As Marvel's blockbuster machine has reached a steady pace, it has defied the odds by bringing new life to even established characters: The Incredible Hulk chief among them. With Mark Ruffalo's take on the hero becoming a surprise scene-stealer in The Avengers, rumors of renewed interest in sequels and spin-offs immediately surfaced. But if you ask Ruffalo himself, a story as big as "Planet Hulk" isn't the direction he thinks the studio will - or should - take in the immediate future.
Marvel was quick to temper excitement surrounding Ruffalo's re-casting as Bruce Banner/Hulk, explaining that for the foreseeable future, it would be the under-served heroes taking the spotlight, instead of giving the enormous green rage monster a third big screen adaptation. But after a well-received supporting role in The Avengers, some posited that Marvel would do the exact opposite, and make the "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" stories major tentpole events for Marvel's Phase Three.
While speaking with MTV about his upcoming film Begin Again, Ruffalo gave his view on the possible plan for a future Hulk solo film; specifically, which comic story line he doesn't think is Marvel's plan - while offering a plot summary of the much-bandied-about "Planet Hulk" for his co-stars (therefore minor spoilers for the comic ahead):
"I don't think that's where they're going to go... "Planet Hulk" is: they actually launch Bruce Banner into space to try and get rid of him and the Hulk. And he ends up freaking out, smashing up the spaceship, and it goes off course and it ends up on this planet of gladiator creatures, like pre-Christian, Romanesque.
“I don’t think that's the way to go yet. I think you need more Banner. The whole thing is just him as Hulk, on a planet, fighting other gladiators. He falls in love, he has a baby, he finds a woman... and then The Avengers nuke the planet."
It's hard to disagree with Ruffalo's assessment, since it was his non-monstrous scenes (alongside Robert Downey, Jr.) that earned the most praise, landing him in a post-credits scene for Iron Man 3 to boot. Marvel isn't blind to the popularity of the character, or Ruffalo's unique chemistry with Downey, Jr., having confirmed that Banner/Hulk will play a much larger role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But more than ever before, it seems any hopes of the character becoming a central antagonist in the shared universe should be put on hold.
That isn't all bad news for fans, though, since it's no secret that Ruffalo's Hulk will be a key player in the coming years. Marvel obviously wants to keep interest alive, with Ruffalo having stated that the idea of a standalone Hulk movie (previously seen as a longshot) is once again being considered by studio executives. And if that's the case, then "Planet Hulk" is certainly a prime candidate for any Hulk adaptation, given Marvel's interest in blockbuster spectacle and cross-property storytelling.
But before that day comes (whether or not it's followed by all out-Hulk War), it's probably best in the short and long term to let Ruffalo's Banner stand on his own two (normal-sized) feet. The cosmic/gladiator story's day will come, we would wager, but not before the current villains of the Marvel universe get a chance to bring their own plans to fruition.
What's your take on Ruffalo's comments? Do you agree that another intimate look at the man beneath the green muscle is the right direction to head (especially with Tony Stark's eccentric genius expected to take a step away from the spotlight soon), or is "Planet Hulk" the only story you wish to see adapted? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases May 1, 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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