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Summary

  • The Avengers is the first time Bruce Banner’s likeness has been integrated into Hulk’s physical appearance.
  • Hulk’s resemblance to Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner allows for a seamless portrayal of Bruce Banner’s alter ego and their inner conflict.
  • The accuracy of Hulk’s facial features since The Avengers has allowed Mark Ruffalo to be more expressive and understand the character better than any actor before him.


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The Avengers marked a shift in Hulk’s live-action portrayals during the MCU’s Phase 1 thanks to one clever change in his physical appearance. Across every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since 2012, Hulk has been synonymous with Mark Ruffalo, the actor who has played the Hulk for the longest time. Ruffalo has informed the MCU’s Bruce Banner as much as he has informed the MCU’s Hulk. But Ruffalo’s acting chops aren’t the only element at play — motion capture also plays a key role in Mark Ruffalo’s unique MCU Hulk performance.

Hulk may have one of the most easily identifiable appearances in the comic book medium and the superhero genre. His giant stature, bulging muscles, and severe facial features make him stand out over hundreds of more human-like heroes and villains. However, there have also been various different takes on the Jade Giant throughout the years, from Lou Ferrigno’s flesh-and-bone Hulk in the 1970’s The Incredible Hulk TV show all the way to Mark Ruffalo’s ever-evolving Hulk in the MCU. Apart from the dramatic evolution in quality of the VFX involved in the MCU’s Hulk, one subtle detail helped Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk stand out from the others.


The Avengers Changed Hulk’s Design More Than You Might Think

Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in The Avengers 2012

Not only did The Avengers improve the accuracy and realism of Hulk’s body, hair, movements, and facial expressions, but it also marked the first time Hulk possessed Bruce Banner’s likeness in live-action. In the book The Art Of Marvel’s The Avengers by Jason Surrell, The Avengers director Joss Whedon explains Hulk’s improved appearance, saying “now, with the advancements of motion-capture technology, we wanted Mark Ruffalo to play both sides of the character”. To achieve it, Marvel fully integrated Ruffalo’s likeness and performance into Hulk both on set and in studio. As Whedon continues to explain,

Very early on we decided to build the Hulk’s face off of Mark’s, not just in terms of what he was going to do movement-wise in playing the character, but also the actual physicality of it — including the bone structure and contours of the eyes and mouth (…) We really wanted to bridge the gap between the characters so that when he turns into the Hulk, you go, ‘Oh my god, that’s Bruce Banner — only he is big and green and very angry-‘

Related: How Hulk Was Created In The MCU – Origin, Powers & Comic Book Changes

Why The MCU Hulk Design Changes Were A Good Thing

Bruce Banner & Hulk in The Avengers 2012

Hulk’s new face in The Avengers went a long way towards portraying Hulk as the perfect reflection of Bruce Banner’s repressed rage without the need for narrative exposition. In The Art Of Marvel’s The Avengers, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige describes the resemblance, saying, “when he turns into the Hulk, all of the goodwill we get from a very likeable Bruce Banner goes into him.” The Avengers marks the first time Hulk’s sense of unity between the man and the monster can be fully exploited on the big screen.

The accuracy of Hulk’s facial features since The Avengers also allows Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk to be more expressive, and Ruffalo’s performance as both Bruce Banner and the Hulk has likely helped the actor understand the character more than anybody before him. While they might seem imperceptible at first, every little detail about Bruce Banner and Hulk’s movements and behavior links both sides of the character together, which allows Ruffalo to embody both equally. As Hulk continues to evolve, the link between Bruce Banner and the Hulk strengthens, to the point that the MCU’s Smart Hulk looks and acts like a taller and more muscular version of Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner.

Source: The Art Of Marvel’s The Avengers

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