He may have only received one solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the Incredible Hulk is still one of Marvel’s most popular characters. Multiple actors have brought him to life on the big screen, though there are scores of effects team members’ who have also played a big role in that as well.
Because he’s been on screen so many times now, Marvel has gone with several different designs for the character. Fans recently discussed whether Marvel should have kept the original one or if they were right to adjust it.
The history of the ‘Incredible Hulk’ on the big screen
Eric Bana was the first actor to portray the Hulk cinematically. He starred in a 2003 adaptation directed by Ang Lee. In that version of the character, Sam Elliott played Thunderbolt Ross while Nick Nolte played Bruce Banner’s father. The film was more experimental artistically than most superhero films and failed to garner enough acclaim for a sequel.
Marvel rebooted the character as part of their newly developed MCU in 2008, when Ed Norton took on the role of Banner/Hulk. This version debuted shortly after the debut of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. Marvel soon put an end to Hulk solo films and re-cast Mark Ruffalo as Hulk for 2012’s The Avengers. Ruffalo continued to appear in Avengers films as well as making cameos in films such as Iron Man 3 and Thor: Ragnarok. He will reportedly have a role in the Disney+ SheHulk series as well.
How the character has evolved within the MCU
Hulk’s path throughout the MCU has been a tough one. He ends his standalone film on the run from the authorities. He’s recruited by Black Widow and SHIELD to join the Avengers in the first Avengers movie. He flees the planet after seeing the destruction he can cause in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. That led to him teaming up with Thor in Thor: Ragnarok.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Hulk is beaten handily in a fight by Thanos before being sent back to Earth. Banner is then unable to transform back into the Hulk form. During the events of Avengers: Endgame, Banner and Hulk have come to an understanding where he takes the physical form of Hulk while using Banner’s voice, attitude, and mannerisms. In short, the two characters have learned to coexist peacefully.
It’s quite an arc for the character across multiple films. It has given fans an opportunity to see multiple looks from the character, though as some fans tell it, the initial design was the best one.
Should the MCU have kept the original design?
Marvel fans took to Reddit to discuss the Hulk designs when one fan posted that they liked the original Hulk design (from the 2008 MCU film) the best, stating:
“I still wish they had kept this version of the Hulk for the MCU. Still the best looking Hulk from any Marvel movie (imo).”
Another fan weighed in, agreeing with the sentiment:
“Yeah, I think Avengers 2012 hulk was best altogether, but visually I’m with OP. The muscle striation gives a sense of adrenaline induced rage.”
So which Hulk truly was the best? It obviously comes down to personal preference. But it’s important to understand why the Hulk’s design changed. Each Hulk is made to resemble its actor. The 2008 version worked with Norton, and the 2012 until now version works best with Ruffalo. While Norton’s depiction was fine in its own right, most fans have loved Ruffalo’s take. It’s hard to see the design of the Hulk outweighing the person behind the character.