Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi has explained why Hulk is so much smarter in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure. The mean green character has had quite an evolution since his days in Marvel’s comic books, beginning with the classic TV series The Incredible Hulk, starring Lou Ferrigno as the title character and Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner from 1977-1982; to the film versions Hulk in 2003 (starring Eric Bana) and The Incredible Hulk (starring Edward Norton) in 2008.
Of course, Mark Ruffalo took up the mantle of playing Banner and the Hulk in 2012’s The Avengers and once again in Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, and this week, he’ll transform into the character for the third time in Thor: Ragnarok – where he pairs up with his fellow Avenger the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), to try to ward off the end of days on Asgard.
Related: Mark Ruffalo Thought Ragnarok Would Break The MCU
While it was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con in July that Hulk speaks in Thor: Ragnarok and has not reverted back to Banner in the past two years, fans will no doubt be surprised to discover that the character has developed quite the personality and vocabulary in the film. Hulk is clearly much more intelligent in the movie than in the Avengers films (where he uttered very few words) — and in a new interview with CBR, Waititi says the decision to go that route with the character simply came down to making him more engaging. He says:
“Yeah, that was really, just like with Chris, just wanting make it more interesting for Mark to play that character because in the films he just said one or two words and just destroyed everything, and that was the version of Hulk I think that everybody knows. But this version — the smarter version — it’s just become so much more interesting and engaging, because he’s been the Hulk for two years. He’s a hero on this planet and he’s had more time to just sit with himself and feel comfortable in his own skin.”
As previously revealed, Hulk is treated like a celebrity on the junk planet of Sakaar, where he is the undisputed king in the gladiator-style Contest of Champions. Handily defeating every opponent he faces (until he challenges Thor, that is), Sakaar’s ruler, Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) puts Hulk up in a swank apartment that even has a hot tub. Waititi explained that including the luxury item in Hulk’s abode wasn’t simply for the character to splash around in. He says, in fact, that it allows for place for Hulk to have moments of introspection, a la Marlon Brando’s character in director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war classic Apocalypse Now. Waititi says:
“Now you can see Hulk sitting still and being kind of like a big silverbackThere’s there’s this moment when he’s in the hot tub in his apartment – he just feels like General [Colonel] Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He’s just sitting there, just contemplating things and you can feel him probably ruminating over all sorts of stuff inside his head. And that introspective, that very still version of Hulk, I think is way more fascinating than the guy that just destroys everything.”
There’s no question that fans will love the new and improved Hulk, who makes for a much more rounded character in Thor: Ragnarok. With such a tremendous leap in character, it will be interesting to see how much more he’s evolved in Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers 4, where he character reportedly has a major storyline.
In the meantime, while the character is much more articulate in Thor: Ragnarok, fans shouldn’t fret about Hulk being too kind and gentle. He is still very angry and does plenty of damage in the film – and besides, what kind of Hulk would he be without something to smash?