The Oscar-nominated Ruffalo has been a part of the MCU for eleven years at this point, having joined the franchise as a part of 2012's The Avengers, following a blow-up between Marvel and former Hulk actor Edward Norton.
While some of the other longtime MCU actors have opted to walk off into the sunset (ie Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson), Ruffalo has remained one of the only members of that original Avengers team to still be a part of the series. But it may be time to move on.
Disney's Underutilization of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk
Since Mark Ruffalo was first introduced to the world as the MCU's Hulk he has bestially been relegated to a supporting player in every project he has been a part of.
Of course, it is well-trodden ground to discuss the fact that Ruffalo's Marvel hero has yet to get his own solo movie like many of his Avengers compatriots. There was The Incredible Hulk in 2008, but that movie notably did not feature Ruffalo's version of the character.
This lack of a solo film can be credited to the fact that Marvel Studios and Disney could not make one due to Universal still owning the film distribution rights for the character (something that just seemingly reverted back to Disney). So, even if the studio wanted to (which it very likely did), there was simply no way it could happen.
But the underutilization of the character within the MCU is a lot more than just the absence of an Incredible Hulk sequel. Many fans believe Ruffalo's hero has been toned down by Marvel Studios, turning into a more passive Hulk than some would like.
Really since the opening moments of Avengers: Infinity War, the true, angry Hulk has not been seen on the big screen. A vocal contingent of fans has had enough of this diet Hulk and wants something new, more faithful to the snarling green character seen in much of his comics history.
Hulk's IP Value is Too Massive to Waste
For decades, before the MCU the Hulk was one of the biggest names in the superhero game. Marvel's not-so-jolly green giant ranked up there with the likes of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man as one of the most popular in the game.
His standing amongst the general public has suffered though, as he has been less of a focus in Marvel Studios' multi-billion dollar franchise. But that is not to say the potential is not there for the Hulk to regain his spot on the superhero Mount Rushmore.
With Disney reportedly regaining the film rights for the character from Universal, now could be the time for an MCU Hulk movie trilogy. But given Mark Ruffalo's age (55 years), he may not be at the right point in his career for such a big investment from the super-powered brand.
Marvel and Disney would be smart to bring in someone younger that can serve as a pillar of the franchise for the next 10 to 15 years in the same way Robert Downey Jr. did for the first decade of the beloved movie series.
Could the MCU Eventually See a Partial Reboot?
One also has to consider the idea of a potential (at least partial) reboot headed for the MCU and how that could affect the future of the Hulk character.
Some may wonder how a recast of one of the franchise's biggest heroes could work while still keeping the current MCU continuity alive. Well, the answer is simple... the Multiverse.
Multiversal storytelling has become the hottest thing in Hollywood, and Marvel is in large part responsible for that. So, could a younger, more trilogy-ready Hulk actor be introduced by way of the Multiverse? Well, as already proven in the MCU's reality-bending stories up to this point, anything is possible.
Also, there is always the chance the mantle of the Hulk is simply passed down from Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner to some sort of new character. In recent years, Marvel Studios has started a trend of "replacing" actors who play their most popular heroes, but introducing new characters to take on that hero's monk
The same could be accomplished with Mark Ruffalo as Hulk with Marvel Studios casting a big-name actor to play Amadeus Cho (another younger Hulk from the comics) to take on the Hulk mantle on the big screen.
The Biggest Superheroes Are Always Recast
All the biggest names in comic book movie lore have been recast. From Batman, to Superman, to Spider-Man, the baton is almost always passed from actor to actor.
It is this transition that is ultimately what allows the character to live on in perpetuity alongside other big-screen icons like James Bond, Luke Skywalker, and Indiana Jones.
Think of what has happened with Superman. Yes, the character has now seen five different actors take on the role (including the newly announced David Corenswet), but it has helped keep the name Clark Kent as a movie theater staple in the general public's heads for almost fifty years at this point
The longer Marvel Studios waits for a Hulk recast, the more it potentially loses out on taking advantage of one of its most valuable IPs and keeping his name in the zeitgeist.
Yes, the MCU complicates this theatrical succession plan a bit as it is an interconnected world that just keeps growing.
But - especially given the comic book narrative devices at their disposal - there are ways Marvel Studios and Disney could do it. And maybe it is about time they should.