Monday saw the official spoiler ban lifted on Avengers: Endgame after the movie has been in theaters for two weekends. Now everyone is excitedly talking about everything included in this final MCU sequel for the original Avengers, wrapping up a 22 movie arc that all seemingly ends here, or at least until Spider-Man: Far From Home hits theaters this July. Endgame does a good job of wrapping up its individual character arcs from the first three Avengers movies. Steve is an old man, Black Widow is dead and can never come back, Hawkeye is once again retired and living with his family, Thor is cruising through outer space with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Tony Stark lives on in the form of Hologram messages. The only original Avenger seemingly still on duty is Hulk. So what becomes of him in the future of the MCU?
Well, for starters, it appears that Bruce Banner and Hulk are permanently welded together in the form of Professor Hulk. And he has been confirmed to have sustained permanent damage from his use of the Infinity Gauntlet and power stones.
As Endgame's third act kicks into gear, Professor Hulk, sometimes referred to in merchandising as Smart Hulk, uses Tony Stark's retrofitted Infinity Gauntlet to snap the decimated back into existence, and it takes a mighty toll on him. Apparently he'll never fully recover. Co-director Joe Russo had this to say in a recent interview about what has become of Hulk following the events of Avengers: Endgame.
"It's permanent damage. The same way it was permanent damage with Thanos. It's irreversible damage.If you notice, his arm is a lot skinnier, it's blackened. So he loses a lot of strength there."
It isn't yet known where Mark Ruffalo will reappear as Hulk. From what we know about Marvel's Phase 4, there doesn't seem to be an immediate place for him. Black Widow will be a prequel, before she ever knew Bruce Banner. The Eternals will have all new characters. Perhaps he could show up in Wakanda for Black Panther 2. And he knows Stephen Strange, so maybe Doctor Strange 2 will find him a new home. It's really anyone's guess at this point, but whoever he ends up fighting next, he won't have the same strength he once did. Which might make him a good fit to be Shuri's science partner sometime in the future, and a pair-up there might be nice, now that Tony Stark has gone to Valhalla.
It's possible that Hulk's damage could be reversed, but the Russo Brothers are going to leave that up to someone else to figure out, as they have no plans to return to the MCU anytime soon. Joe Russo says this about Hulk's future.
"Who knows? There's a lot of really smart people left. Maybe somebody helps him repair that. Maybe somebody gives him a new arm, who knows. I have no idea where that character goes from here."
The fact that Bruce Banner's fate is up in the air is exciting. Fans love the character, some believe he was done a disservice in Avengers: Endgame and not used to his full potential. Banner has found some modicum of inner peace. That will be threatened at some point, it's the way these Marvel movies work. There won't be a standalone Hulk movie anytime soon, as the rights to the character are still complicated. If and when he does return, it will be in someone else's movie. And maybe that's ok. Perhaps the third MCU Spider-Man will team up Hulk and Spidey? That's a pairing that would make fans happy, especially if Hulk was allowed to go back to his old fighting self. You can check out more from ComicBook.com or watch the interview with Joe Russo below.