How ‘Avengers’ Assembled A Truly Incredible Hulk

Joss Whedon 'knew exactly the [kind of] Hulk he wanted to bring to the big screen,' VFX supervisor Jeff White tells MTV News.
By Josh Wigler

Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk in "The Avengers"
Photo: Marvel

Hate to break it to you, Dr. Banner, but $200 million and counting doesn't lie: They really, really like you when you're angry.

As "Marvel's The Avengers" approaches its second weekend in theaters with an eye toward furthering its historic box-office total, the fans tuning in for repeat viewings are likely coming back for the same reason: the green monstrosity known as the Hulk. Despite two previous movies with few to no fans to speak of, Hulk has emerged as the breakout star of the Marvel Studios superhero team-up, begging the question: How did director Joss Whedon and his team crack the code? What did they do to finally give fans a big-screen Jade Giant worth rooting for?

Having worked overtime on creating a more than worthwhile Hulk, "Avengers" visual effects mastermind Jeff White has plenty of thoughts on what made the character work this time around — chief among those reasons, the vision of Whedon himself.

"It was important to deliver on the performance that Joss was looking for," White told MTV News about why Hulk works in "Avengers." "He knew exactly the Hulk he wanted to bring to the big screen. All of the great moments Hulk has in the film was Joss really guiding us there."

Key to Whedon's vision was Mark Ruffalo, the Oscar-nominated actor who took on the role previously occupied by Edward Norton in "The Incredible Hulk." Unlike Norton, who only played Hulk's human counterpart, Ruffalo provided the motion-capture for "the other guy," allowing viewers to connect with the human side of the gamma-irradiated creature in a deeper way than ever before.

"That was a great design decision that Joss made early on: He wanted to see Mark Ruffalo in the design, and that was great for us, because that meant we could work with Mark," said White, who described the actor as "incredibly generous" throughout the Hulk creation process.

"We spent a lot of time capturing Mark's skin and his hair and every pore detail that he has," White elaborated on how Ruffalo provided the foundation for the Hulk. "We actually did a life-cast of him as part of capturing all of that. So starting every shot from something real — and because Mark did a performance for every shot — we could then capture that performance and apply it to our Mark Ruffalo digital double, and make sure we were getting the right performance to translate onto the Hulk. That's where an amazing amount of animation has to come in, in order to get that same performance from Mark onto the Hulk."

But another reason why the green monster worked so well this time around, ironically enough, was because he was less green and less monstrous.

"There were good design decisions made in terms of, he's desaturated color-wise, which helps him fit in with the Avengers much better. He's not super muscly all the time, either. Joss wanted us to go for a bit more of a wrestler aesthetic instead of just being super cut," White explained. "What's great about that is that when he does jump around and start smashing everything, we really have somewhere to go in terms of flexing the muscles and popping the veins."

In the end, Hulk flourished in "Avengers" for the same reason the movie worked so well on the whole: a combination of fantastic visual effects, strong performances, and clear creative vision from Whedon and Marvel Studios.

"It's not just one thing you can point to, but a series of very good decisions in terms of Joss and Marvel's approach to the Hulk this time," said White. "For one, I think Joss really knows the kind of action that people want to see the Hulk do. That shot of him slamming Loki was in there right from the beginning. It's phenomenal. People love it. That scene was there right from the very beginning. I think that was the key. And casting with Mark Ruffalo, and how much he worked with us in terms of the performance of the character and all of the textural details."

"With 'Avengers,' there were so many things to get right," he continued. "But everything we put into it, we knew the film would be judged by the success of the Hulk, so we're really happy that people are excited about it."

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