Avengers: Infinity War: We Need to Talk About the Hulk
So you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War. Right? If you haven’t, spoiler alert. Just go ahead and stop reading. Still here? Great, because we need to talk about the Hulk. First, let’s reflect on this image that Marvel Studios provided during the run-up to the film:
You’ll see the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) joining his comrades in the battle of Wakanda against Thanos (Josh Brolin)’s army. Yet this scene never happened this way in the movie. Instead of the Hulk, we got Bruce Banner in the Hulkbuster armor, and while he was effective, he wasn’t nearly as potent a fighting force as his greener half.
The Hulk got his butt roundly and soundly kicked by Thanos in the opening minutes of the movie, and since that moment, any time Banner summoned him, he refused to comply. He even emerged briefly to shout “No!” and to leave Banner in his predicament as nothing more than a regular, brilliant scientist, one not equipped to fight Thanos or any of his immensely powerful “children.” What’s going on? Even the most charitable viewer would have to lean towards the conclusion that the Hulk is…scared.
Talk about your bold choices. The Russo Brothers epic was, among many attributes, as fearless as a blockbuster can get. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely supplied not only that heartbreaking ending (more on that later), but in taking one of the most reliable members of the Avengers and reducing him completely in their biggest fight yet. No one saw a scared Hulk coming, and it’s a fascinating place to take the character with Avengers 4 looming, and so many of his friends now seemingly dead. When the Avengers needed the Hulk the most, he refused to fight.
Banner has always been the most conflicted Avengers. He’s the one whose superpower is a monster inside him he can’t control. Tony gets his incredible suit and its whiz-bang technology. Thor gets his hammer (now his axe) and the confidence of, well, Thor. Captain America has his serum, his shield, his strength and his clarity of vision. Black Widow has her elite training. Black Panther has his suit, technology, nobility and the potency of heart-shaped herb. All of them are more or less in control of their abilities. All of them except Bruce.
With Hulk now sulking, Avengers 4 presents the opportunity for Banner to figure out a way to lure the big guy out for the fight, while possibly experimenting with ways to control him better, make him more of a weapon, like something Tony might have, rather than a rage-borne sickness. We might even see Banner figure out a way to live peaceably with his tormentor/protector. One thing is for certain; we haven’t seen the last of Hulk. They’re going to need him, in whatever form Banner can present him, to beat Thanos. The Hulk’s never had a better reason to be angry than now.