How Marvel Could ‘Get Away With’ Another Hulk Solo Film

When Hulk fans talk about how their hero has been treated by the movies, they’re not happy. Maybe they’re not angry to the point of Hulking out and smashing things, but they’re probably more like Doctor Banner walking down the road sadly at the end of every episode of The Incredible Hulk TV show. 

Really and truly, the movies have never gotten solo Hulk completely right. And while many people enjoy Mark Ruffalo’s take on the character, Marvel Studios seems to struggle to know what to do with him. Ruffalo himself doesn’t seem to know what his future is in the MCU, but he has some ideas. 

All the more reason, then, to try at least once more to do right by him.

Two Hulk strikes and you’re out 

Mark Ruffalo on the red carpet
Mark Ruffalo | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Hulk, starring Eric Bana and directed by Ang Lee came out amid great anticipation in 2003 – and that anticipation transformed into deflated expectations for many viewers.

While some people applauded the movie for its bold attempt to frame the Hulk’s story as family psychological trauma, and for its striking comic book panel look, most people didn’t have the patience for a Hulk movie where the Hulk didn’t show up more than half an hour in. 

The more conventional 2008 MCU movie The Incredible Hulk had a lot more of Hulk smashing things, with Bruce Banner transforming before the movie is 20 minutes old. However, it wasn’t a big hit either, and most people put it at or near the bottom of their rankings of the 23 MCU movies. Edward Norton’s struggle behind the scenes to give the Hulk a darker spin made for a more dramatic story than the movie that actually came out. 

Then Ruffalo showed up in The Avengers, and fans cheered. “I’m always angry” became a signature Hulk moment that was spoofed by Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. Fans loved him whipping Loki around like a rag doll. Later on, they loved his antics in Thor: Ragnarok. But some fans were disappointed with the relatively limited and subdued role he played in Infinity War/Endgame. 

Does Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk have a future?

One of the key problems facing Marvel is the rights to the Hulk. Marvel/Disney owns the production rights to the Hulk, so theoretically, they can make whatever Hulk movie they want. The only problem is that Universal owns the distribution rights. Kevin Feige and Marvel can make the Hulk movie, but Universal gets to put it in theaters. Considering the hue and cry that went up when the Sony/Spider-Man deal fell apart, Marvel probably isn’t eager to go through something that again.

However, Marvel does plan something with the Hulk. Cinemablend reported that Ruffalo, while promoting his new movie Dark Waters, said, “Kevin Feige just asked me last week if I had any more ideas or stories for the Hulk. And I said yeah, I think there’s still some stories to tell. And he said, ‘Well why don’t you come in and tell me about them and we’ll see if we can find a place for you in the Marvel universe?'”

On one level, that statement is troubling, because it sounds like Marvel hadn’t had any plans for the Hulk in the grand scheme of things until they asked Ruffalo what he thought. But at least Feige asked the question. So what’s the answer? 

What to do with Professor Hulk?

One of Ruffalo’s wishes set the Marvel fan community buzzing with the revelation that Ruffalo would like to see the Hulk vs.Wolverine. As cool as that would surely be, let’s remember that Hugh Jackman definitively hung up the character in Logan. But there are other possibilities besides that. 

Ruffalo said in Den of Geek, “I think there’s more storytelling still left with that character, especially with (Professor Hulk) now,” Ruffalo said. “I kind of was assuming that it was going to come to an end, but possibly not.”

If only to make at least one Hulk movie that doesn’t make viewers say “Yes, but,” Marvel would do well to try one more time. If Marvel can make nice with Sony, they probably can with Universal too.