Spoilers ahead. As Phase 3 of Marvel's cinematic universe draws to a close with one more confirmed Avengers film, fans are already looking for clues about what's coming up. Last we left the supehero group, Bruce Banner faced an unusual problem, which begs the question, is Mark Ruffalo done playing The Hulk after Avengers 4? If the Infinity War ending is any indication, we might be seeing less of the big green guy in the future than many people currently expect.
Normally the struggle with mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner is keeping his rage in check, lest he release his destructive alter-ego The Hulk. But when it came to the big fight in Infinity War, the Hulk peeped his head out only briefly, with Banner unable to call on his super side to assist in the fight. This seems even stranger compared to the Hulk's attitude in Thor: Ragnarok, where Hulk says he kept Banner "in a trunk" for over two years, repressing his softer side and showing a dangerous, more fully-realized personality that threatened to obliterate the scientist altogether.
Banner has a contentious relationship with his superpower, because it's tied to a personality he can't master once it's unleashed. His control is so weak that in the first Avengers, he said he'd even lost the ability to die on his own merit, telling Black Widow, "I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spit it out." And now with Infinity War, the tables have turned, with Banner unable to help his teammates. The as-yet untitled Avengers 4 might examine the balance of their relationship more closely. But there's a third personality at play we haven't considered yet.
Ruffalo is currently on film four of his confirmed six-film Marvel deal, leaving him one of the few original Avengers who's definitely on the hook to make an appearance beyond the MCU's Phase 3. The question is, what kind of films will they be, and how does this new, shy Hulk fit in? Fortunately for fans, Ruffalo's a walking spoiler alert; he notoriously gave away the ending to Infinity War a year before the film came out, and spoiled the opening scene of Thor: Ragnarok so badly that Marvel parent company Disney had to take him to task.
This past February, the actor reposted a Reddit set photo of him in a CGI suit holding an oversized hobo bindle with a cryptic message, "the final exit" included. Is this another major clue as to what the future holds for the Hulk, or just some on-set joking? After all, the original Hulk TV show had Banner hitchhiking his way to the next town at the end of every episode, making the idea of Hobo Hulk a possible deep easter egg for fans. But with Ruffalo's history of dropping major clues, it could mean we're seeing Hulk literally walk away from his teammates.
It would be one way for Marvel to maneuver around the fact the studio doesn't own the rights for a solo Hulk movie; that property still belongs to Universal Studios. Marvel can make a Hulk film, but Universal would have the rights to distribute it, and it's unlikely that parent company Disney would be OK with that. so, don't expect a solo Hulk movie in the foreseeable future.
That doesn't mean Marvel's not going to try, however. In an interview with IGN, Ruffalo said that MCU overseer Kevin Feige asked him what he would want to do with a solo Hulk film. According to Ruffalo, he gave Feige an outline of a possible plot, and the MCU head was on board with it happening sometime after Avengers 4. So however the relationship between Banner and the Hulk evolves in the next Avengers movie, it looks like we'll be seeing both of them — with Ruffalo portraying the characters — in Marvel's next phase.