Ever since “Iron Man” hit theaters in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been known for its impeccable continuity. Cinephiles can debate whether that consistency is an impressive artistic achievement or an example of dull formulaic filmmaking, but continuity errors have been few and far between.
One of the only notable lapses was the casting of a certain green superhero. Edward Norton played the titular role in 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” before being replaced by Mark Ruffalo in “The Avengers.” Norton and Marvel have offered conflicting accounts of the events that led to his firing, but it was clearly a decision made for logistical reasons rather than artistic ones.
The recasting had never been acknowledged on screen until “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” began streaming on Disney+. In an early episode of the series, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner winks at fans by saying “I’m a completely different person now. Literally.”
While many fans were delighted by the meta joke, it also speaks to Mark Ruffalo’s larger philosophy about the character. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ruffalo spoke about his desire to see many other actors put their own spin on the Hulk, comparing the hero to a Shakespeare protagonist.
“I think it’s really funny. It’s just the reality that we all are often dancing around, but it’s true,” Ruffalo said. “I actually joked with Ed about this. I was like, ‘It’s like our generation’s Hamlet. Everyone’s going to get a shot at it.’ And there’ll probably be another couple before it’s all over. People will be like, ‘Remember when the Hulk used to look like Mark Ruffalo? Now it looks like Timothée Chalamet.'”
Ruffalo is already practicing what he preaches. He reprises his role as Bruce Banner on “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” but cedes most of the spotlight to Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk. To him, it’s a necessary step to clear the way for other Hulks to shine.
“When they decided to do ‘She-Hulk’ — which I thought was really cool and exciting and apt and timely — it was basically like, ‘We would be interested in you passing the baton to her?'” he said. “They gave me the premise, which I already knew from the comics, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’d love to do that.’ And I do feel like I’m actually passing the torch on, in a strange way.”