Since Bruce Banner made an appearance at the end of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel fans have been questioning how Banner is back to his human form after seemingly coming to a compromise with Hulk that they would live as Smart Hulk. While there have been many theories about why this is, including potential leads into the possible long rumored World War Hulk storyline, the belief that Marvel have reacquired the rights to the Hulk as a standalone character, and of course Mark Ruffalo’s upcoming appearance in the She-Hulk series on Disney+, we finally have an official reason why it is Banner and not Smart Hulk that turns up in the Shang-Chi mid-credits scene.
While the main purpose of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is to bring a new hero into the Marvel mix, there are a few connections to the existing Marvel Universe littered throughout the movie, including the reappearance of Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, who was first seen as “the Mandarin” in Iron Man 3 before being exposed as an actor hired to portray the role, and also appeared in his own Marvel One-Shot, All Hail The King, and also the first sighting of Tim Roth’s Abomination since the 2008 The Incredible Hulk movie, which is more interesting for his upcoming role in She-Hulk and his obvious connection to Banner’s green giant. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that by using the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi has sent a beacon out into the cosmos, and according to Banner and Captain Marvel, who also appears in the scene, the question is what is it calling to.
While speaking to Screen Rant in an exclusive interview about Eternals, co-writer Matthew Firpo mentioned some of the Avengers team in relation to what they were doing while the Emergence happened. With notes about the obvious status of Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow, he also gave a telling mention to Banner’s current human status.
“I think in terms of the timeline, we just lost Tony, we just lost Cap, Natasha’s gone, Hulk is currently working on himself I think to make himself human rather than smart Hulk, so I think that all the Avengers were just pretty busy,” he said.
While Smart Hulk seemed to be a resolution for Bruce Banner and Hulk to co-exist when Avengers: Endgame introduced the character, it was not made clear that the state was temporary, but then again it also wasn’t suggested that it was permanent either. It now seems clear that while it was assumed that this version of Hulk would move forward in the MCU, Marvel had always had other plans. It is now expected that much of this will be further clarified in the She-Hulk series, as Ruffalo has a big part to play in the series and has been seen on set with the now familiar CGI dots on his face, meaning that we are likely to see the true Hulk returning at some point in the series, hopefully for a rematch with Abomination. This story originated at Screen Rant.