The Hulk could make a quick cameo in “The Marvels” and “Captain America: Brave New World,” with potential appearances in “Thunderbolts” and “What If…? Season Two” as well.
The Hulk’s most significant return is expected in “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars,” where he will likely play a crucial role in defeating the main villain.
There are numerous movies and shows in Phase Five and Six of the MCU in which The Hulk could appear. As one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s original Avengers, and one of the longest-serving heroes we know is still active, Hulk’s future is a particularly pressing question. Movie rights issues have always made Hulk’s MCU future somewhat confusing, but long-standing rumors of a World War Hulk project could suggest that is set to change. Even without that, Hulk can remain a key part of the MCU through other appearances.
Following Avengers: Endgame’s ending, which saw the permanent retirement of at least 3 of the MCU’s original Avengers, the Hulk has actually reappeared more than once. Even as the MCU’s movie timeline seeks to introduce new heroes and villains, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk still has some loose ends and story threads to resolve (not least the appearance of his son in She-Hulk‘s ending), and it seems likely he’ll be back again soon. Here are six MCU movies and shows where the Hulk could be seen next in the MCU.
6 The Marvels
The Marvels will bring Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) together as a cosmic trios or heroines, and it is the first upcoming MCU project where Bruce Banner or the Hulk could appear. What lends credence to this idea is the end-credits scene of Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings, in which Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers have a brief meeting with Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) regarding the ten rings. The scene makes clear that Bruce and Carol are still working together fairly closely after Avengers: Endgame, and make the two appearing on-screen together again entirely plausible.
With Bruce having returned to his human form in Shang-Chi, as opposed to Smart-Hulk, any appearance he might make in The Marvels would seem likely to have him still in this state as a way to actively build on that cameo. Furthermore, The Marvels is set to be one of the shortest MCU movies to date with its 100-minute run-time, which leaves precious little room for the Hulk to do any smashing in a movie that has to bring the three Marvels together. This means that, should Bruce Banner appear in The Marvels, it will likely be a quick cameo with him briefly conferring with Carol or possibly Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.
5 Captain America: Brave New World
2024’s Captain America: Brave New World will finally see Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) fully take on the mantle of Captain America, but the movie also has possibly more direct linkage to The Incredible Hulk than another other MCU project. Tim Blake Nelson and Liv Tyler will respectively reprise their roles of Samuel Sterns and Betty Ross from The Incredible Hulk in Brave New World, with Harrison Ford taking over as General Ross after William Hurt’s passing. Though Edward Norton has long since left the role of Bruce Banner, such Brave New World‘s cast relying so much on The Incredible Hulk makes a Bruce Banner appearance in Brave New World a distinct possibility.
An even larger hint to that can be found in Nelson’s return as Sterns specifically, with Brave New World to also feature him fully transformed into the Leader. It may have taken the MCU 16 years to pay off Sterns’s villainous metamorphosis teased in The Incredible Hulk, but it also very likely alludes to Marvel hoping to finally have the Hulk and the Leader meet as hero and villain. Mark Ruffalo making at least a cameo in Brave New World could be the perfect time to set up whatever plans Marvel has for the two.
The MCU’s Phase Five will serve as the launching pad for the franchise’s first real team of heroes apart from the Avengers, namely the eponymous heroes of Thunderbolts. Though the Thunderbolts will be a considerably more shadowy government ops team than the Avengers ever were, Bruce Banner’s association with the latter could make him a potential candidate for a cameo or supporting role in Thunderbolts. As a veteran Avenger and with his own one-time ally Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) on the Thunderbolts, Bruce might drop in to provide some words of wisdom for the up-and-coming team of heroes.
Additionally, Harrison Ford will also appear as General Ross in Thunderbolts. While it is likely that Ross’s role will involve him trying to provide a level of oversight to the team, any movie he appears in opens the possibility for the Hulk to join him. This could also provide some insight on what Bruce’s potential appearance in Thunderbolts might be, with Bruce possibly arriving to warn the team not to trust Ross. Additionally, as with Brave New World, Thunderbolts could also involve Thunderbolt Ross becoming the Red Hulk to set up his smackdown with his green counterpart.
3 What If…? Season Two
Disney+’s animated Marvel series What If…? opens the gateways of the multiverse, presenting alternate takes on heroes and villains alike in different realities. What If…? season one included a variant of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who became Star-Lord instead of Black Panther, Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) as the heroic Captain Carter, and numerous other radically re-imagined MCU characters. What If…? also showed the Hulk dying not one but two deaths, but this hardly precludes him from a return in the show’s second season.
Something as simple as the Hulk being cloned from his exploded corpse in the episode “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” could bring him back in What If…? season two. Moreover, the very concept of the multiverse establishes limitless numbers of Bruce Banner variants in other realities from the MCU’s Earth-616. What If…? season two could easily bring a different Hulk from a different universe altogether into the story, enabling him to stick around for a longer than his shocking season one demise allowed for.
2 Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
The MCU’s Phase Five and Six are building up Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) as the franchise’s heir to Thanos (Josh Brolin), with Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania properly introducing Kang and his plot to destroy the multiverse. As with Thanos, the battle against Kang is one that will surely require every hero and heroine in the MCU to join forces. That includes the Hulk, which makes his return in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty all but a foregone conclusion.
With Bruce’s Smart-Hulk persona apparently being something he can switch off as of Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Rings, The Kang Dynasty might be a conflict in which Bruce feels the Savage Hulk’s strength is necessary to win. Moreover, Bruce’s experience as an Avenger could possibly see him as an active recruiter rounding up as many old and new heroes as he can to defeat Kang. One way or another, the Hulk’s role in The Kang Dynasty is likely to be his most significant since Avengers: Endgame.
1 Avengers: Secret Wars
Avengers: Secret Wars will be Avengers: Endgame to The Kang Dynasty‘s Avengers: Infinity War, the two movies functioning as a two-part finale of a multi-phase MCU story. Based upon the eponymous Marvel Comics story, Secret Wars will also be a sprawling multiverse tale, with many stars of pre-MCU Marvel films and the Fox X-Men movies rumored to appear. Of course, the present day heroes of the MCU will also be on board to face Kang, and the Hulk will surely be among them.
What could also make Secret Wars a particularly special event for the Hulk is the film’s multiverse tale opening the possibility of previous Hulks meeting Mark Ruffalo’s version of the character. Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk from The Incredible Hulk TV series is one such example, as is Eric Bana’s Hulk variant from Ang Lee’s 2003 movie Hulk. Still, even absent any other Hulks appearing, with the fate of the multiverse hanging in the balance, Avengers: Secret Wars would surely not be complete with The Hulk joining the battle.
Key Release Dates
Captain America: Brave New World
Marvel’s Fantastic Four
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
Avengers: Secret Wars
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