Marvel Studios may be on to Phase 4, but fans are still thinking about Avengers: Endgame. Smart Hulk was a definite highlight, and one fan imagined what could have been in an alternate timeline. Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner, and his alter ego in most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. But, in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton played the scientist in a performance some fans still really enjoy.
Now, in all ensuing films, Ruffalo would take over, but some people can't help but wonder what the journey through the MCU would have looked like with Norton. That effort includes taking a trip into the uncanny valley with a version of Smart Hulk with Norton's face smiling down on the cast. There are some subtle differences to the ways each actor played the role, and now Ruffalo is the most recognizable face of the character for sets of younger fans.
Ever wondered how Edward Norton would look like as Hulk in Endgame? I did, so I made this. from r/marvelstudios
One regret some fans had regarding Endgame was that Hulk and Thanos didn't square up again like they did in Infinity War. Banner's Smart Hulk transformation played a big role in the decision not to revisit the fight from the previous film.
"The battle had all sorts of stuff in it. I don’t know how long that battle is now, but it’s not as long as you might think," co-writer Stephen McFeely explained to Backstory Magazine.
He continued, "I know a lot of people were saying they can’t wait for [Hulk and Thanos’] rematch. Well, that would’ve made sense had he not become Smart Hulk. He’s a whole different thing, and that’s not what drives him. So we never thought, 'Oh, he really is trying to get a crack at Thanos now.'"
Once upon a time, the filmmakers planned to have Banner transform into the new version during the climactic clash in Wakanda during Avengers: Infinity War. Hulk spent a lot of time in the corner upset about the disconnect between him and Banner during that movie. Thanos' beatdown obviously didn't help matters there as the two were forced to confront their differences.
Christopher Markus co-wrote the movies with Stephen McFeely and they eventually made the call to nix Smart Hulk's Infinity War entrance. The two writers decided that having that big triumphant moment for the characters just minutes before total defeat might have been ill-advised. Markus went so far as to say it would have been, "completely the wrong tone for that moment in the movie," at San Diego Comic-Con.
"It was this victory when we were headed toward a crushing defeat, and it was tone-deaf," Markus continued. "But we had already shot Endgame, where he was already Smart Hulk."2comments
"Imagine the first act of Endgame, he’s Smart Hulk in all of those scenes — meaning when he goes to kill Thanos, when they’re sitting around the compound when Tony’s returned — so that required some adjusting," McFeely added.
"And it also meant that we could use the five years as the transition, hint that he’s got problems coalescing, and in the five years he figures it out. You have a couple of lines about gamma radiation and he’s eating pancakes, and off you go."