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Avengers: Infinity War is a film so packed with details and characters that, more than three months after its release, we're still asking questions about some of them. Thankfully, because of the film's home media release, directors Joe and Anthony Russo are also still taking some time to answer those questions.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the making of the film this week, the Russos finally tackled one of the more intriguing character developments from the film: The refusal of the Hulk to come out and fight again after he crash-landed on Earth and transformed back into Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) after a battle with Thanos. For many fans, Hulk's continued denial throughout the rest of the film — including during the pivotal Battle of Wakanda — to fight on behalf of the rest of the Avengers stemmed from his easy defeat at the hands of the Mad Titan during the film's opening scene. Sure, Hulk's had rough fights before, but Thanos just completely dominated him, and the theory was that it had intimidated the big green guy into inaction.
According to the Russos, though, that's not how they saw it.
"A lot of people had interpreted that the Hulk was scared of Thanos. The Hulk has had his ass kicked before, and so it wasn’t like the minute he gets his ass kicked he’s going to run and hide. It’s really the notion that the Hulk and Banner have a very dysfunctional relationship, which was explored even further in Thor: Ragnarok. And I think that relationship is starting to strain between the two of them and the Hulk is not interested in playing the hero to Banner anymore," Joe Russo said. "I don’t know if the Hulk sees the value in the relationship. They both want to control Hulk’s body. The Hulk brings fighting and strength to the table and he’s not quite sure what Banner is bringing yet. So, I think this is becoming a stubborn push and pull between two very despaired personalities stuck in one body."
As Russo pointed out, Hulk was the dominant personality in Banner's body from the time Avengers: Age of Ultron ended until the events of Thor: Ragnarok, when he saw Black Widow on a screen in the Quinjet and reverted back to Banner. At that point, Hulk had been in control for two years, and it was made very clear early on in that film that there was no love lost between the green guy and his science-minded alter ego.
By the end of the film, Banner gave himself over to Hulk in order to try and defeat Hela, and Hulk was back in control at the time of Infinity War, but as Russo points out he was being used as a wrecking ball yet again. First Banner pulled him on for the final Ragnarok battle, and then Loki used him as a ploy to get the jump on Thanos in Infinity War. All of that, combined with Hulk's childlike level of intelligence, would be enough to make him stubbornly refuse to fight anymore, particularly if he couldn't fully comprehend the stakes of the film.
The Russos also addressed some of the key deleted scenes that made it onto Infinity War's home release, including one cut that removed a fan-favorite supporting character from the film entirely. Photos from the Infinity War set suggested to fans that Iron Man director Jon Favreau would be returning as Tony Stark's friend and security chief Happy Hogan for the film alongside Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts. While Favreau did shoot a scene in which he's trying to fight off the media hoping to get a peek at the newly engaged Tony and Pepper while they're out in the park, the scene wound up on the cutting room floor because it was just too important at that point to get the film moving toward Iron Man's first encounter with Doctor Strange and, ultimately, the Children of Thanos.
"The movie was really long and we were looking for places to pace it up in the opening and unfortunately that was one of the things we had to cut," Joe Russo said. "But I was willing to cut my own cameo in the movie so it shows how much we really needed to get that park scene moving."
Avengers: Infinity War is available to watch digitally now, and arrives on Blu-ray August 14.