The rumors of Marvel developing the PLANET HULK comic into a movie may finally come true with Thor: Ragnarok – but not in the way fans (or those who broke the rumors) likely expected. For those who may have forgotten, or had not yet been a committed MCU fan when rumors of a Planet Hulk movie first surfaced back in 2013, it would be easy to confuse the images of a ‘gladiator Hulk’ in Ragnarok as an adaptation, in one form or another, of the 2006 Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, and Aaron Lopresti story.
The truth, as is usually the case, is even stranger. When we got the chance to ask the producer of Ragnarok about the Planet Hulk influences on Thor’s new movie, the real origin of the rumors was offered. And as disappointed as some Marvel Comics fans may be to see one of Hulk’s most epic adventures stripped down to add some flavor to a Thor threequel, it could have been worse. Apparently, the plan for Thor 3 was originally to adapt even more of Planet Hulk… but swapping in Thor as the story’s stranded hero, instead of Bruce Banner.
Fans should feel no need to raise their pitchforks in protest, since Ragnarok seems to be honoring Hulk with the same level of victory and gladiatorial prowess as his comic. Speaking with the film’s producer Brad Winderbaum on set last year, the fact that Marvel Studios was adapting a Hulk story into a Thor movie was predictably raised. Winderbaum’s explanation was simple… even if it helped clear away most, if not all of the mystery surrounding the 2013 reports of a Planet Hulk adaptation away once and for all:
I mean, it was a very early idea. In the earliest development of Thor, we were looking at ‘Planet Hulk’ as inspiration, maybe not even to integrate the Hulk into the franchise but the idea of a planet where there’s gladiatorial games as being a Thor predicament. It really was a cool idea to us.
Somewhere in the early conversations, when it looked like it was going that way, it was a no brainer. It actually started off as like, ‘…could we have Hulk in there too?’ And then as soon as that spark ignited, it ignited kind of an idea machine. And suddenly [Hulk] was married to the plot.
It’s easy to grasp why the Hulk would soon become inextricable from Thor: Ragnarok‘s plot, since much of the excitement surrounding the film is based on Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo’s new Marvel dynamic. The surprise, the laughter, and the anticipation of the Thor/Hulk gladiatorial match teased in trailers is guaranteed to get fans into the theaters. But it’s what comes after the two fight that holds the most promise for their characters’ future (and friendship) in the MCU
And shows why a strict adaptation of Planet Hulk wasn’t as good an idea as it seemed to fans.
It wasn’t long after the reports of Planet Hulk leading into the MCU’s version of World War Hulk were dismissed by Joss Whedon as “nonsense.” And having now seen the path to Thanos that followed, his response makes sense. Kevin Feige also explained why Planet Hulk would waste Mark Ruffalo’s talents in favor of a CG star, and as Ruffalo soon pointed out himself why Planet Hulk wouldn’t make sense for the MCU.
As it now appears, Marvel found a way to give fans enough of that Hulk story to satisfy, while dodging most of the narrative or dramatic drawbacks. In short, let Hulk play his gladiator role as a key player in Thor’s larger story, and return to his human Bruce Banner form to strengthen his relationship with the Asgardian, relying on him to catch him up to speed.
Is it the Planet Hulk movie fans hoped for, and were told may be coming? Far from it. But in the end, Marvel’s claims that the movie wouldn’t work in the MCU weren’t misdirection, but honesty. And considering how strong a case they have, Thor: Ragnarok‘s elements of Planet Hulk should be taken by fans as an added bonus, far more than a ‘missed opportunity’ or weak compromise.
Thor: Ragnarok advance tickets are now on sale wherever tickets are sold.
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