It’s been discussed many times before, and I think we can all agree, Edward Norton’s Hulk was better than Mark Ruffalo’s MCU Hulk. Is there a chance we could see the previous version again in the MCU? Maybe.
While some of the most iconic characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have some rather tragic backstories, Hulk remains the only character with a complicated history inside and outside the MCU.
Before Mark Ruffalo took his current place as the only actor to portray the live-action version of the character, two actors played the Hulk in two different (and vaguely connected) films.
2008’s The Incredible Hulk picks up from where the 2003 live-action movie ended – more or less. The same thing happened with The Avengers and the Hulk’s introduction to the new era of the MCU. While The Incredible Hulk has always been considered part of the MCU, the change from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo has never been addressed.
For a franchise as meticulous when it comes to continuity as the MCU, it’s surprising that it took them until this year’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law to address Hulk’s new face.
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When Shang-Chi introduced a brief but rather important Abomination cameo, it was a clear message to fans that, yes, the events of The Incredible Hulk are still canon. However, if that was the case, what happened to Bruce Banner, and why did his “face” change so much?
She-Hulk addresses Hulk’s recast as a throwaway gag, with Ruffalo’s Banner mentioning that he was literally a “completely different person” when he fought Abomination.
Although it might seem like just another random Marvel non sequitur, the fact that Banner remembers the fight against Abomination could have some lasting implications for the Hulk in the MCU – especially now that tears in the Multiverse are such a common occurrence.
Beyond that, this gag also reveals that there might still be a chance for Betty Ross to return to the mainline MCU and maybe, just maybe, for Edward Norton to come back in some capacity as Hulk.
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The Many Faces of Hulk
Die-hard comic book fans are most likely aware that there are more gamma-powered individuals beyond Bruce Banner and Jennifer Walters. While Banner has always been the de facto “Incredible Hulk,” Ruffalo’s current incarnation of the character in the MCU might provide us with a hint about how Edward Norton’s Hulk could fit into the franchise’s narrative.
After the mind-bending encounter between Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Toby Maguire’s incarnations of Spider-Man, the MCU essentially gave itself carte blanche to introduce alternate versions of the same character, acknowledging the existence of different continuities outside the mainline MCU.
Even though Norton and Ruffalo are effectively playing the very same character, a breach in the Multiverse could give the MCU the perfect opportunity to reintroduce Edward Norton as Hulk to the franchise with an explanation that makes sense within the rules of the MCU.
Until Marvel regains the rights to produce a solo Hulk film, She-Hulk and other team-up films are the only chance we have of seeing what Bruce Banner has been up to in the MCU.
If they ever decide to bring Edward Norton back to the franchise, at least for a Hulk cameo, we’ll still have to wait some time. At the rate that Marvel Studios is moving forward with its acquisitions and standalone projects, that wait could be shorter than anyone would expect.
Why Edward Norton’s Hulk Was Better Than Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk
Would you like Edward Norton to return as The Hulk in an MCU Multiverse movie?