The Marvel Cinematic Universe has evolved in some pretty interesting ways between Iron Man and Avengers: Endgame, most notably in the franchise's recasting of Bruce Banner/Hulk. While Edward Norton portrayed Banner in a loosely-connected 2008 solo film, Mark Ruffalo has played the character ever since 2012's The Avengers, and is regarded to be many fans' definitive portrayal of Hulk. A new meme, courtesy of Reddit user noisybotnet, pokes fun at the Hulk recasting in a pretty amusing way. The meme juxtaposes Norton and Ruffalo's faces onto a pivotal scene from Endgame, in which a 2012-era Thanos remarks that he doesn't even recognize Scarlet Witch in 2023, despite the Mad Titan having already caused her quite a lot of pain.
Norton was initially expected to play the Hulk in The Avengers, but ultimately cut ties with Marvel over the role for larger creative differences.
"My feeling was that I experimented and experienced what I wanted to. I really, really enjoyed [The Incredible Hulk]," Norton shared in a 2014 interview. "And yet, I looked at the balance of time in life that one spends not only making those sorts of films but then especially putting them out, and the obligations that rightly come with that. There were just a lot of things — I wanted more diversity."
As it turns out, this meme doesn't exactly reflect reality, as Ruffalo confirmed last year that he and Norton have no bad blood about the recasting.
"No, actually, we've never really talked about it," Ruffalo said of taking over the role from Norton. "I was just kinda like, 'Is this okay?' and he was like, 'Man, all's fair in love and war.' And planet Hulk and World War Hulk. He never gave me any feedback."
And while it's unclear exactly what the future holds for Ruffalo's Hulk in the MCU's Phase 4 and beyond, it sounds like the events of Avengers: Endgame will continue to have an impact.
"He's lost an arm," co-director Joe Russo told ComicBook.com earlier this year. "He lost Natasha. That's not coming back. He's damaged himself. I don't know. It's interesting. That's permanent damage, the same way that it was permanent damage with Thanos. It's irreversible damage. His arm, if you noticed, is a lot skinnier. It's blackened. So, he loses a lot of strength there."
"But who knows? There's a lot of smart people left," he added. "Maybe someone helps him repair that. Maybe someone gives him a new arm. I have no idea where that character goes from here. The nice thing is we didn't have to pay attention to where it goes after this, we just try to tell a satisfying ending."
Upcoming Marvel Studios projects include Black Widow on May 1, 2020, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in Fall of 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in Spring 2021, Loki in Spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If…? In Summer 2021, Hawkeye in Fall 2021, Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021, and Black Panther 2 on May 6, 2022.