If you were to say that the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok smashes like the Hulk has never smashed before, you'd be correct. Major spoilers ahead! After spending two years as the Hulk, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is all but gone by the time Thor meets him on Sakaar. He's so far out there that when Bruce finally returns, he's afraid that the next time he turns into the Hulk, it might be permanent. So when he decides to fight Hela as the Hulk at the movie's end , it raises a terrifying prospect: is Bruce Banner stuck as the Hulk forever?
After Thor is able to coax Bruce out of the Hulk in Ragnarok, Bruce is completely out of sorts. He has no sense of how long he was the Hulk or what happened during his time as the Big Guy. He doesn't remember fighting Thor, or landing on Sakaar. He doesn't even recognize Valkyrie, the woman he's been training with for years. Bruce is about as freaked out by all of this as you'd expect. Not only does he have two years of missing time, he also needs to wrap his head around the fact that he has come off of his longest period as the Hulk ever. What does that mean for Bruce Banner? Well, even he doesn't know. One thing he does know is that if he turns into the Hulk to help Thor, he might never be bale to come back. Hulk might be strong enough to block Banner out completely, and that would leave him without a way to break free from the Hulk's angry grasp.
Alas, as the fight against Hela becomes dire, Bruce does transform into the Hulk, risking his humanity to help Thor. This time as the Hulk, he knows his objective and recognizes his friendship with Thor and Valkyrie — he doesn't even smash Loki once. But, even with these hopeful signs that Bruce Banner is still in there somewhere, the film ends with Bruce still in his Hulk form, and it's not clear whether or not this is by choice. Could Bruce Banner really be gone for good?
Before Bruce Banner fans start to panic, rest assured that it seems extremely unlikely that the Hulk will be his permanent state going into the last two Avengers films. And the proof is in the character arc. Leading up to the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Ruffalo told reporters that the movie would be the beginning of an exciting new arc for Bruce/the Hulk, one that would carry into the next two Avengers movies. "About a year ago... Kevin [Feige] had asked me to come over for a script meeting. Basically, he sat me down and said, 'What would you like to do, if you had a stand-alone Hulk movie?'" Ruffalo said in an interview with Collider. "And I said, 'I'd like to do this, this, and this, and then this, this and this. And then it would end like this.'" It's this arc, the actor added, that begins in Ragnarok.
The main conflict for Bruce/the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok is the tension he feels between his two selves. Hulk has evolved over the past two years, but Bruce hasn't. There is still no balance between the two. Assuming this is part of the character arc Ruffalo was teasing, it wouldn't make any sense for Bruce Banner to stay the Hulk for the next two Avengers movies. How is his character supposed to evolve if all we get to see is the Hulk? Cinematically speaking, it just doesn't make sense.
It is possible, however, that Bruce might be stuck as the Hulk until he is reunited with Black Widow. It was Natasha's voice that was able to bring him back on Sakaar, so it might take her to reel him back in. And who knows when the two will meet next. For now, it looks like audiences might be seeing more of the Hulk than Bruce Banner, but there's no way we've seen the last of the Science Bro.