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So, as you know, in Avengers: Infinity War, the Hulk took a pop at Thanos early in the film, catching him off-guard for a moment. Thanos, a far more powerful being than him, then beat him up easily.

Afterwards, the Hulk refused to appear. What surprised me is how quickly the Hulk gave up, and how genuinely scared he was of appearing. That seems counter to the Hulk's nature (after all, he's been beaten up before).

Was it the intention of the film makers to portray Hulk as a coward, who was scared to come out to fight Thanos?

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    Related. I'm sure I've seen this question before too but can't seem to find it. – TheLethalCarrot May 10 '18 at 13:29
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    FWIW I didn't think he was scared, I thought he was pouting. In the MCU Hulk is decidedly childish, and he always wins. Getting his first real loss has made him throw a tantrum, essentially. – Dave Johnson May 10 '18 at 13:36
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    I feel like you are assuming cowardice, we don't know for certain why he wouldn't come out. – Jack B Nimble May 10 '18 at 13:36
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    “he's been beaten up before” — not like this, really. – Paul D. Waite May 15 '18 at 16:58
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No; he's taking a stand against being used for fighting only

Banner and Hulk have a complex relationship. This has been explored and developed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

  • Avengers 1: Banner must learn to control The Hulk
  • Avengers 2: The Hulk realises he's being used and that he's seen as a monster, decides to hijack his being and runs off to Sakaar
  • Thor: Ragnarok: The Hulk gains his independence and learns what he likes
  • Avengers 3: Banner must learn to hold his own without The Hulk

In Avengers: Infinity War when The Hulk refuses to "come out", Banner remarks:

Me and you have some things to work out buddy.

This is the clue we have toward the actual reasoning behind The Hulk's refusal to fight. Admittedly, even I thought that it was because he was finally scared because of Thanos (there were a few remarks in the cinema too "ah, he's scared"). However, Joe Russo (co-director of Infinity War) has commented recently that it's because The Hulk doesn't want to be used for fighting anymore:

I think people have interpreted it as Hulk's scared. I mean, certainly, that's not... I don't know that the Hulk is ever (scared). He's had his ass kicked before, and he loves a good fight. But I think that it's really reflective of the journey from (Thor) Ragnarok... These two characters are constantly in conflict with each other over control. And I think that if the Hulk were to say why, it'd be (because) Banner only wants Hulk for fighting. I think he's had enough of saving Banner's ass.

-SyFy, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT HULK-BRUCE BANNER STANDOFF? INFINITY WAR’S JOE RUSSO SAYS HULK HAS ‘HAD ENOUGH OF SAVING BANNER’S ASS’, 2018-05-08, by Benjamin Bullard

Endgame Evidently, Hulk and Banner complete this arc in the most spectacular manner, they blend into one as Professor Hulk.

It seems that Banner comes to grips with Hulk, and Hulk accepts Banner. This seems to have made them into a cohesive whole, rather than two incoherent extremes.


To be honest, I can't find the original source of that Russo quote, but it's been corroborated in the following articles:

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    Very interesting character development... too bad they didn't make it clear enough in the movie... I hope it will be more explicit in Avenger 4 – dna May 14 '18 at 7:23
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    Thank you very much for a brilliant answer. I've chosen it. – White Prime May 14 '18 at 9:06
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    The original source for the Russo quote was the Happy Sad Confused podcast of 6 May as indicated on this Inverse.com article. The Russo bothers may have spoken about this in other interviews, but this at least can be counted as a primary source. – Snow May 14 '18 at 10:08
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This has clearly been dealt with in two parts.

Part 1:

"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."

Source.

So it's very clear. The Hulk doesn't show up because he does not want to play by Banner's rules anymore.

Part 2:

In Avengers: Endgame, Professor Hulk tells us that he and Hulk share the body now rather than fighting for control.

Professor Hulk: Five years ago, we got our asses beat. Except it was worse for me. Because I lost twice. First, Hulk lost, then Banner lost. Then, we all lost.

Natasha: No one blamed you, Bruce.

Professor Hulk: I did. For years, I've been treating the Hulk like he's some kind of disease, something to get rid of. But then I started looking at him as the cure. Eighteen months in a gamma lab. I put the brains and the brawn together. And now look at me. Bets of both worlds...

Avengers: Endgame

This furthers the explanation about Avengers: Infinity War, since it clearly indicates that there indeed was a strife between Hulk and Banner, and Hulk clearly did not like the way their arrangement worked.

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