic sacrifice, since Marvel is unable to make Hulk solo movies, and he's therefore one of the more "expendable" Avengers. If the Hulk has to go out, the two personalities finally finding harmony and working together would be a poignant way to do it. Alternatively, the movie may conclude with the two characters somehow separating entirely, as Ruffalo hinted at in an interview for Ragnarok:
"This is where it starts... we start to build out the separation between the Hulk and [Bruce] Banner. Now the Hulk can be his own character, and Banner can now start to be the person that he would be without having to be afraid of being excited all the time."
Our final theory is that Avengers 4 will conclude with the two personalities united as one: "Professor Hulk." Concept art for the movie seemed to suggest a somewhat more civilized Hulk, wearing an actual suit instead of just tattered rags, and it would make sense as a conclusion to the trilogy - and, really, a conclusion to Hulk's arc over the past ten years.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019