This month, for the first time in 14 years, a Marvel Studios project with the word "Hulk" in the title will be released. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law is set to debut on August 18, bringing the MCU to Thursdays for the first time. With the title character Jennifer Walters being a new entry to the MCU roster, the assigned viewing homework for this show focuses on the Hulk incumbent of the MCU, Bruce Banner.
With the addition of Disney+ to the Marvel Studios tool belt, fans have gained access to supplementary content to enhance the MCU experience. Documentary series like Assembled show how different MCU movies and series are made. Preluding series like Marvel Studios: Legends give fans a highlight view of the journey different characters, organizations, and miscellaneous elements have taken ahead of an appearance in a movie or show.
For She-Hulk, a Legends episode focusing on Bruce Banner has been released to tell the story of one of the most foundational members of the universe in under 10 minutes. In eight appearances, Mark Ruffalo is one of the cornerstone pieces of the puzzle and a Hall of Famer still active on the MCU roster.
However, Bruce Banner/Hulk has nine appearances in the MCU. After arguably the most famous recastings in the history of popcorn, Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk was left out of the Bruce Banner episode of Marvel Studios Legends.
The Incredible Hulk Omitted from Marvel Studios Legends
When fans hit play on the Bruce Banner episode of Marvel Studios Legends heading into the She-Hulk season premiere, it will begin with Tony Stark greeting Bruce Banner in 2012's The Avengers. This will completely bypass the hero's origin film in 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
Notably, The Avengers was Mark Ruffalo's first MCU appearance as the science bro. Banner was originally portrayed by Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk before Norton decided not to reprise his role in The Avengers in fear of being locked into the superhero genre - one of the biggest decisions in Hollywood blockbuster history.
This was over a decade ago; the past is history for the most part. For years, the MCU separated itself from elements of The Incredible Hulk outside of Bruce Banner and Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross, played by the late-great William Hurt. More recently, Tim Roth's Emily Blonsky has returned as Abomination in Shang-Chi In the Legend of the Ten Rings and will also be joining Ruffalo in She-Hulk.
Not About The Movie
Ruffalo's Bruce Banner has made one notable mention of the origin film starring Edward Norton in his MCU career. Mentioning in Avengers that the last time he was in New York, he "kind of broke... Harlem." However, that does not mean Marvel Studios has shied away from referencing other elements of the second-ever MCU movie.
Secretary of Defense Thaddeus Ross played a pivotal plot role in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Black Widow. He's acted as a military presence, oftentimes combating the Avengers. But Ross is not the only element of The Incredible Hulk that has been woven into the MCU fabric.
One of the biggest factors in the Captain America franchise is the Super Soldier Serum. Introduced in The Incredible Hulk as the knock-off version of a legendary WWII military project, the serum would go on to be the origin of Steve Rogers. Beyond that, it was a major McGuffin of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney+.
There are over a dozen Super Soldiers in the history of the MCU, and the first appearance was with Emil Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk. This was even alluded to in the Assembled episode focusing on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier production.
So Why Omit The Origin Story?
The question quickly becomes, why did Marvel Studios leave out The Incredible Hulk from the Bruce Banner Legends episode?
It comes down to the fact that the recasting from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo was not planned. Ruffalo ended up being an excellent choice for the role and a legend amongst Red Brand fans forever. But Marvel Studios does not want to remind people that Norton brought The Hulk to life first in the MCU.
Unlike the joking reference to the recast of Col. James Rhodes from Terrance Howard to Don Cheadle, there has never been a reference to the Bruce Banner actor change. Namely because Banner has not shared the screen with Ross or Blonsky since 2008. This may change in the upcoming She-Hulk series.
This is not about pretending the movie doesn't exist, as made clear by the involvement of Thunderbolt Ross and the Super Soldier Serum. This is about keeping the allusion that Mark Ruffalo is now and always has been Bruce Banner.
So behind the scenes it is advantageous to rewatch The Incredible Hulk ahead of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law. Officially, Bruce Banner's journey begins in a hut in New Dehli, being recruited into The Avengers Initiative by Natasha Romanoff. Even though he did still very much break...Harlem.