Shang-Chi’s Smart Hulk Retcon Sets Up 6 MCU Movies & Shows

Marvel Studios retconned Smart Hulk’s change in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringssetting up several MCU movies and shows in the process. Mark Ruffalo’s journey as Hulk took several surprising turns in recent years. After Hulk took control for a few years and then refused to help in Avengers: Infinity WarBruce Banner merged with his angrier identity to become Smart Hulk in Avengers: Endgame. It was through this decision that Marvel seemed to signal this would be Hulk’s form for the foreseeable future in the MCU, but then Shang-Chi changed everything again.

The latest development in Smart Hulk’s MCU future came during Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene when Mark Ruffalo appeared in Bruce Banner’s human form. The scene confirmed that at some point after Avengers: Endgame, the Smart Hulk bond ends to let Bruce take full control and revert to his human form. It’s intriguing to note that he’s still working with a form of the Avengers and is recovering from the injuries sustained by using the Infinity Stones to reverse Thanos’ Snap. Marvel has yet to explain why this decision was made, although it has been teased that answers will come in upcoming MCU projects. For now, though, audiences have been left in the dark about what happened to Smart Hulk and why the MCU retconned his future in his first appearance after Avengers: Endgame.


Related: Shang-Chi’s Smart Hulk Retcon Hints Banner Lost In Endgame

As audiences wait to see more of Smart Hulk in Phase 4, the Shang-Chi retcon could go a long way in setting up storylines that will affect multiple MCU projects. Marvel has only confirmed one upcoming appearance for Bruce Banner / Hulk, but rumors suggest he’ll be a big part of the future even after these recent changes. It’s not too surprising the MCU will keep him around either, especially as three original Avengers have seemingly wrapped up their MCU arcs. Now, Hulk is in a position to play a potentially bigger role going forward, while what happened to him in Shang-Chi can also impact a variety of announced and rumored MCU projects.


She Hulk subtle logo hints at huge MCU change Bruce Banner Hulk

Hulk’s first and only confirmed upcoming MCU appearance after Shang-Chi is in She-Hulk. The MCU Disney + show focuses on Bruce’s cousin, Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), and there are a few options for how Smart Hulk’s change could factor into the show. For starters, She-Hulk footage confirmed that Smart Hulk does appear in the series, but his arm is also healed from the damage from Avengers: Endgame. This leaves two realistic possibilities: there are scenes set before Endgame‘s finale and the MCU will place She-Hulk’s origin during The Blip, or Bruce heals in his human form and comes to regain his Smart Hulk form after that. Marvel Studios’ explanation will go a long way in explaining when She-Hulk is set in the MCU timeline, but the connections to Smart Hulk’s retcon are still evident.

Smart Hulk’s She-Hulk return will either explore what happened to him between Avengers: Endgame spirit Shang-Chi‘s post-credits or be used to explain how he comes back again after. The latter will make Shang-Chi‘s MCU Hulk retcon even more confusing in the grand scheme, as it means he’ll change his main form in three consecutive appearances, even though Smart Hulk was meant to make the need for that obsolete. Now, the idea that there will be a time when Hulk is not in co-control, it could make the Smart Hulk partnership more fragile moving forward, potentially leading to Bruce Banner and Hulk once again fighting for control. Meanwhile, it sets the stage for She-Hulk to take a prominent role in the MCU.

World War Hulk

world war Hulk movie can payoff avengers endgame hulk mistreatment

After Hulk and Bruce Banner fought for control for years, the Smart Hulk partnership was meant to allow them to work together. Since it is unknown how Bruce regained full control ahead of Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene, it’s possible that Hulk will not want to keep sharing going forward. This could then mean that the Smart Hulk retcon is setting up the rumored World War Hulk movie. Marvel Studios reportedly began developing a World War Hulk film last year, and reports suggest that it could begin filming as soon as 2022. The comics version of this story saw Hulk return to Earth and declare war against some of Marvel’s biggest heroes due to their part in banishing him to Sakaar. Since the movie is unconfirmed, it is not clear if a World War Hulk movie will directly adapt the comics or be reimagined as a war on Sakaar potentially. In either case, Shang-Chi‘s retcon paves the way for this story as Smart Hulk isn’t the right version of the Jade Giant needed for this storyline.

Related: Doctor Strange 2 Changes How MCU’s World War Hulk Would Work

It is possible that Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene was Marvel taking steps to rid the MCU of Smart Hulk and allow a more traditionally angry Hulk to return. Avengers: Endgame proved that Smart Hulk is not terribly interested in fighting, as Banner’s personality views it as gratuitous. However, if Marvel is going to do a World War Hulk story properly, the real version of Hulk needs to be involved. In that sense, it could work in the grand scheme of Marvel’s plans to have Smart Hulk no longer be the character’s permanent state.

Avengers 5

There is also a strong possibility that the MCU’s Smart Hulk retcon helps set up Avengers 5, as what happens to him will surely affect the makeup of the roster. Due to his injuries from Avengers: Endgame, it became unclear if Smart Hulk would be an active member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes moving forward. If Smart Hulk regains his full strength, he could keep his place on the Avengers and fight alongside Phase 4 or Phase 5’s Avengers lineup. If the real Hulk emerges, he could also retain a spot on the roster and give the next generation of MCU heroes some additional strength. However, if Shang-Chi‘s Smart Hulk retcon means there will be an absence from Bruce Banner’s Hulk for some time, the team assembled for Avengers 5 would need to look elsewhere for a supremely powerful being like Hulk. This could be how Marvel gets She-Hulk onto the next Avengers team, while someone as powerful as Shang-Chi could also quickly join the team to add even more firepower to the new-look ensemble.

Thunderbolts / Dark Avengers

MCU Thunderbolts from art

The MCU’s current lacking presence of Hulk could also be a contributing factor in setting up Marvel’s rumored Thunderbolts project. The seeds continue to be planted for this team in Phase 4 as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dryfus) has recruited John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to her cause. Whether this team becomes known as Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers, Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene and Hulk’s future arc could connect to this super team formation. For starters, the MCU not having Hulk around at the moment could give a team of supervillains / anti-heroes the confidence to emerge, as they could look around and see most of the original Avengers no longer being around to stop them. Since there is an expectation that Red Hulk will be part of the team, Hulk’s absence could even connect to Red Hulk’s transformation. Due to the passing of Thunderbolt Ross actor William Hurt, Marvel could bring Red Hulk into the picture by using the comics’ second Red Hulk, Robert Maverick, and put him on the Thunderbolts / Dark Avengers, having his origin be tied to Hulk’s potential return or banishment.

The Illuminati

Doctor Strange Illuminati Phase 4 Multiverse Mess

There have also been rumors for a few years that Marvel Studios is developing a project based on The Illuminati. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seemingly introduces a multiversal version of this group, but Doctor Strange could form his own version in the main MCU timeline. Hulk’s Shang-Chi change could factor into this project in a few different ways. Bruce Banner or the return of Smart Hulk could make him a council member of the Illuminati, as he played prominent roles in universe-changing events in the past. It would certainly be in character for Bruce to look out for the rest of the universe, and he could take the genius / Earth-hero spot traditionally held by Tony Stark and / or Reed Richards. If Banner / Smart Hulk is not part of the MCU’s Illuminati team, the return of the real Hulk after Shang-Chi‘s retcon could make him a threat that the team has to deal with. This would allow Marvel Studios to mirror the comics, potentially resulting in Hulk coming back to Earth with a vengeance. Depending on how the MCU’s events shake out, Hulk could even be the villain of Marvel’s Illuminati project if the group is responsible for the events of the World War Hulk movie.

Related: Doctor Strange 2’s Illuminati Changes Can Impact Their MCU Role

Young Avengers

MCU Phase 4 Young Avengers Missing Hulkling SR

The MCU could also use Shang-Chi‘s Smart Hulk retcon to help set up the rumored Young Avengers project. Bruce Banner could be an ideal choice to help guide the MCU’s newest and youngest superheroes, although Hawkeye or Ant-Man could also fill that role. However, the potential absence of Hulk could also be used to help introduce Young Avengers member Hulkling. The Kree / Skrull hybrid hero known as Teddy Altman was the Young Avengers’ stand-in for Hulk and received his superhero name in honor of the Jade Giant. Since the Young Avengers form in the comics when the main Avengers team disbands, it is possible the MCU‘s version will see the individual young heroes step up in the absence of those they once admired. Just as Kate Bishop is taking over as Hawkeye for Clint Barton, Hulkling could look to fill a void left by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘Smart Hulk change.

More: MCU’s Young Avengers Cast: Which Phase 4 Movies Will Assemble Them

  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever / Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • The Marvels / Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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