There are some fan theories that manage to get so infuriatingly existential that trying to figure out what’s being said is bound to make a person scratch their head a few times as they try their best to jog their thought process in the same direction that another person was headed at one point. It’s bound to happen that we could all get to that same explanation of why the Hulk refused to come out during Infinity War when Bruce really needed him, but the theory in question is that the savage side of the Hulk’s nature was caught up in the Snap, the blip, whatever you want to call it, and somehow Banner was able to still Hulk out by merging with the pacified jade giant while maintaining his intellect at the same time. This would indicate that initially, the sheer rage that sustained the Hulk was too much for Banner’s intellect to deal with normally and that once the Snap happened, that bestial side retreated and Banner was allowed to come forward and take control. That might explain a lot, except for the fact that Banner was stuck in the Hulk form even when Hulk was calm and complacent in Thor: Ragnarok. There’s no denying that he was still savage, but when he was kept as a gladiator, the Hulk was fairly calm when he wasn’t competing, which kind of pokes a big hole in that theory unless one wants to state that even when calm his more bestial side was still able to trump Banner’s intellect. Even that doesn’t really feel right.
Simply saying that the Hulk got his butt handed to him by Thanos and he was maybe a little embarrassed, hesitant, or even scared is too easy since it gives Hulk a way to simply bow out of the action and leave everyone high and dry. But a lot of people know that the Hulk has almost always been up for a good fight, even when the odds are against him. Of course one has to differentiate between the Hulks that have come and gone on the screen, as Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is still quite a bit different from anyone else’s. The unfortunate reason that the Hulk didn’t show himself a lot in Infinity War, and likely the same reason that Banner was allowed to take over in Endgame, has to do with the decision made by the Russo’s, which honestly is a decision that’s not only kind of foolish but also has contributed to a lot of people making the claim that the Hulk has been greatly depowered over the years, and continues to be so since in the comics this guy is nearly indestructible. It takes a massive amount of damage to keep him down, and Thanos laying a beatdown on him shouldn’t have been even close to enough. What the Russo’s tried to do though was to establish the character of Bruce Banner, as they made him the main deal instead of the Hulk, which ironically, everyone wanted to see more of since Banner had already turned out to be a bit of a wimp that didn’t need a lot of development given that his time as a human being made it clear that he was a hesitant, intelligent, kind of sad individual whose arc in the movie could have been explored in a very different way WITH the Hulk still in the picture now and then. But hey, having more Bruce was just great, cue the sarcastic eye roll.
Having an intelligent Hulk on hand in Endgame was a compromise obviously, but it didn’t feel like it really panned out since Banner was less inclined to be even a fraction as violent as the Hulk since he prized intellect over violence in a big, BIG way. The fact is that the Snap didn’t take the Hulk’s savage side away, the Russo’s did since they wanted Banner to have more of a presence in the MCU and the Hulk had already had his time. But somehow, the Hulk still felt lesser for all that since if anyone remembers how he was in the comics once Bruce and the Hulk merged, the resulting being was immensely powerful and could have likely taken on a good chunk of Thanos’ army on his own since he’d already shown his power in the Avengers movie during the battle of New York. But there is one thing that does kind of factor into the theory that kicked this article off, and it’s an interesting question since if one thinks about it, the bestial side of Hulk’s being was sent way during the Snap, right? What happens if that bestial side comes back and there’s no room for it in Banner’s body any longer? Is there a possibility that the beast perishes, or latches onto another being somehow? Could it possibly precipitate the appearance of the Maestro somehow? Who knows? It’s hopeful that the Hulk’s future in the MCU isn’t a moot point, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.