When Mark Ruffalo joined Marvel Studios’ The Avengers, taking over the role of Bruce Banner from Edward Norton, he signed a six-picture contract with the studio. Since Iron Man 1, it’s become the norm for Marvel to lock up their stars long-term for franchising purposes, but in Ruffalo’s case, there was seemingly no chance of The Incredible Hulk 2 becoming a reality anytime soon since both Hulk solo films didn’t bank big numbers at the box office.
With Marvel interested in up to six appearances of the character however, and seemingly no hints of Ruffalo popping up in any of the pre-Avengers 2 Phase Two (2) films, where does that leave Hulk in the coming years?
Latino-Review’s El Mayimbe is steamrolling the Marvel movie cosmic scoops and if this latest double-report (which I will dub the gamma radiation bomb) proves true in the coming years, then Marvel Studios will be very unhappy about these long-term plans leaking early. The following report details a possible future of Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and where the character may fit into the studio’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 plans.
***Potential Spoilers Ahead – You Have Been Warned***
Of the core heroes that form The Avengers the only character that’s been recast so far is Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk. Before Marvel Studios became a self-financing production house, Eric Bana played the character in Ang Lee’s adaptation and a quasi-sequel of sorts had Edward Norton star. Norton couldn’t maintain a relationship with Marvel and the studio replaced him with Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers and fortunately for everyone involved (i.e. Not Norton), he nailed it and became scene-stealing fan-favorite.
Despite the wonderful performance and Whedon’s take on the character pushing Banner in the story to have more control over his big green alter ego, the character failed to bank big numbers in both of his solo outings prior. And even before The Avengers dominated the worldwide box office, another Hulk-headlining feature seemingly didn’t factor into Marvel’s plans up to 2017 which we heard about two years ago from Paul Gitter, Marvel Entertainment’s President of Consumer Products for North America.
According to El Mayimbe however, Hulk’s character in The Avengers 2 – a film which Whedon says will take the characters to a dark place – will hit an all new low when it comes to losing control and it’ll force Earth’s Mightiest and the Marvel cinematic universe’s version of the Illuminati (secret council of high-profile superheroes) to launch the big green giant into space where he can do no harm. Fans of the books know what this means and yes, Planet Hulk is what these actions result in – Hulk will, according to LR’s sources, have another standalone film and it’s one that Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige publicly expressed interest in last year, when he said the following to MTV about there being no new Hulk movie until after The Avengers 2.
“I don’t think there’s a lot that we couldn’t do someday, as the cinematic universe continues to grow and expand and get as big as the comic book universe. ’Planet Hulk’ is a cool story. ‘World War Hulk’ is a cool story… I think there are pitfalls of continuity-overload, and mythology getting so dense that it almost collapses in on itself. It happens every few decades or so in the comics. Apart from that, I’d say everything is on the table.”
“Do I think Hulk can carry a movie and be as entertaining as he was in ‘Avengers’? I do believe that. I do believe he absolutely could. We certainly are not even going to attempt that until ‘Avengers 2. So there’s a lot of time to think about it.”
The release slate for Phase 2 is locked down after being completely unveiled at Comic-Con last summer. Unlike Phase 1 which had six films, Phase 2 houses five:
- Iron Man 3
- Thor: The Dark World
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Avengers 2
Phase 3 as we now know – thanks to Feige’s confirmation last week – begins with Ant-Man which has a release date set for November 2015, and sometime following it will be the Doctor Strange movie. Where does that leave Hulk? Ruffalo may play the character in Planet Hulk sometime in Phase 3 as well and that film will play a crucial role in setting up The Avengers 3 since El Mayimbe claims that’ll embrace the World War Hulk storyline from Marvel Comics where after the events of Planet Hulk, he returns to Earth as a king leading an army against those who betrayed him.
Phase Three – Many Question Marks:
- Ant-Man (has a release date)
- Doctor Strange (confirmed)
- Planet Hulk (now rumored)
- Captain America 3? (we assume)
- Thor 3? (we assume)
- The Inhumans? (name-dropped)
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2? (no word)
- The Avengers 3 (definitely coming)
Epic? Yes. Believable? Knowing Guardians of the Galaxy is on the way and that Thanos has a beef with The Avengers, and hearing that Tony Stark may head to space in Iron Man 3, partly. Feige doesn’t just namedrop projects for fun – What he said about Guardians and Ant-Man all came true, as unbelievable as many thought both of those features were. Here’s Mayimbe on the streets of New York just outside of Marvel HQ detailing the scoop:
The Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines were both written by author Greg Pak off an idea provided by then-Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada. Three years ago, Lionsgate released an animated DVD based on Planet Hulk which may actually provide an example of how the live-action film could replace the Silver Surfer character (a critical part of the story) – since Fox owns him and is keeping him for the rebooted Fantastic Four franchise, despite Marvel Studios’ attempt to get him and Galactus back. Perhaps Planet Hulk was one of the reasons why. In the animated film, Beta Ray Bill (see below image) – an odd-looking alien who acquires Thor’s abilities – takes over the role Surfer played in the books.
Going the World War Hulk route would make the Hulk character a villain, and that may not be a card Marvel Studios wants to play if they’re branding him a hero for the tie-in merchandise, toys, books, etc., especially after having Ruffalo save the day in The Avengers. Planet Hulk on its own makes sense, but if any semblence of his assault on New York occurs in the film, the motivation behind it and how it plays out will be drastically altered (e.g. No need for Hulk to have a dead pregnant wife).
For obvious reasons, characters such as the X-Men, Ghost Rider and the Skrulls won’t factor into The Avengers 3, so if Hulk does lead an attack on Earth, Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy will likely have some involvement since we know Thanos is being setup as a long-term villain. Such a plot thread however would involve Doctor Strange and likely, The Inhumans - another more obscure Marvel Comics property that Kevin Feige is confident in adapting into a film. He said that nearly a year after Entertainment Weekly reported that moviegoers can expect The Inhumans along with Ant-Man and Guardians – the latter two of which both have since earned release dates.
Perhaps Hulk could be another Loki-like pawn in Thanos’ master plan and that could justify the need to exile him from Earth in The Avengers 2. Where does the Infinity Gauntlet fit into all of this? Could this tie-in to some variant of the Marvel Civil War arc? With the big stories Marvel has to play with, it seems unlikely that a Hulk attack would take priority over Thanos and the bigger picture cosmic threats to be introduced in Phase Two and Three, so at best, Hulk’s agenda – should Planet Hulk prove real – would be only one facet of a larger plan against The Avengers.
Bring on the Hulkbuster Iron Man armor!
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news.
Beta Ray Bill art by Dougie Braithwaite. Hulk and Iron Man art by Gabriele Dell’Otto.