Marvel Phase 4: Where Does Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk Fit In The MCU Now?

When it comes to the original six Avengers – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye – Avengers: Endgame wrapped up three storylines but left the other three up in the air. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) gave their lives to defeat Thanos, and Captain America (Chris Evans) ended up with the love of his life, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

The Hulk Mark Ruffalo
The Hulk Mark Ruffalo | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, we found out that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will tell more of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) stories during phase four, as both characters have stand-alone projects coming in the fall of 2021. But, there was no talk about the fate of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Where does the character fit into the MCU now that phase three is over?

Hulk’s story did not get off to a good start in the MCU

So far, the only solo film in the MCU that has focused on the big green monster was 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which starred Edward Norton, not Mark Ruffalo. Since Marvel released it just one month after the first Iron Man, it kind of got lost in the shuffle. Iron Man was a hard act to follow, but to make matters worse, Norton reportedly negotiated to rewrite the script, and then Marvel ended up cutting most of the scenes he wrote.

The final product – which apparently no one wanted – led to a battle that is still being played out in social media and interviews to this day. Norton and Marvel ended up parting ways in 2010, and they immediately hired Ruffalo and introduced him along with the rest of The Avengers at that year’s Comic-Con.

Universal is in the way

Ruffalo has now played the character for nearly a decade but has never gotten his own film. But, it’s not just because Norton’s film wasn’t successful. Universal still has first refusal on distributing Hulk films, and it appears they have that clause in perpetuity. This means that if Marvel/Disney wants to make a Hulk movie they have to work with Universal.

Marvel, who is now under the Disney umbrella (they were an independent studio in 2008) would be basically using their IP to help Universal make money, and that’s not a deal they are willing to make.

Solo films don’t seem likely

Avengers: Endgame brought the character of Hulk to a fascinating crossroads, says GamesRadar.As fans know, Bruce Banner morphed into Professor Hulk. And, not only did he end up being burned by his use of the gauntlet, but he also lost the love of his life – Black Widow. A cliffhanger is not the right way to end his story.

Unfortunately, the Hulk character has never really developed during the first three phases of the MCU. Instead, he’s been a small part of other storylines and has mostly served as a plot function, which makes it terribly difficult to put Ruffalo’s Hulk into a solo film.

Marvel had the chance to launch a Hulk Planet franchise after Thor: Ragnarok but chose not to go in that direction. For multiple reasons, it doesn’t look like Hulk will get his own movies, but there are still options.

Exploring Hulk’s post-‘Endgame’ life

Before Endgame, all fans got to see was Hulk Smash, but that’s just one side of the character. Now, that Marvel gave fans a taste of Professor Hulk, it’s obvious there is more of Hulk’s story to tell. He could possibly appear in Thor: Love and Thunder or Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and there is also the possibility that he could get the same treatment as Hawkeye, and get a series on Disney+.

However, it isn’t clear how Universal would fit into a Disney+ series. Marvel can still use the character with no issues when he is part of an ensemble, but as soon as the story focuses specifically on the Hulk, that’s when Universal steps in.

It remains to be seen if Ruffalo’s Hulk will get the chance to tell the rest of his story. Unfortunately, Marvel seems to have put the character on the back burner, and instead, they are introducing new characters and stories to the MCU.