Avengers: Endgame was packed full of jaw-dropping moments, including the revelation that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was able to merge his consciousness with the Hulk to create a new character Marvel Studios now calls Smart Hulk. Pulling inspiration from the Professor Hulk of the Marvel Comics mythos, the Hulk remained the same shape and size, but only with the full intelligence of Banner and his seven PhDs.
Earlier this week, ComicBook.com spoke with visual effects supervisor Russell Earl and modeling supervisor Bruce Holcomb — both of Industrial Light and Magic — to talk about all things Avengers: Endgame, including Smart Hulk, a character the firm had a massive hand in helping develop.
"It says it in the movie how this Hulk is the perfect blend of the brains and the brawn, so one of the things we did was we obviously went back and looked at the Hulk that we had done in the prior films," Earl tells us. "We were fortunate in that a lot of the people that were working on this movie had worked on the prior films, like the Ang Lee Hulk movie, the last Avengers movie, and Thor: Ragnarok, so we've had a pretty solid history of Hulk at ILM."
Earl says there was a fine line between creating just another normal Hulk and getting Ruffalo's likeness just right.
"The fun part about this guy was it was taking down big muscley Smash Hulk and giving him a little bit more Ruffalo," the VFX supervisor says. "We looked at all the previous models and we did comparisons. We were looking at Ruffalo and the key art that we got from the guys at Marvel and then it was really just taking all of those things and trying to dial in just the right amount of Hulk, keeping the big muscley dude, but then also getting enough of the smarts, or the brains, from Ruffalo in there."
The team at ILM actually established a new facial capture system, created solely for the purpose of making Smart Hulk look as close to Ruffalo as possible. Through the magic of visual effects and the all-new ILM system, the end result ended up just about as well you can get.
"All of these things that would help bring that performance to life, so we could stay true on model, stay true to Ruffalo's performance, but at the same time, if you took his performance and you mapped it onto Smart Hulk or re-targeted onto Smart Hulk, it wouldn't always feel right," recounts Earl. "The smile might feel too big and broad or he might look too goofy, so Ruffalo gave a very unique performance. We were capturing that, but at the same time being able to alter and control in animation."
What'd you think of Smart Hulk compared to the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok or before? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or by tweeting me at @AdamBarnhardt!
Avengers: Endgame is now in theaters and will be followed by Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 2nd. Captain Marvel will be available digitally on May 28th ahead of a home media release on June 11th.