The Hulk's role in Avengers: Infinity War is certainly a strange one, to the point it looks like Marvel changed Bruce Banner's story late in the game. The Jade Giant only appears at the beginning, trading punches with Thanos himself. He gets beaten to within an inch of his life, before being sent to Earth. From there, though, there are only hints at the Hulk's presence. Clearly terrified by Thanos, he refuses to emerge - and it falls to Bruce Banner to play the hero.
According to Mark Ruffalo, last year's Thor: Ragnarok began a sort of "Hulk trilogy." Ragnarok kicked off the Hulk's character arc, with Hulk speaking beginning the process of separating these two identities; Hulk and Banner were essentially treated as separate persons, with a sense that they were almost at war. The Hulk had actually refused to revert to Banner for a full two years. Bruce was seriously concerned that, should he change back to the Hulk one more time, he'd never revert again. Avengers: Infinity War actually inverted that, with the Hulk terrified and preferring to watch events through Banner's eyes. It was the perfect chance to shift the spotlight, showing why Bruce Banner is an Avenger in his own right.
Ruffalo's comments clearly suggest that Marvel have a long-term plan for the Hulk, a character arc that will come to a head in Avengers 4. And yet, it that's the case, how they handled Hulk in Infinity War was actually pretty strange. Here are some of our most curious questions.
Why Did Heimdall Send The Hulk To The Sanctum Sanctorum?
Avengers: Infinity War opens with a beat down between Thanos and Hulk, straight up answering the question of who'd win: Thanos, with little sweat. There's a look of utter disbelief on Loki's face as he realizes that even the Hulk's power is as nothing to the Mad Titan. Fortunately for Earth, Heimdall intervenes before the Hulk can be killed. He summons dark magic to open the Bifrost one last time, sending the Hulk away to Earth. Before the title card, that already raises one strange question; why did Heimdall choose to save the Hulk? And why didn't he save anyone else either? Heimdall could potentially have saved Thor, for example, rather than leaving the God of Thunder vulnerable.
It's impossible to say for certain what was going through Heimdall's mind. The most likely solution is that he knew two Infinity Stones were on Earth and that Thanos would be going there next. That meant he wanted to send somebody familiar with Earth to the planet in order to warn it. and Thor was still too close to Thanos, leaving only Hulk.
The question then becomes not why but where. Heimdall sends the Hulk to a very specific location; Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. It's a scene lifted straight from the comics; Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet miniseries saw the Silver Surfer crashland in a similar fashion, warning the Sorcerer Supreme of Thanos's evil and might. In the comics, however, the Surfer knew Doctor Strange well, and was headed there deliberately. But how does Heimdall know to send the Hulk to the Sanctum Sanctorum? It's presumably linked to Heimdall's all-seeing powers, but the movie makes it appear a random crash.
And that's where the weirdness comes in: none of this is actually explained in the film. We can make assumptions but the intention is that the breakneck pace and mounting threat of Thanos will excuse it. Which it mostly does, although that's not the end of our Hulk questions.
How Does Bruce Banner Remember What Happened To The Hulk?
When the Hulk reverts to the form of Bruce Banner, Bruce normally has absolutely no memory of what happened. In Thor: Ragnarok, he didn't realize that two years had passed - he genuinely thought the battle against Ultron had only just happened. And yet, in Avengers: Infinity War, it's clear that Bruce remembered everything about the Thanos fight. He's able to be surprisingly specific, discussing Thanos's power and motives at length. What changed?
There's only really one possible solution for this; that the Hulk was so traumatized by his defeat that the memories somehow bled through to Bruce. Given the Hulk has learned to speak comfortably during his two years on Sakaar, he presumably now actually understands some of what's said around him. That would mean Banner would have the vaguest memories of words and concepts, too, rather than just visual images of conflict and bloodshed. Although now we must address why the Green Goliath is playing hide-and-seek...