After two mildly successful cinematic outings in the form of Ang Lee’s Hulk (starring Eric Bana) and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk (featuring Edward Norton), Marvel’s green rage monster seems to finally have some undeniable momentum, largely thanks to Mark Ruffalo’s well-received portrayal of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Due to his bromantic chemistry with Tony Stark and the smashing of a “puny god,” the character was viewed as one of the film’s highlights.
With newfound interest in the Hulk, there are many clamoring for a new solo film which would give Ruffalo a chance to carry an outing on his own (the actor has even said the studio is considering it). Since The Avengers hit theaters, rumors have speculated that not only would the "Planet Hulk" comic storyline be adapted to the big screen, but that it would be a fundamental plot line for Marvel's entire movie universe. But according to Kevin Feige, that wouldn't make sense for the studio.
As Marvel Studios prepares for their panel at San Diego Comic-Con, fans everywhere are expecting several announcements concerning Phase 3 projects - and perhaps more details on the recently-announced five additional release dates. However, it seems all but guaranteed that a standalone Planet Hulk will not be one of them.
It was Ruffalo himself who explained quite plainly that if the version of the Hulk seen in The Avengers had earned him a solo story, then leaping to "Planet Hulk" wouldn't make much sense as the next step (for starters, that would mean no glimpse of Ruffalo's non-green Bruce Banner on screen). Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige clearly agrees with that sentiment, explaining to IGN that such an adaptation would cut out the franchise's best asset:
“I don't think that's the first place we would go though for the very reason that you stated, which is, if we were ever able to do a standalone Hulk movie, 60 percent of the fun would be seeing Mark Ruffalo leading a Marvel movie -- and that's what we would do if we ever went down that road... that's why there are no plans for Planet Hulk anytime soon.”
For those unfamiliar, "Planet Hulk" begins with the Avengers launching Hulk into space after he loses control - a risk that the first Avengers film sought to (and did) solve. Hulk's ship then crashes on the planet Sakaar, where he is taken prisoner and forced to compete in gladiatorial combat. Along the way, he finds new love, becomes the planet’s king, and eventually returns to Earth in a vengeful rage.
While it's a strong comic book story, and would kick off story lines sure to spread across all of Marvel's properties, it's a risky move. Even if Guardians of the Galaxy features Sakaarians, and concept art for Tony Stark's 'Hulkbuster' armor has surfaced, taking the first wave of fan enthusiasm for a hero and turning them into a villain seems like a significant waste. Planet Hulk may come, but it doesn't need to come immediately.
This topic was discussed on a recent episode of the Screen Rant Underground podcast, with our editors pointing out that the studio would probably be best served painting the Hulk in a more positive light – making him a more appealing option for marketing purposes and the younger demographic that Marvel covets.
Having said that, fans of the comic shouldn’t give up hope just yet. After all, Marvel is in the early stages of planning films until 2028. A Planet Hulk adaptation could very well be one of those projects. But now that Joss Whedon has denied the plan, Kevin Feige has followed suit, and even Ruffalo is outspoken that it's not the right course, perhaps fans can start to believe it (but not likely).
In the meantime, it appears as if the next solo Hulk film will be a vehicle for Ruffalo – a proposition many fans will gladly sign up for.
The Hulk will next appear in The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015. We will keep you updated on the development of the next Hulk movie.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.