In the most recent trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, it seems clear that Thor teams up with The Hulk, Loki, and Valkyrie—but for me, I’m mostly pumped up about seeing The Hulk again. Towards the end of the trailer, The Hulk is standing with the rest of The Revengers team (the name Thor comes up with on the spot).
But there’s something funny about this trailer: To me, it seems like The Hulk is much bigger in Thor: Ragnarok than in the previous Marvel movies. I’m what you might call an expert in Hulk heights; I’ve estimated his size before, like when I used it to get a value for his mass when looking at the force he exerts on the ground during a jump. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the Marvel movies that started with Iron Man in 2008 and continue through today), The Hulk has appeared three times with one more coming in the movie Thor: Ragnarok, out on October 25. So of course this means I need to go back and measure his size in each of the previous appearances—just to make sure.
How do you find the height of a fictional character? Yes, I am well aware that The Hulk is not real. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying to apply some cool physics to these make-believe characters. In short, the best way to measure The Hulk’s size is to find a frame where he’s standing next to some real object of known height. This object could be another character played by a real human (like Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor) or something else real like a car.
After I find some particular scene that can be used to estimate The Hulk’s height, I will just use that known object to set the scale of the scene and then boom—I have the height of The Hulk. You could of course do this with any drawing program, but I find it’s easiest just to use the free Tracker Video Analysis program, since it has that functionality built in.
In many cases, The Hulk isn’t standing up straight, but I can still get an estimate for his height by either approximating how far he would stretch while standing or by summing the measurements from legs to torso to head. Both are still just approximations, but they’re better than nothing.
Since I am dealing with approximations, I am also going to estimate the uncertainty in these measurements. If I write a height of 2.1 +/- 0.1 meters, that means the true value of the height is most likely between 2 meters and 2.2 meters. Again, I get these uncertainty values just by using my own best judgement.
Now for the data—you’ve waited long enough. I should have four values for The Hulk’s height (from the four Marvel movies), but I am going to give you six. The other two are from the Universal Pictures Hulk movie in 2003 starring Eric Bana and The Hulk television show with Lou Ferrigno (from the 70’s). Yes, know these aren’t in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you can’t really stop me.
Here is my plot. I’ve included error bars to represent the uncertainties and each height has a time value corresponding to the year of the movie (or show).
It seems like I was wrong. This is what happens when you get too excited about a movie and make a crazy claim without checking the data (always check the data). The Hulk is not significantly different in Thor: Ragnarok than in the previous MCU movies. Notice that by fitting a linear function to the last four data points it’s clear that the values with uncertainties covers an average height of around 2.6 meters. Of course The Hulk from the 2003 movie is indeed quite a bit larger than in the MCU and the Lou Ferrigno Hulk is the size of Lou.
But why was I wrong? Look at the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. In that clip, there is scene with The Hulk standing upright and right next to Thor. This means two things. First, he is not hunched over, so it’s easier to get a height measurement. Second, he is right next to a known object (Thor) and this produces a smaller uncertainty. The Hulk isn’t just a completely fictional object—he is actual some digital object in a computer. If he did all of a sudden change size, that would be kind of weird.