Hulk may have been in charge for two years when he shows up in Thor: Ragnarok, but a lot of Bruce Banner managed to leak out. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has made the third Thor film such a hit after its predecessors failed to fully land. Marvel’s latest film is one of its most-praised so far, and Thor: Ragnarok had a huge opening weekend to boot. One undeniable boon for the film, however, is the inclusion of Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk.
Taika Waititi’s idiosyncratic touch, the involvement of Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum, and the well-publicized humor of Thor: Ragnarok have all contributed to the film’s success. However, from its earliest days in the public spotlight, it’s been clear that having Thor and the Hulk fight is a major selling point for the movie. Like Iron Man appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the promise of more Avengers team-ups in solo films is something that the concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was built upon, and Ragnarok certainly delivers. More than that, though, it helps provide the Hulk and Bruce Banner with the beginning of a new arc.
Screen Rant spoke with Thor: Ragnarok visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison about crafting the new and improved Hulk in the film, and he says the character and design owe a lot to both Banner and Ruffalo himself:
“We had this thought that because the Hulk had to actually deliver some dialogue in this one – he only really said one line in the first Avengers film and I don’t think he had any lines in the second one – in this one he actually had to deliver not only a line but also do comedy. And as every actor will tell you, drama is hard but comedy is really hard. So we were worried about frankly failing with the comedy, because you don’t want visual effects to break the comedy of the movie. So we figured if Ruffalo’s going to be delivering the lines, why not say because he was trapped in the back of Hulk’s mind for two years that a little bit of him didn’t leak out, maybe, and maybe that’s why he can speak a little bit and maybe, just maybe, that means he might look a little but more like Ruffalo. And we actually went back to some of the original character designs for Avengers 1 and because they wanted to make it more sort of brutish they’d diverged from those designs, but I’ve had a look at it and there’s some minor thing in the artwork and just went “well this stuff’s great.” And there’s more Ruffalo in there and so we started this iterative process where we really ripped the Hulk apart and started again.”
While Ruffalo has done the motion capture for Hulk before to make the character look and act more like him in the past, Ragnarok features a version of Hulk who is now actively communicative on a regular basis. As such, a whole new level of acting was required from Ruffalo, along with a new approach to how the Hulk was constructed.
In past films featuring the Hulk, Banner’s role in the film was generally the more crucial. Often, the Hulk scenes are simply about spectacle and chaos. Ragnarok, however, treats Hulk as a distinct character with desires and thoughts. Still, it’s clear that Banner wasn’t just sitting in the backseat. Though he may not have been conscious during Hulk’s reign, aspect of him seem to have influence the other guy. Because of this, it makes sense that Ruffalo himself would be more represented in the look of Hulk.
Ragnarok begins a 3-movie arc for the Hulk that will play out further in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4. It seems that part of the plot will involve Banner and Hulk gaining their own characteristics distinct from one another, something the comics have done many times before. There may even be a literal separation of the two at some point; another nod to some classic stories from the world of Marvel Comics. For now, however, Thor: Ragnarok has provided the most fully-realized big screen version of the Hulk yet.
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