To some extent, the speculated World War Hulk film would address many of the MCU’s Hulk issues, but Marvel first requires to get ahold of the Smart Hulk if the story is to be properly realized. Hulk, Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Marvel Comics character, never had a solo film but was featured in all of the Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok, where he had a co-lead role. An attempt to reimagine Hulk and Banner’s relationship was made in the Taika Waititi movie. As a result of this, the Hulk was renamed “the Smart Hulk” in Avengers: Endgame and audiences were only introduced to the character once again in Infinity War.
“Professor Hulk” in the comics-inspired MCU’s Smart Hulk, seems to be the great blend between Bruce Banner and the Hulk, in which Banner has the agency while maintaining the Hulk form. One of Endgame’s biggest surprises was the appearance of the Smart Hulk, especially considering Bruce Banner and Hulk’s strained relationship in Infinity War, in which the Hulk opted not to appear following Thanos’ defeat. The origins of the Smart Hulk remain a mystery, as did how Banner and the Hulk came to their agreement.
Phase 4 of the MCU saw the Smart Hulk circumstance get even weirder. When Bruce Banner appeared in human form in Shang-chi and the Legend of Ten Rings’ post-credits scene, which occurred after Endgame in the MCU timeline, it was already a surprise. But in the She-Hulk trailer, Jennifer Walters is being trained by the Smart Hulk. She-Smart Hulk’s Hulk also lacks his arm injury, raising the question of when exactly this episode takes place in Marvel’s Phase 4 timeline. Any way you slice it, the Smart Hulk has to go in an MCU World War Hulk movie because he is the antithesis of what the Hulk should be. Instead, the Hulk must re-establish himself as a significant threat, one that could attract the attention of the Avengers or an Earth-616-based Illuminati.
For all that Hulk had in Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame he doesn’t have a lot to do in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the moment. There is some hope for She-Hulk, the Hulk’s future heir apparent in the Avengers, thanks to his training of Jennifer Walters. But for the Smart Hulk, there is little hope. To put it another way, he doesn’t have the same fervour for battling as the original Hulk had in 2012’s The Avengers.
And by the looks of it, he’s already got plenty of other characters in the MCU to play a genius scientist. For the Hulk to have a meaningful story arc, but also to return to his roots as someone who is good at heart, a World War Hulk movie is essential. In addition, Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner could exit the MCU in World War Hulk, either by dying or deciding to live in a parallel universe indefinitely.
If She-Hulk doesn’t appear in the MCU timeline, it’s difficult to determine the status of Smart Hulk. Smart Hulk’s arm is healed if Disney+’s show takes place after Endgame. The MCU may have already managed to kill the Smart Hulk if the show actually occurs before the main events of Endgame, as Bruce Banner appears in his human form during Shang-chi.
Alternatively, it is possible that Banner lied in Endgame and that he and the Hulk had not come to an agreement. The Hulk may have caused the Smart Hulk transition to switch back between Endgame and Shang-Chi, and now he and Banner may be back to their quintessential Jekyll-Hyde dynamic, effectively killing the Smart Hulk. For a World War Hulk movie, the Hulk, enraged at Bruce Banner for the last few years, would be the ideal protagonist.