Among Marvel’s pantheon of gods and heroes, everybody’s favorite green-skinned rage beast, the Hulk, has endured a decidedly troubled transition from the page to film; since his first movie appearance in 2003 (Ang Lee’s oft-maligned Hulk), the big guy has been portrayed by three different actors in as many movies, starting with Eric Banna, continuing on with Edward Norton for the eventual reboot, The Incredible Hulk, and ending with Mark Ruffalo, who found smashing pathos in the character in The Avengers.
There’s more to Hulk than the leading man behind the monster, of course, namely the motion capture technology used to bring him to life. As a special effect, Hulk himself has just as storied a screen history as his human counterparts; Lee stepped in for mo-capping duties over a decade ago, while Norton and French martial artist Cyril Raffaelli gave their own individual mo-cap contributions to create Hulk’s look in 2008. Ruffalo, however, did all of the work himself in 2012, and if there’s a reason why he’s often considered the very best Hulk of all the modern Hulks, that could well be it.
But even a master Hulk needs a helping hand once in a while, especially considering that Ruffalo isn’t typically known for performances of this nature. So, with The Avengers: Age of Ultron looming, the The Kids Are All Right actor has reached out to the master of mo-cap himself, Andy Serkis, for help in building a better Hulk for the sequel. Word on this little partnership hails from Ruffalo himself, and if it’s not groundbreaking in terms of The Avengers 2‘s narrative, it’s certainly exciting in terms of its level of craft.
Nobody should take this news and cast doubt on Ruffalo’s turn in The Avengersretrospectively; Ruffalo found a solid balance between Bruce Banner’s humanity and the Hulk’s penchant for mayhem, ultimately creating a compelling portrait of one of Marvel’s more complex characters. But Ruffalo also isn’t the kind of guy audiences think of when they think of ambitious, blockbusting spectacles. He’s more at home in more dramatic roles and comedies, ranging from films like Zodiac to The Brothers Bloom. It’s not that he’s a poor mo-cap actor. It’s just not his usual milieu.
Andy Serkis, on the other hand, was born in a mo-cap suit, and has more or less defined what it means to act through mo-cap ever since showing the world how it’s done in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His impressive efforts in making us sympathize with the twisted, pitiable, duplicitous Gollum garnered him great recognition during the 2002 and 2003 awards seasons; since then, he’s earned similar laurels for taking the titular role in 2005′s King Kong, portraying Captain Haddock and Sir Francis Haddock in 2011′s The Adventures of Tintin, and playing Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes the same year.
The latter film has a sequel coming out this summer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and while no one can predict the future, odds seem to favor him drawing similar praise for that picture, too. That’s to say nothing of his mo-cap consultations for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, or his impending directorial stint on WB’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book (or his upcoming role in Star Wars: Episode VII,possibly as a mo-cap character), but the point here has been made in excess: Serkis knows motion capture like the back of his hand.
So the idea of having him lend that hand to Ruffalo for The Avengers: Age of Ultronis pretty exciting. It certainly can’t hurt production by having him consult on the Hulk, even if it merely amounts to Serkis giving Ruffalo a few simple tips and instructions to improve the latter’s performance; really, there should be no question that having him aboard on Joss Whedon’s next superhero rumpus will be a good thing.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron arrives in theaters on May 1st, 2015.