EDITORIAL: Why Mark Ruffalo's HULK Works So Well

EDITORIAL: Why Mark Ruffalo's HULK Works So Well

We have seen The Green Goliath in three movies now, played by there very different actors. But have we see the best possible incarnation of the character in Marvel's The Avengers? I believe so..

In Comic Con , Mark Ruffalo made his first major appearance as the casting replacement for the Avengers’ Incredible Hulk, and was booed. Now I’m not here to get on a soap box or judge, I’m a fanboy too, and we’ve all had times when something we love seems like it might be ruined by Hollywood decisions. But I just wanted to say, after checking out Avengers twice, I think Mr Ruffalo is the best actor to play this role.

I’ve been trying to think about why that is, and I’ve boiled it down to 3 main aspects. Which is to say, EVERYTHING about the character

The Alter-Ego of HULK

All the actors who have played Bruce Banner have got the brooding down. Eric Bana got the shy and quiet aspect. Edward Norton got to be the darker, repressed Banner on the run. While I still would have loved to see Edward Norton in this movie, I have to say Mark Ruffalo does the best job, because he seemed like a happy marriage of the two, without feeling like either of the previous versions at all. Also, between you and me, he was the most believable ‘scientist’ cast in the role. Who really believes a ripped dude like Bana or a bad ass like Ed Norton would be insecure or got picked on? This might be a backhanded compliment, but Mark Ruffalo was the perfect dork for the job!

Ruffalo worked with Downey before on Zodiac. RDJ, arguably the actor that drives this ensemble forward, had the best scenes with Banner of the group, and the quality of his performance brought out the best in Ruffalo.


Face-mapping. In my opinion, all 3 versions of the hulk looked state of the art. Ang Lee’s first movie was a brighter green but it was impressive in 2003, particularly the transformations and the quieter scenes where he might not be doing anything but breathing. In 2008, Hulk is much paler, yet darker-looking at the same time. (they claim to be going for the original comic gray, but I don’t think it reads.) He’s veiny, and ‘grittier’ (see: uglier) than Ang Lee’s cleaned up version, and while both those films claim that we don’t lose the actors in the CG creations, Avengers can triumphantly say that Ruffalo is still completely present as the green giant. There’s no arguing this, because we can SEE his face in the Hulk.

The result, is the most emotive version of Hulk we’ve ever seen. Believe me, for someone who checks out the moment CG creatures overwhelm the action (its like watching someone else play a videogame) this made all the difference in the world.


Hulk has had his share of memorable screen moments. Whether it’s using cars as boxing gloves or throwing an army tank across the city, there’s always a little something to showcase how “incredible” he can be. Heck, I still think the scene of him leaping for miles across the desert is a highlight of the first movie. But I don’t think either of those movies match the sheer carnage and destruction unleashed by this version. From how he comes out in the final battle, to when he meets villain Loki one on one, what Joss was able to do with him (with a relative small amount of time) is undeniably satisfying.

Every single movie has tried to use the suspenseful technique of hiding the beast until a big reveal, but I think Whedon really mastered it. This is mostly though the behavior of other characters when they are around Banner- particularly Black Widow, who was established as a badass, so when we see that even this fearless assassin is scared of him, it makes the fear tangible and real for everyone. I was never afraid of Hulk in the other movies. I shouldn’t be excited to see him, I should dread it. Joss really understood that.

Then of course there’s the comedic bits. I won’t get too spoiler-ish, but let’s just say its these moments that make the character arguably the show-stealer of the entire film! This was a masterful stroke of genius by Whedon, who simultaneously taps into fanboy glee, and fully rounds out the character to being something more than just a mindless brute, as he’s depicted in the other movies. This hulk has a functioning intellect and personality.

Imagine if he had a whole feature of his own to play around with even more material. Running from General Ross, and making doe eyes at Betty (who I’d keep as Jennifer Connely, my preferred choice) I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the humble actor to go through what he did back at Comic Con, or even in the months to follow. After all the fanboy gossip, and all the trash-talking, all the doubting, the best compliment I can give, is it makes me wish Whedon and Ruffalo were there from the start.
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sikwon - 5/16/2012, 7:05 PM
great right up. ive always been a hulk fan and this is the best incarnation yet.
BANE5000 - 5/16/2012, 7:23 PM
Though im sure we all know Whedon will return for Avengers 2...Wouldn't it be awesome if Marvel gave Whedon a chance to do a solo Hulk movie himself with Ruffalo, imagine how awesome that would turn out :D
nowtheresaBATman - 5/16/2012, 7:44 PM
Ruffalo's Banner/Hulk was the best thing about the Avengers. Scene stealer indeed.

TIH was my favorite Marvel movie before the Avengers. I liked the look of the Hulk just fine in TIH. Many times Hulk looked like he was straight from the comics esp. facial expressions.
Hulk's thunderclap in TIH was sick.

I loved Norton as Banner but I didn't cry about it when they didn't bring him back esp. when they cast Ruffalo. I thought he was perfect for Banner & lo & behold he was.

I hope when/if they do another Hulk movie they still bring back the cast from TIH.

Great article RobGrizzly!

antonio - 5/16/2012, 7:59 PM
I believe in Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Ruffalo Hulk ftw!!

antonio - 5/16/2012, 8:02 PM
@Bane that would be so tits.
MrCameron - 5/16/2012, 8:03 PM
I agree. Ruffalo was PERFECT in the role and was the best part of the movie for me.
Ghostt - 5/16/2012, 8:42 PM
damn, great write up. My thoughts exactly.

Ruffalo did this this subtle eye twitch at one point when we was suppressing his anger. Not sure if everyone caught it, but it pulled me in to his character and made me believe there was a Hulk inside of him.
BIGBMH - 5/16/2012, 9:02 PM
I think both Ruffalo and Norton were great. (haven't watched Bana in quite some time) The major thing that helped to make the Hulk so entertaining this time is that he was given a real personality. He wasn't just this raging beast with occasional calm periods. I think if you told people back in 2003 that in 2012 the Hulk would make them laugh their @sses off, they'd be very skeptical. They seemed to put a lot of effort into developing both sides of the character.
Coloso - 5/16/2012, 10:16 PM
A lot of people were sleeping on Ruffalo when he replaced Norton. Glad I wasn't one of them :)

DarthTesla - 5/16/2012, 10:19 PM
Nice article. Good points.

Was never a huge fan of Mark before The Avengers, but dammit he was the best character in the movie, IMO.
CharlesLord - 5/16/2012, 10:38 PM
@ghostt i noticed that too. Ruffalo did a lot of small things during that whole Loki mind control/group arguing thing that had me go "dear god please dont" that drew me into the character
daywalker1623 - 5/16/2012, 10:48 PM
I knew from the start when they announced Mark Ruffalo he'd be great. He is perfect at playing a geeky scientist, another example is the movie Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.
The CGI of Hulk was amazing and I think it helped that Ruffalo did the motion capture for the Hulk.
I would love it if Ruffalo did a Hulk movie where they brought in more characters like Rick Jones and have General Ross turn into the Red Hulk. Problem is, is that Feige has said that they have no plans of doing another Hulk movie. Maybe they'll change their mind.

And I agree Jennifer Connolly was the better Betty.
laughterman26 - 5/17/2012, 12:43 AM
VictorHugo - 5/17/2012, 1:17 AM
I loved both HULK movies, and this last version was the awesomest. Hulk stole the movie as his.
Nevermender - 5/17/2012, 1:18 AM
I still like the look of the Hulk much better in Norton's movie.
devildrive - 5/17/2012, 1:38 AM
Please more of Hulk in the movie. More action. More power. More everything.

Personally I love every one of them. I'm just big fan, what can I say. Every time new Hulk movie came out, all I could do is hope that it would be great. I like the look of the last one, the face is just brutal. Josh made it more like a monster but at the same time made him one of the most favorite and fun character of the movie. How about that.

I remembered one year back, nobody gives a damn about Hulk. Thor, Iron man 2, Cap got all the attention. Thank you Josh but please don't let Hulk fade away again.

Xandera - 5/17/2012, 2:00 AM
I was on the fence when Ruffalo was announced...
The guy is a phenomenal actor, but I just wasn't sure how well he'd do as Bruce Banner/Hulk...
So I decided to reserve judgement until I saw the movie...
After seeing the film, I agree with everything you've said...
Ruffalo is the best man for the job...
SamHell - 5/17/2012, 2:51 AM
Yes, Jennifer C. was the better Betty and lets not forget about Sam Elliot, cuz i genuinely thought he was also better than his replacement in Will Hurt. Is Ruffalo better than Norton? Prob by a hair and the look of this Hulk was really great, but Im not sure that the face was quite as menacing as in TIH, but in TIH, I also thought his body was too senewy. Job well done this time around. The Hulk has always been my fav since i was little so Ive got alot to say about him understandably.
GodzillaKart - 5/17/2012, 2:51 AM
Well said and absolutely correct.
RyKnow - 5/17/2012, 3:04 AM
I thought the Hulk they used in Norton's movie nailed it bang on and was by far the best. The look in his face was just pure, unadulterated rage. It was a Hulk who had no time to be comedic or amusing, he had too much violence and agression inside him for that crap, which is what I expect the Hulk to have. It was a Hulk that gave you the feeling that whatever tried getting in his way would be decimated. And what I thought was great, was no matter what the Abomination did to him, the aforementioned rage just kept bubbling back to the surface, with spectacular results.
The Hulk used in The Avengers was good enough, put a smile on my face when he was doing his thing, but I got no sense of rage within him. Whedon seemed to focus too much on making the Hulk funny. In a nutshell, the Avengers Hulk, to me, was more cartoony character-wise, and had a lot of his emotional rage replaced with slapstick humour.
heisei24 - 5/17/2012, 4:08 AM
devildrive - 5/17/2012, 5:18 AM
Well I agree too. The fun part was fun. But, I prefer Hulk that would destroy everything in his path and just be a rage monster that spread fear.

That's why my favorite Hulk moment in the Avenger is when Hulk was chasing Black Widow like a maniac and went ape crazy on the Chitauri. Moments when he shows that he is the strongest.

Well, the whole movie is a fun package,so be it. Maybe in the next solo Hulk movie, we could see more of the beast side of him.
Greengo - 5/17/2012, 5:40 AM
IMO, and much of what I took from this article, was his performance was better than the others because of face mapping and the script.

Ruffalo's performance didn't impress me at all.

But you make a great point when you said he was a cross between Bana and Norton.

I think Norton was best.
lntrn8 - 5/17/2012, 6:29 AM
Def the most likeable Banner/ Hulk. I didn't feel "sorry" for Ruffalo's iteration of the hulk. Maybe I'm just looking at his version from the perspective of "The Kids Are Alright" swagger that he has.
Ace101 - 5/17/2012, 6:35 AM
@RyKnow thats because banner had managed to learn control the hulk (somewhat), since the harlem incident therefore he wouldnt be a rage beast..just a bad-ass beast. Banner didnt have to aim the hulk like he did in the fight with abomination, instead he was unleashed but with control.
Rulk - 5/17/2012, 6:52 AM
And what are they doing with the best Hulk/Bruce Banner ever as millions have fallen in love with him after the Avengers? Striking while the iron is hot and fast-tracking a Hulk sequel? Nope. Still chugging along with the planned TV series. :(
Ortonito - 5/17/2012, 7:02 AM
Whedon should write and direct the next Hulk movie, he's the only one to get him right so far!

Ruffalo killed it, too! Keep him on board!
cole33 - 5/17/2012, 7:10 AM
Definitely thought Ruffalo nailed the scientist aspect that I felt wasn't properly shown in the first movies.

My take is that Banner has learned the hulk can be "triggered" in two ways

1) triggered by external circumstances, (being attacked, or in danger)
2) triggered by internal will (staying angry all the time and pushing himself over the line)

When the Hulk is triggered by the external circumstances Banner has virtually no control over the Hulk

When he triggers the Hulk internally it allows him to control the Hulk
Mentok - 5/17/2012, 8:02 AM
Nice article, agree on all counts. Ruffalo's Banner/Hulk shined through an amazing ensemble cast. And what a professional Ruffalo proved to be, any lesser actor would've been crushed by the initial fan reaction upon hearing he would replace Norton. On the contrary, he gave his best and delivered a brilliant performance, one that made Hulk fans out of guys like me who didn't care for the character before.
CVTom - 5/17/2012, 8:38 AM
Good article. It was interesting to see how both Banner and the Hulk have evolved over three movies. I hope they do another Hulk movie, this time with the Leader as the villain.
valeriesghost - 5/17/2012, 9:32 AM
This movie is what i wanted from the Hulk. Mark was fantastic.

Excellent write up! well thought out and executed :)
CitizenOfAsgard - 5/17/2012, 9:45 AM
Who the hell booed Mr. Ruffalo! That's just mean! I understand that people didn't, or might not have liked the casting decision, but c'mon, the poor guy has a heart. It's OK to not like Mr. Ruffalo, or to prefer Edward Norton, but those that voiced their displeasure in that kind of forum/event is immature and downright mean-spirited.

I'm just glad Mr. Ruffalo has had the last laugh (he's signed on to 6 more pictures!), and now all of the nay-Sayers have to eat crow.
incredibleTalk - 5/17/2012, 9:45 AM
Great article....love the Hulk since I was a kid and got our first color tv.Lou Ferrigno looked awesome!!!Would like to see another Hulk movie with either the villian as the Leader, Red Hulk, or Wendigo/Alpha Flight(Sasquatch)cameo!!!

If they need someone to write the story ..I have a great one in mind!!!!
superotherside - 5/17/2012, 9:50 AM
I agree. I do like Norton's portrayal, but after Avengers I'm like Norton who?
marantaz - 5/17/2012, 10:14 AM
I agree with everything you said in the article, except I don't consider this Hulk to be Ruffalo's... this is Whedon's Hulk, he wrote it, he knew what he could do with the Hulk on film, and he wasn't afraid to do it. Ruffalo went along for the ride, though he brought something more than the previous actors, I'll give him that. His Banner came off as a guy with brains who'd accepted what he'd become, and who wasn't going to be afraid anymore, which was refreshing after all the Bixby imitations.... That's just not the way to go with Hulk anymore. I can't wait to see it again.
Ha1frican - 5/17/2012, 10:16 AM
I wish he had green eyes like bigsby/norton hulk and that he had the bonecrushing transformation. Avengers Hulk acted at little too ape-like for my liking I liked the genuine rage of the TIH version but overall Avengers blew the rest away
Luther - 5/17/2012, 10:22 AM
I'd have to mirror everything already said.

VERY well written article. Probably one of the best I've read on this site in some time. To which, I agree 110% with what was stated.

Best Hulk and Banner. Literally like a PERFECT mix of the 2 previous incarnations. There's no denying that every moment Hulk was shown, he clearly was the one stealing the scene. And rightfully, at that.

I'll be one to admit as well, I was SUPER skeptical about Ruffalo (shoot, the movie as a whole, really), and was pleasantly surprised..and proved wrong :)
EVEN WITH a good amount of corny, cheeseball moments, I was able to look past them.
Theben - 5/17/2012, 10:56 AM
Bana looked like a lab technician. Norton looked like a convict. Ruffalo was the first Banner who looked like a scientist.
SpiderFan35 - 5/17/2012, 11:11 AM
I admit I was skeptical at first, but I ended up really enjoying him. When he shows up on his little motorbike and then says "Well this all looks horrible" I laughed my ass off, still makes me chuckle when I think about it. He has great delivery.
GiantNerd - 5/17/2012, 11:19 AM
I'm glad this made the main page. Good work man.
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