WARNING: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
Bruce Banner and the Hulk may be permanently united in the form of Professor Hulk after Avengers: Endgame, but he's also been permanently damaged from his encounter with the Infinity Stones. Seeing as the blockbuster film served as the culmination of a decade's worth of stories, it's no surprise that many heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were forever changed by its events. But the fact that Hulk isn't so invincible after all was probably one of the biggest shocks of both Endgame and its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War.
First there was the beating that both Hulk and Banner (Mark Ruffalo) took from Thanos (Josh Brolin) before the snap, which left him emotionally scarred and helped fuel his decision to transform into Professor Hulk. If that wasn't enough, he then took it upon himself to wield the Infinity Gauntlet in order to bring back the loved ones they had all lost and audiences saw the devastating effect it had on him. Unlike the comics version of the device, the movie Gauntlet exacts a severe punishment on its user - something that became clear when the Avengers found Thanos shriveled and feeble after having tasted its power twice.
Co-director Joe Russo confirmed that Hulk had been similarly affected in an interview with ComicBook. "It's permanent damage," Russo explained. "The same way it was permanent damage with Thanos. It's irreversible damage." Specifically, it's Banner's arm that seems to have taken the brunt of the punishment, which makes sense because that's the part that held the Gauntlet. "If you notice, his arm is a lot skinnier, it's blackened," the director continued. "So he loses a lot of strength there."
But in a universe where Gamora (Zoe Saldana) could be brought back from the past and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) could return to it to live with his first love, is Hulk's weakened state really irreversible? Though the Russo Brothers don't have current plans to direct more Marvel movies, Joe did leave the door open for others to tackle that problem. "Who knows? There's a lot of really smart people left. Maybe somebody helps him repair that," the director offered. "Maybe somebody gives him a new arm, who knows. I have no idea where that character goes from here."
Where Bruce Banner goes from here is anyone's guess, but perhaps the important thing is the inner peace he's achieved. His physical prowess may be reduced thanks to his heroic actions in Avengers: Endgame, but he's still happier with himself than he's ever been. Hulk is now recognized in-universe as a champion to be admired rather than feared, so hopefully having more control over his emotions is worth losing some of his strength.
Source: Joe Russo
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