Can the Hulk smash his way to solo-movie success with Marvel Studios?
So where does the Incredible Hulk go from Ragnarok?
The success of Marvel Studios' not so jolly, green and gamma-radiated giant in "Thor: Ragnarok" -- as well as his guest appearances in past and future "Avengers" films -- has proven that the Hulk still has potential on the big screen.
What isn't so clear is if the Hulk will continue to be the strongest guest star there is, or if he'll once again star in his own movie as he did back in the early days of Marvel Studios. ("The Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton, debuted in 2008. We won't bring up 2003's "Hulk" starring Eric Bana and directed by Ang Lee because we're trying to convince you that Hulk movies work, right? And that was way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe's existence anyway.)
A quick internet search can point you to the comments of actor Mark Ruffalo -- the only actor who has played Bruce Banner/Hulk in multiple movies -- who said in July that a Hulk movie will never happen because Universal doesn't want to play nice with Marvel Studios. If Marvel Studios wants to use the green giant in a movie, it must be in a guest star/team-up way; if they wanted to make a solo effort, Universal (who has the rights to a solo Hulk movie) would have to be involved.
Marvel Studios has already proven they can share with others with their successful (and almost impossible to pull off) reboot of "Spider-Man." During the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no one thought Spider-Man would be able to take part in an "Avengers" movie because the web-slinger's rights belonged to Sony. But Marvel Studios made a bold move in their efforts to collaborate, and Sony very wisely realized they were in danger of tarnishing a once indestructible superhero movie brand. Both sides made it work.
You can almost understand Universal's hesitation to revisit the Hulk on film: Hulk movies aren't the shining example of how to make a good superhero movie. If there's one blip in the MCU, it's Norton's "The Incredible Hulk" movie (directed by Louis Leterrier), which ironically featured a villain called "the Abomination." Not even Robert Downey Jr.'s post-credit appearance was enough to help. And while the story line moved the MCU-connected movieverse along, it didn't leave anyone hungry for more Hulk.
It's possible that Universal feels there are no more Hulk stories to tell, and that revisiting the character in a solo movie would produce more of the same ho-hum results. But if that's the mentality, that just means they don't have any comic-book people over there, like Marvel Studios does with head honcho Kevin Feige or Warner Bros./DC Entertainment does with Geoff Johns. It's important to have people who know, love and, most importantly, really care about these characters and can dive through a library's worth of stories to find the right thing to adapt for both a superhero-loving and general audience.
If Universal did have executives like that, or a passionate director like, say, "Wonder Woman's" Patty Jenkins (who didn't let a connected superhero movie universe prevent her from telling an incredibly singular heroic story), they'd realize there are a lot of potential options for a movie.
A piece to the Hulk moviemaking puzzle is already there waiting in the MCU: William Hurt's Thaddeus Ross, Marvel Studios' military man, who resurfaced as secretary of state in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War." And since the "Planet Hulk" comic-book story line has already been used in "Thor: Ragnarok," why not revisit one of the next best Hulk tales out there for a movie adaptation: the Red Hulk?
The Red Hulk is stronger, and his brain increases in strength as well, causing him to retain his intelligence when he "hulks out." His secret identity? Thaddeus Ross, who has always hated the green Hulk and Bruce Banner equally. As much as people love watching the Hulk go berserk on screen, how great would it be seeing him going up against the Rulk? (A horrible nickname, but great character.)
The gray Hulk could work, too: He's not as strong, but the much more intelligent Hulk appeared in Marvel Comics during the 1980s.
Everything is there to help the Hulk start smashing at the box office all by himself: the stories and the right actor. But if a solo-Hulk movie is truly never meant to happen again, at least we have the Revengers ... I mean, "Avengers" ... movies.