Believe it or not, it's been nine years since we last watched a solo Hulk film. In the years since, of course, the part of Bruce Banner has been recast; he's now played by Mark Ruffalo, not by Edward Norton, which means the current iteration of the Hulk has never starred in his own movie.
In an interview at the D23 Expo 2017, Ruffalo has just weighed in on whether he thinks this will ever change — and it's not good news for Hulk fans.
"I want to just make one thing perfectly clear today: A standalone ‘Hulk’ movie will never happen. Universal has the rights, and for some reason, they don’t know how to play well with Marvel. And, they don’t want to make money."
What's Going On?
As all Marvel fans know, the House of Ideas doesn't own the production rights to all their characters. That's why Fox has a separate X-Men universe, for example, and it's why Marvel had to do a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. The Hulk's rights, though, are even more complex.
Without going into the complex history, Marvel has the production rights to the Hulk. That means the Hulk can appear in any Marvel movie, and Marvel can use any Hulk character in a film. But — and it's a crucial but — Marvel doesn't own the distribution rights. Those were retained by Universal. That means Universal set the release date, make deals with theaters to arrange showings, and control the film's release. Distribution rights are expensive, but are also where the profits come in.
Back before Marvel was purchased by Disney, there was simply no way the company could afford distribution. So, while they purchased the production rights back from Universal in order to make 2008's The Incredible Hulk, they agreed to Universal retaining distribution rights. After the Disney purchase, with the financial clout of Disney behind it, Marvel was able to buy back most of the distribution rights. But not for the Hulk; those distribution rights still sit with Universal.
So we have an impasse. Universal want to distribute any future Hulk movie (and continue distributing the classic TV series). Meanwhile, Marvel aren't interested in having another company distribute their films any more. No doubt Marvel would be willing to buy, but Universal don't seem willing to sell.
Mark Ruffalo seems convinced that this isn't going to change.
Fear Not, Hulk Fans!
The good news, though, is that the Hulk is still an important character in the MCU. Marvel may not be willing to make a solo Hulk film under the current arrangements, but the character can still turn up in other movies — whether as a guest star in Thor: Ragnarok, or as a member of the Avengers. Hulk fans are very much aware that Thor: Ragnarok has adapted one of the most famous Hulk stories of all time, 'Planet Hulk', and Ruffalo is convinced this approach will delight fans. As he explained in an earlier interview:
"We’ve worked a really interesting arc into Thor 3, Avengers 3 and 4 for Banner that I think will – when it’s all added up – will feel like a Hulk movie, a standalone movie."
Now, it's worth noting that Avengers: Infinity War has changed shape a lot since that quote; still, the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok have certainly suggested the Hulk's arc is on-track, so Ruffalo's assurance should leave fans optimistic.
Sorry, #Marvel fans; if #MarkRuffalo is right, then you're not going to see him star in a solo Hulk movie in the MCU. Thankfully, though, that doesn't mean he isn't an important character. With Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War and Avengers 4 on the horizon, we're going to see a lot more of the green giant. Only time will tell whether Ruffalo's assurance proves right.
Do you want to see a solo Hulk film starring Mark Ruffalo?