Avengers: Endgame brings Bruce Banner and the Hulk to a major conclusion. One that has been in the works since The Incredible Hulk.
Avengers: Endgame is currently blowing away every box office record it can get its hands on. But the film is notable for more than just it’s monetary gain. It’s an ending to numerous storylines that have played out over the past 22 films. One of which is the struggle between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Be warned, we’re about to get into MAJOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
At the end of Infinity War, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are completely at odds with one another. For once in their journey, Banner actually wants the Hulk to come out and fight. He knows they need the Hulk to take on Thanos, but the Hulk literally tells him no. It’s still not clear when Endgame begins, why this is happening or where things may go. But then the film jumps ahead 5 years and we get to see Bruce Banner and the Hulk combined. Marvel has actually released a clip of this moment which you can check out below.
Bringing Banner and the Hulk together has literally been the long game here since The Incredible Hulk ended and we saw Banner look at the screen with a smile on his face and glowing green eyes. That film was all about Banner realizing that he could find some control with the Hulk. The entire subplot with Betty Ross is about her believing there is good in the Hulk, and that they can live peacefully. This gets continued in The Avengers, when Tony tells Bruce that he should have died after being exposed to that much Gamma radiation. Yet somehow he didn’t.
Banner and Hulk’s story expanded even more with Thor: Ragnarok, where we saw that the Hulk isn’t completely mindless. There are things he wants and desires. He has the ability to be a somewhat normal being if given the chance. The question then became where the balance between can the two be found. How could the Jekyll and Hyde sides of this one man come together to live peacefully ? Endgame gives us that answer: by combining the two of them into one force. He may look like the Hulk now, and have his strength and size. But in terms of his mind he’s Banner. Essentially becoming Professor Hulk, a version seen in the comics with Banner’s intelligence but the Hulk’s physical presence.
This has always been the best route for the Hulk to take if the films were going to wrap up this story. It would be satisfying in some ways to see Banner get rid of the Hulk. However, doing that would add weight to the idea that the Hulk was nothing more than a brute weapon, when that isn’t exactly true. There are good aspects of the Hulk. He has fought bad guys alongside the other Avengers. He may have destroyed things at times and made life difficult, but there is good in him. Destroying him would only diminish the good he’s done.
By merging the two personalities it brings a peace to the character’s story that is slightly unexpected but the perfect way to round things out. It gives Banner the ability to be fully confident. It gives him the ability to realize his full potential. And it gives him the ability to be willing to take risks in ways he might not have before. Risks like attempting time travel. It’s a perfect way of bringing this chapter of Bruce Banner and the Hulk’s story to a close. The question now becomes whether we’ll see him return in any capacity moving forward. It’s unlikely we’ll get a Hulk solo film, but maybe he can still stick around and help the Avengers from time to time.
For now you can catch Bruce Banner, the Hulk and “Professor Hulk” in Avengers: Endgame, which is currently in theaters everywhere.