Captain America 4 Has The Perfect Way To Redeem Hulk’s Awkward MCU Development Without Undoing It

A split image of Sam Wilson's Captain America and the Hulk in the MCU

The clunky development of the Hulk in the MCU could be redeemed via 2025’s Captain American: Brave New World. Audiences have witnessed Hulk go from ‘mean green machine’ to ‘mild-mannered strong guy,’ and the raging wrecking ball of earlier MCU movies has been replaced by a bespectacled, kindly Bruce Banner who retains the enormous strength and near-indestructibility but lost the fury that made the character so fierce and compelling in the first place. But Captain America: Brave New World has an ace up its sleeve with the likely introduction of the Red Hulk.

The Banner seen in recent MCU entries was a mostly gentle soul who could still throw a tank if he needed to. This was in keeping with the comics that depicted a more civilized, Smart Hulk, but it also denied some viewers the ‘big scary monster’ aspect and the cathartic spectacle of watching the character literally ‘Hulk-out’ before laying waste to whatever happened to be in his way. However, if properly handled, the storytelling and use of Red Hulk in Captain America: Brave New World’s story could fix everything in a way that would satisfy everyone.

The MCU’s Smart Hulk Development Was Divisive

While Doing Something Interesting With The Character, It Changed Him Almost Too Much

The Hulk during the final battle of The Incredible Hulk

Due to rights issues that mean Disney wouldn’t get to distribute a solo Hulk movie, Banner’s character development has instead taken place across several other projects – notably the Avengers films, Thor: Ragnarok, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Given that, it makes sense that not every detail of Banner’s journey has been seen on screen to the degree it has for other notable MCU heroes. However, the Smart Hulk transformation still felt odd.

Learning to live with the Hulk inside of him is the entire focus of Banner’s MCU character journey, so having the moment in which he finally merges into a stable mix of Hulk and Banner happen off-screen in between movies felt like an anticlimactic choice that robbed the character of some closure. Moreover, the sudden shift left Hulk with a disappointing final appearance – getting utterly embarrassed by Thanos in hand-to-hand combat early in Avengers: Infinity War. While it may be difficult to undo the choice now, a new character can fill the void left by the original Hulk’s absence.

Captain America: Brave New World Can Introduce A New Monstrous Hulk

Red Hulk Could Scratch The Itch For An Angrier, Scarier Beast With Malicious Origins

General Ross' Red Hulk transformation in Marvel Comics

In the comics, Red Hulk usually isn’t completely out of control, but he also lacks Banner’s tragic origins. Rather than being the victim of an accident, Thunderbolt Ross was given the ability to become Red Hulk by A.I.M and the Intelligencia specifically so he could fight the Hulk. The character is inherently antagonistic, so while the Smart Hulk can still stay true to his more mellow side, Red Hulk can fill the void of ‘big, scary brawler.’ Smart Hulk is now a more heroic character, so his aggressive counterpart can be more monstrous.

A.I.M. was featured in Iron Man 3 , and Intelligencia drives much of the drama in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law .

Across all the MCU films the character has appeared in, Ross has demonstrated a willingness to neutralize the Hulk or work against members of the Avengers, so the concept of him being on the more antagonistic side of things has already been established, and the groundwork is there for him to take the next step. Although Ross is the US President in Captain America: Brave New World, he could be manipulated by the new villain, The Leader, to become a pawn, causing devastation.

It’s Not Too Late For Banner’s Hulk To Get Redemption

Chances Are Slim But Not Zero For A Rageful Green Behemoth Making A Comeback

Split image of Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron and as Smart Hulk in Avengers: Endgame

Although Banner is currently Smart Hulk, there is still time for the eventual regression and possible redemption of the original, scary iteration as seen in 2008’s underrated The Incredible Hulk. If Banner is more peaceful now, events in the MCU (such as harm coming to Betty Ross) could send him over the edge. This sort of development would all be dependent on whether Mark Rufallo is interested in sticking with the role for a bit longer, but there is plenty of source material in the comics that the MCU could use to bring about such a dramatic regression.

The long-rumored World War Hulk movie could make a perfect setting for the Hulk’s reversion, and rumors are still swirling over whether the movie could be spun out into a bigger crossover project or a future Avengers event. However, matters are made more complicated after Mark Ruffalo somewhat recently clarified that he’s been told by Kevin Feige a Hulk solo project isn’t happening. While the outlook for a solo film looks slim, anything is possible in the MCU, so a scary green Hulk remains something that could still happen.

After some uneven storytelling in the MCU, a new type of Hulk who embodies the fearsome monster could be just what audiences are looking for, and it needn’t undo all the character development for Banner up until this point. But in the immediate future, the Red Hulk represents a perfect opportunity to bring a monstrous presence into the MCU. Captain America: Brave New World will introduce some new elements into the MCU’s movie canon, and if Red Hulk is correctly used, it sets up some spectacular confrontations that will satiate any desire for Hulk havoc.

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