The Edward Norton Hulk Easter Egg You Never Noticed In Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a glorious way of connecting its characters to storylines from the past. While fans are usually quick to spot Easter Eggs, one of the most fascinating examples planted in "Thor: Ragnarok" was only discovered a few years after its release. And it has a surprising connection to "The Incredible Hulk," the film that saw Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.

As you might already know — Mark Ruffalo wasn't always The Hulk. The actor began his MCU career when he was recast in place of Edward Norton, who played the superhero in "The Incredible Hulk" (2008). Norton and Marvel Studios both have varying reasons for the recasting decision. The actor has asserted it was of his own volition, and he wanted to have more diversity in his career. At the same time, Kevin Feige announced he wanted to bring in an actor who respected the collaborative spirit and creativity his team brought to the project. Marvel Studios and Edward Norton might have unresolved beef, but that didn't stop the former from continuing to respect the character's experiences.

The Hulk was recast with a new actor stepping in to take the reigns. Still, it appears that Marvel Studios hoped to preserve some sort of continuity for the character and planted an Easter Egg which referenced the 2008 version of the eternally angry superhero in Taika Waititi's "Thor: Ragnarok."

Hulk Hasn't Changed Much Over The Years

After Mark Ruffalo joined the MCU, the studio's creative team had to redesign the character, mainly because Hulk is based on performance capture work which includes facial expressions. The 2008 film represented Norton's interpretation of the character to allow Ruffalo the same opportunity, so CGI Hulk's face needed to map the actor's expressions accurately and be based on him. The new Hulk is also less ripped — and resembles Mark Ruffalo more than anything. But that doesn't mean Marvel Studios erased Norton's performance or Hulk's personal experiences (remember that fight against Abomination?).

After Hulk's disappearance at the end of "Avengers: Age of Ultron," he resorts to living the Gladiator life in Sakaar as the Grandmaster's champion. When Thor and Hulk are reunited on the artificial trash planet, Hulk is roped in to save the Asgardians from Hela, Thor's sister and Odin's firstborn. The film featured clever Easter Eggs from Hela knocking over the fake Infinity Gauntlet — to a direct callback to "The Incredible Hulk."

In 2019, a Reddit user noted that Norton and Ruffalo's versions of the characters were the same. In the events that ensue during "Thor: Ragnarok," eagle-eyed fans remarked that Hulk displayed a mysterious scar on his chest.

"In Thor: Ragnarok, Hulk has a round scar on his chest. This is a continuity callback to 2008's The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton."

Given Hulk's relatively poor track record for getting injured in the "Avengers" films, fans wondered when and where he earned that one. The answer: "The Incredible Hulk." During Hulk's fight against Abomination in that film, the fan-favorite antagonist plunges his elbow into the Hulk's pectoral muscle, which pierces his skin, leaving a round scar on the surface. The MCU might barely acknowledge Norton's character arc, but they cared about the Hulk's experiences and redesigned him while paying attention to great detail.

"The Incredible Hulk" didn't earn a sequel, but Marvel Studios found a way to evolve the character and bring in essential elements from the film. The MCU brought back William Hurt as General Thunderbolt Ross in "Captain America: Civil War" and Abomination years later in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Ruffalo made his first appearance as Banner in "The Avengers" (2012) and has continued to reprise his role in four films "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Thor: Ragnarok," "Avengers: Infinity War," and "Avengers: Endgame." He also appeared in a mid-credit sequence in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and is expected to play Banner once again in the Disney+ miniseries "She-Hulk."