Just over a week ago Marvel Studios held an event to announce Phase 3 of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Both Captain America and Thor are getting third acts, while Doctor Strange, Black Panther (to be played by Chadwick Boseman) and Captain Marvel will be joining the Avengers for the Infinity War Parts I & II. There was also confirmation that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 has been commissioned. Notable by their absence were another Iron Man sequel, and more significantly, a Hulk solo film.
Since Avengers Assemble in 2012 Hulk’s popularity has soared. A prominence which would seem to presage a new Hulk.
There have been endless rumours about Marvel ‘considering’ a solo movie. Even Mark Ruffalo, Hulk’s most recent personification, hinted that it was a possibility. However, according to producer Kevin Feige, this is something which is not planned for at least the next five years. Instead Hulk will be supporting a lot of Phase 3 by appearing in other films.
With the exception of die-hard Marvel comic fans, before Iron Man blasted onto cinema screens in 2008 not many people would’ve thought that he had the potential to lead a blockbuster franchise. However Robert Downey Jr. proved a perfect fit as Tony Stark and made a wider commercial audience believe in Iron Man. Hulk is historically a more famous comic-book character, first appearing in 1962 and later being portrayed by the bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno in a hit American TV series of the same name. While Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) is considered a failure, many will argue that The Incredible Hulk (2008) is comparatively underrated amongst the MCU films. In addition, Ruffalo actually has the fans’ approval as Bruce Banner.
Previous Hulk films have not reached the box-office stratosphere of other superhero features (both have made less than $300 million worldwide). But after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, a film consisting entirely of unfamiliar superheroes, Marvel Studios has shown its willingness to take risks. Which leaves it likely that a Hulk solo film will surface down the line. And fans are already speculating on the possible storyline.
The most famous Hulk storyline is called ‘Planet Hulk’. In the comics it begins with a group of Illuminati consisting of Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt and Reed Richards trapping Hulk in a pod, and sending him through a wormhole, where he lands on a planet named Sakaar. While the storyline is mostly set away from Earth, the main reason it has potential is due to its focus on Hulk’s anger; this is the core emotion that defines Hulk. Ruffalo’s Banner reveals that he is always angry, and from the Age of Ultron trailer it seems Banner is struggling to control his emotions. This suggests that the studio may be teasing audiences with the possibility. With Guardians being in the cinematic universe, a galactic Hulk film is even more likely. However, ‘Planet Hulk’ should only be the start, and lead into the far more epic ‘World War Hulk’ storyline.
In ‘Planet Hulk’, the green Goliath is forced to fight to the death in a gladiatorial arena, but in the World War arc, Hulk pits the other heroes against each other, including Ant-Man and Dr. Strange (who are in the MCU now). The consequences of such an event would expand the Marvel universe even further, and make Hulk a real leading character. Alternatively, the studio could explore a Hulk vs Red Hulk conflict but since there has already been a similar battle in The Incredible Hulk, something with a wider agenda is more likely to be something that can tie in with later films.
From the endless assumptions and rumours online, it is clear that audiences want another Hulk solo film, and with Mark Ruffalo proving to be a fan favourite in the role, it is only a matter of time before Hulk smashes his way onto the big screen alone.