Infinity War included quite a divisive moment for fans tying back to Mark Ruffalo's big green Avenger, whose angry alter-ego was absent for all but the film's opening scene. This added to a trend that's been seen in Marvel Studios movies over the years, with the studio being well known to drastically change trailer footage or add scenes that were different than those in a given movie's final cut.
This came as a shock to fans expecting to see the hero Hulk out and join Earth's Mightiest Heroes in a different way for the Battle of Wakanda.
And even though the Hulk eventually changed into something completely different with his Smart Hulk evolution in Avengers: Endgame, the decision to keep Hulk out of Infinity War's final battle still doesn't sit well with some viewers.
Mark Ruffalo Defends Avengers: Infinity War's Hulk
Speaking at Emerald City Comic-Con, MCU star Mark Ruffalo defended Marvel Studios' decisions regarding the Hulk's story in Avengers: Infinity War.
When asked about how the overall journey has been, he looked back to the time when the Hulk was going to bust out of the Hulkbuster armor in Wakanda, which they shot four times before realizing that "it wasn't working." In the end, directors Joe and Anthony Russo came to the conclusion that they "couldn’t have Hulk, again, save the day," instead having Banner face defeat without his alter-ego:
"It’s been amazing fun, and really challenging, and always surprising. Even to the point where we were shooting [Avengers:] Infinity War, and Hulk was supposed to come busting out of the Hulkbuster at the end. I don’t know if you know that. And we shot that. We shot it four times and it wasn’t working. And then, we realized that — well, the [Russo] brothers realized — that we couldn’t have Hulk, again, save the day. That we had to have Banner lose without Hulk."
Ruffalo explained that this moment "was in the script one way for two years," only deciding to change things up during the shoot for the movie as Marvel continually finds new ways to bring surprising moments:
"And that was the kind of thing where it was in the script one way for two years, and then when we got in to shoot it, we decided it would be better for the story if Hulk doesn’t show up, and Banner has to somehow try to make friends with him. (laughs) Get him back. But that’s kind of how these things have evolved and so they’re always surprising in some new way, even when you’re down to the very last moment, and you’re shooting the end of the movie, and you keep coming back."
That scene in particular took a full year to shoot, with Ruffalo and the team continually looking for ways to make the movie work with "so many storylines that you’re trying to interweave together." This is something for which Ruffalo praised Marvel, as the studio always looks for what's going to have the biggest impact on the fan base:
"I mean, we shot that scene like five times over the course of a year. Me, by myself, in the Hulkbuster. And yeah, we were always working on getting it right. And that’s been one of the differences of any other movie you shoot, is that we’re always kind of finding it as we go along. You have so many people, so many storylines that you’re trying to interweave together. And what Marvel does beautifully is, they’re really looking for is what’s going to have the greatest impact for you guys."
He also heaped praise on Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige for actively asking the MCU's actors where they want to see their characters' stories go, which Ruffalo sees as something that "keeps it really lively and interesting" for the franchise:
"And so what’s been really good about working on these movies is just how alive they are, and how much the actors are actually bringing themselves to it. Before we shoot any of these movies, we’re always sitting down with [Marvel Studios president Kevin] Feige, and he’s sort of like, ‘What do you guys want to do in this next round? Where would you like to go? What would you like to see happen?’ And I think that keeps it really lively and interesting. Lively and interesting for you, [the fans], and lively and interesting for us, which is what makes good cinema, I think."
In June 2022, the Russo brothers addressed the Hulk's "nerfed" storyline, jokingly explaining that they "just didn’t know what to do with him" in the Avengers' third team-up movie:
Joe: “Oh, we nerfed the Hulk. We nerfed him. We just didn’t know what to do with him. We were like, ’What, this big powerful character. What we do with this big powerful character?”
Anthony: “Can you find out who wrote this question? I’d like to talk to them.”
Offscreen: “What would you say to them?”
Joe: “To say to people who think we nerfed the Hulk? He deserved it. Lots of controversial… Marvel fans responding.”
Joe: “We said, Wanda, at one point. Captain Marvel, another point. Thor.”
Anthony: “Certainly never said it’s the Hulk.”
Joe: “Certainly not the Hulk. He’d be low on the list. Like right underneath Groo. Remember Groo the Wanderer? He’s like just below Groo the Wanderer.”
Hulk's Near-Hulk-Out Moment in Avengers: Infinity War
Seeing the Hulk fully powered up in Avengers: Infinity War's first trailer unquestionably gave fans the expectation that he would get his chance to fight Thanos and his army alongside the rest of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. And while this led to a fair share of complaints after the Hulk was absent for most of the movie, Mark Ruffalo appears to be fully supportive of the move and the decisions made for the story.
MCU movies always go through a number of big changes throughout production, which appeared to be the case for Infinity War in terms of keeping the Hulk locked away inside Bruce Banner's mind.
And while Smart Hulk has certainly led to different complaints from fans, there's a chance that Marvel may get to explore the more ruthless and angry Hulk if the rumored Hulk-starring solo movie goes into production.
Avengers: Infinity War is now streaming on Disney+.