Why Hulk Should Never Get a Third Solo Film

Few people would dispute that the Hulk is one of Marvel’s genuinely iconic characters. After all, they wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Yet the movies can never seem to get him completely right. 

Universal tried in 2003 in the Eric Bana version, which few people liked. The MCU adopted him early on, making their second movie, The Incredible Hulk, in 2008, and many viewers thought that wasn’t much better.

Then Disney made him a prominent side character but even then seemed to dance around him. There is a lot of potential with the Hulk, so why haven’t they explored him more fully?

Hulk isn’t a smash in his movies

Mark Ruffalo on the red carpet
Mark Ruffalo | Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Outside of the comics and the cartoons, the most people saw of the Hulk was the 1977 to 1982 series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno about the tortured Dr. David Banner desperately trying to cure himself. The memory of that show was still strong enough in 2003 that Ferrigno cameoed with Stan Lee. Still, despite director Ang Lee’s attempt to make the movie look like a comic book, many people found the movie both cerebral and silly. Hulk dogs?

Marvel Studios tried again in 2008, with The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton. Marvel tried for a more action-heavy approach, but they battled with Norton behind the scenes when he pushed for a darker movie than they were willing to make.

If it fared better than Ang Lee’s Hulk, it was only marginally so, and it’s regarded by many as the MCU’s low watermark. 

The Hulk became Ruffalo in The Avengers, and many fans liked his portrayal. The character had many fan-favorite moments, including his thrashing of Loki and his fighting with Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. (“He’s a friend from work!”) But even here, the writers struggled with the character.

A sort of romance with Black Widow in Age of Ultron never really went anywhere, and Banner spent most of Infinity War trying and failing to make the Hulk appear. In Endgame, we got Professor Hulk, and while that was new and different, many people missed the Hulk that smashed. 

Disney can’t make a new Hulk movie without Universal

Part of the problem with Marvel trying again with a Hulk movie is because, rather incredibly, they can’t just up and do it. For all of its astonishing success, Marvel Studios would have to go around the world to get the movie made — the world in the Universal logo. 

Marvel Studios could make a Hulk movie, but to do it, they would have to run it by Universal first. In an arrangement dating back to the days of the series, Universal owns the distribution rights to the Hulk and they have right of first refusal. If they refused it, Disney/Marvel could make the movie, but does anyone really believe Universal would pass up another chance at Marvel money? Doubtful.

So, in a mirror of the arrangement Marvel has with Sony, they can put the Hulk in an Avengers or Thor movie no problem. But if the Hulk is the star, Universal gets the ball first. Disney already had trouble sustaining its Spider-Man arrangement with Sony. They may not want to go through that again with the Hulk.

Should Marvel try the Hulk again?

Marvel hasn’t completely given up on Hulk-related characters; they’re already working on a She-Hulk series for Disney+. But let’s just say for the sake of argument Marvel had the screen rights to Hulk free and clear. Should they try again with their green giant?

A Polygon article argues that it’s too late and that Marvel “failed” the Hulk even with the otherwise very successful Avengers Endgame. It states: “To be clear, I do think that the new Huffalo is enjoyable as all hell. The character is funny, charming, and something we haven’t really seen before in these films. But my jaw was on the ground when Endgame finished, because the Hulk character has literally nothing to do on any emotional level for most of the running time. He’s just … there.”

Yes, the article argues,  Professor Hulk made the snap that brought everyone back, but he never really got that cathartic resolution the character demands. Even Marvel at this point seems uncertain of the Hulk’s future, with no sign of him anywhere in Phase 4. Only time will tell if/when/how we see the Hulk again. Maybe it’s better not to?