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I hadn't seen the two Hulk movies (Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008)) before seeing the Avengers. In a comment on In the Avengers movie, why is Hulk's behaviour inconsistent? I commented on

Bruce Banner developing the ability to control himself as the Hulk during the movie.

Reddy pointed out this also occured in the previous Hulk movies. So is the Avengers meant to be in the same universe or continuity as one or both of the previous Hulk movies?

In-universe (movie references) or out-of-universe (quotes from Marvel or Joss Whedon, etc) references are fine.

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Gotta love this... – Ian Pugsley May 3 '12 at 21:41
up vote 31 down vote accepted

With the release of the film Iron Man, Marvel started releasing movies under their own Marvel Studios banner. This marked a change as all previous Marvel comic book films were made and financed by other studios who licensed Marvel properties. At time of writing, Marvel has released these films via Marvel Studios:

  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America: The First Avenger

These films comprise the canon that leads up to The Avengers, and are all part of a shared universe. Each film has a post-credit scene that builds upon this shared universe (excepting The Incredible Hulk; due to the immense success of Iron Man, Marvel had the post-credit scene include Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark appear, and had the scene occur before the credits).

The question's spoiler builds upon the ending of The Incredible Hulk, which has Banner

accept that he can't get rid of the Hulk. So he starts to induce 'Hulk episodes' and stop trying to perpetually suppress him. The climactic battle of the film has Banner essentially use the Hulk as a weapon against the film's villain. During this battle, the Hulk and the Abomination destroy a good chunk of Harlem, which is explicitly called-back to in dialogue in Avengers.

Unfortunately, The Incredible Hulk's Edward Norton couldn't or wouldn't return for The Avengers, so he is replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers and future films.

Prior Marvel movies include the X-Men films (which Fox makes), Fantastic Four (also Fox), Daredevil (Fox again), Blade (New Line Cinema), Spider-Man (Sony; and this covers both the completed trilogy, and this year's reboot), and Hulk (the 2003 one, which Universal made. Universal partnered with Marvel for the later The Incredible Hulk). That's not a complete list, quite a few movies were made when Marvel was licensing out their characters. Interestingly, Fox's license to the X-Men means that they can use the characters Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Magneto's kids) as mutants and in relation to Magneto, meanwhile Marvel can use them as Avengers, so long as they don't mention mutants or Magneto (cite).

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That last clause...just...gah. – AncientSwordRage May 3 '12 at 23:06
@Pureferret I know, movie deals are so amazingly insane! – user1027 May 3 '12 at 23:08
You would think so, wouldn't you? But Disney/Marvel has no plans to actively pursue the rights. Also, the exact deals have never been disclosed publicly, but it's been mentioned previously that the other studios retain rights so long as they actively keep making more movies based on the properties. So, as long as Fox wants to keep making X-Men/Spider-Man movies, they own the rights. – phantom42 May 11 '12 at 3:58

It appears after starting their own studio, Marvel created its own universe for its films. As per tradition they have labelled it with a number:

199999 - The Marvel Cinematic Universe, covering the Iron Man film series, Thor, The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America and the upcoming Avengers film. Anything spinning off of or relating to the Avengers is likely to be within this universe. The number is given in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

~ Wikipedia's Phrasing of the Matter.

It seems only those films are in that universe. The X-men, Spiderman (pre-2012) and FF films all exist in their own separate universes. It's likely that the original Hulk films are not in the same universe, though without an official statement (that I can't find) there's also no reason to exclude them from the latest film universe.

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Incredible Hulk, at least, had explicit crossover references with Iron Man and Captain America built in. So it's pretty clearly meant to be the same universe. (If Norton hadn't refused, it would have been the same actor.) – Tynam May 3 '12 at 22:45
@Tynam I'm not disagreeing with you there. – AncientSwordRage May 3 '12 at 23:05
What's the source for the block quote? – user1027 May 3 '12 at 23:09
@Keen It's on wikipedia, I've only posted it as it supposedly quotes the book I've now just highlighted. – AncientSwordRage May 3 '12 at 23:20

The incredible hulk was a reboot of Ang lee's 2003 hulk and it was the origin of the hulk we see in the Avengers. If you watch iron man 2 you can see the easter egg of the hulk. "Shows footage from the University army fight scene" So 2008 the incredible hulk is the hulk they use in the Avengers and many more marvel movies to come.

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Yes, he is the same Hulk, just different actors due to conflicts or issues with producers

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Do you have any proof of that? – DVK-in-exile Jun 21 '14 at 22:37

Kevin Feige was asked about this, when I read it his answer was that as they are not making one origin story film, the movie made by Ang Lee can be considered, if you prefer.

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Can you provide a link to that interview? – Valorum Apr 18 '15 at 22:09

It is in the same universe because at the end of the second Hulk movie you see Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) talking to someone - I think it was Nick Fury.

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It was General Ross not Nick Fury – Monty129 Mar 15 '13 at 11:05

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