In the first Avengers film, director Joss Whedon brought a version of the Incredible Hulk that had heretofore not been seen on either the big or small screen. True, actor Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the green goliath had the jittery-nervousness that has always been an important factor for the character that actors such as Ed Norton, Eric Bana, and Bill Bixby all included in their performances. However, the combination of his performance and Whedon’s direction and writing also highlighted a side of Banner that was a bit more self-assured and somewhat in control of the monster within. This inner transformation doesn’t look to be stopping in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, according to Ruffalo.
Speaking to Collider, Ruffalo hints that this continuing evolution of Bruce Banner/Hulk is the result of his longing to be part of something bigger than himself and his own struggles with his inner demons.
I feel like he has the idea that maybe he is a part of something. He’s trying to really be part of something and feels more comfortable I think with the fantasy that he can actually be part of something. But I still think it’s a struggle for him and I never think that he quite has it under control. I think in this version he’s sort of as close to having a normal life as he possibly could, which might include some romance, but is that ever possible for Banner? That’s really the question.
Ruffalo’s mention of romance is worth noting. Does this indicate that we might see the return of Banner’s on-again/off-again paramour Betty Ross? Or might this be a tip that Banner will be forming a loving connection with one of his fellow Avengers? When the trailer for Ultron hit, some folks on the Internet suggested that he and Black Widow might be becoming closer, as the two are shown touching fingertips in one clip. However, Banner was in his Hulk form, and I tend to think that this is merely a callback to the first film, with the Widow trying to calm the Hulk’s savage beast.
Further, Ruffalo’s assertion that Banner wants to be a part of something bigger should add a greater sense of sorrow and tragedy should things with his fellow Earth’s Mightiest Heroes go sideways. In the trailer, we see Tony Stark in his Iron Man Hulkbuster suit battle a rampaging Hulk and, later, a despondent Banner swaddled in a blanket and riding in an Avengers Quinjet. These scenes could allude to obstacles that Banner has to overcome if he truly wants to be part of something bigger than himself.
With all of this talk about a move to develop the Hulk’s character in Ultron, it’s interesting to note that any mention of the green goliath was absent from Marvel Studios’ big announcement today concerning its Phase 3 slate of films. Ruffalo has been teasing for months that Marvel Studios has been considering giving the Hulk his own standalone film. However, if the film slate is complete, then it looks like the Hulk won’t be riding solo until at least 2019.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron debuts May 1, 2015.