If Marvel Studios and its creative teams have been consistent about anything, it’s in talking around the possibility of a sequel to The Incredible Hulk. Despite Mark Ruffalo’s take on Dr. Bruce Banner becoming a fan-favorite in The Avengers, the largest and meanest of Earth’s Mightiest isn’t quite bankable enough for a solo outing.
Instead, like fellow Avengers Black Widow and Hawkeye, Hulk is a key supporting character, and so far his stories have been exclusive to the Avengers movies. That changes in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when, after all the other Earthly characters of the franchise show up in Captain America: Civil War, the remaining two – Thor and Hulk – return in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
Since long before Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in theaters, rumors dating as far back as early 2013 pointed towards Marvel using the Joss Whedon-written and directed sequel as a launchpad to a Planet Hulk adaptation that would launch the brute into space. Eventually, just like in Marvel Comics, Banner/Hulk could return to Earth seek vengeance in a World War Hulk style of story. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige added that he believes Hulk could carry his own new movie and that these two aforementioned events from the comics are “cool” stories of interest to him and the studio.
That hope was quickly dashed however by Ruffalo and Whedon, and later completely eradicated when Marvel laid out their entire Phase 3 schedule in October of 2014. Hulk was nowhere to be found and Feige said himself, Planet Hulk wouldn’t be the right move for a standalone feature because they’d want to use Ruffalo on screen more instead of just the CGI Hulk.
And then everything changed.
Reports began surfacing several months ago that Marvel was planning on using Thor: Ragnarok as a way to bring back the Hulk, and to do so off-planet… just like Ruffalo hinted at once again last year. We knew Thor 3 would finally focus less on Earth and explore more of the cosmic side of the lore, and as additional reports confirmed that Ruffalo would be teaming up with Chris Hemsworth for a “buddy adventure” film, speculation was once again sparked that Marvel could be taking a page from the books of Planet Hulk after all.
The last time we saw Hulk was in the final act of Avengers: Age of Ultron when he stole the team’s Quinjet and flew away. We didn’t know where but early rumors about the Avengers 2 script pointed towards it launching Hulk into space. That didn’t make the final cut and it was left ambiguous as to give Marvel more options as they plan for the future. And planned they have, according to the latest rumor from Geek which claims to have sources revealing more plot details about Thor: Ragnarok. Potential spoilers ahead.
Cate Blanchett’s role in Thor: Ragnarok according to their sources is Hela, and she and Loki will be teaming up to do wrong by Asgard, and their plans may have larger implications for the MCU (Infinity War connection perhaps?). According to Geek’s rumor Hela apparently will destroy Thor’s mighty weapon Mjolnir and banish him from his home realm.
Unlike Odin sending his son to Earth in the original 2011 Thor movie however, Hela will send Thor to another distant planet. And yes, you guessed it, this planet will – as the rumor goes – apparently be the home to the MCU’s version of Planet Hulk. We’re not quite sure if it’s actually the planet named Sakaar (homeworld of an alien enemy army from Guardians of the Galaxy) from the comics, but it’ll absolutely house a gladiator-style arena where Thor may get his hair lopped off and thrown into battle.
Thor, without his mighty helmet and locks of hair, battles through a series of opponents until he meets Hulk. The report doesn’t specify how or why Hulk is taken off Earth to this alien world but he’s been in Hulk-mode for quite some time when audiences meet him again, but his inner-Banner will remind him slowly of who Thor is, an ally and a friend.
During this time, Thor is reportedly in search of something (think Marvel-style MacGuffin, Infinity Gauntlet/Stone, or some such ancient artifact/weapon from the books) to aid him in his ultimate quest of saving Asgard, and will team with Hulk after this to go on a journey. Perhaps this is just one act of the film because none of it seems to relate to “Ragnarok” as we know it in Marvel Comics and/or Norse Mythology lore.
Take all of this news as a big fat rumor, but also very believable possibility given what’s been said about the project to date. We must note however that even though Thor: Ragnarok had a script, much can change – seeing as it’s being rewritten by Stephany Folsom, who joined the project only in December, and director Taika Waititi, who aims to make the film much funnier than Thor: The Dark World. The earlier drafts by Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle’s script were reportedly too dark for the studio.
Regardless of if and how elements of Planet Hulk fit into Thor: Ragnarok, the move by Marvel is a smart one to increase the marketability and appeal of another Thor adventure, especially one that’s stepping away from anchoring itself on Earth. In addition to the obvious merchandising appeal and the idea of keeping Hulk relevent until the next Avengers movie, it also allows the studio to dance around any potential rights issues of developing another solo Hulk movie with Universal who still own some or part of its distribution rights.
Excited for Thor and Hulk exploring other worlds? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.