Just how did the Hulk wind up appearing in Thor: Ragnarok? On the face of it, the character's inclusion is a pretty random twist. After all, what does the Hulk have to do with the End of Days and the fall of Asgard? And yet, as surprising as this plot thread may be, it's also one of the most exciting elements of the film. The Hulk and Thor have been rivals since 2012's The Avengers, and fans are thrilled at the idea of seeing these two titans go head-to-head. It's an inspired twist, one that fits so well with the overarching narrative of the MCU. In a series of recent interviews, Kevin Feige has finally revealed just how it came to pass...
The First 'Planet Hulk' Rumors
Our story begins back in 2014, when The Wrap published rumors that Marvel was preparing to make a Planet Hulk movie. This is one of the most popular Hulk stories of all time, and sees the Jade Giant banished to the distant world of Sakaar. The Hulk soon become a gladiator in honor of the Red King, and ultimately led a successful uprising against the barbarian ruler. The original idea came from Marvel's Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, but writer Greg Pak was given complete freedom to create this new alien world. He reveled in it, and as a result, fans soon found themselves thrilling to one of the most creative Hulk stories to date.
But there was a problem with The Wrap's report. It wasn't true.
At the time, Marvel didn't have any plans for the Hulk's future. That said, Joss Whedon was already filming a sequence in which the Hulk's Quinjet flew into space. The script even called for S.H.I.E.L.D. to lose the Quinjet's signal as it flew past Saturn! Unfortunately for Marvel, this new rumor changed everything. #KevinFeige immediately realized that such a scene would be interpreted as setup for Planet Hulk. As Feige told The Wrap in a recent interview, clearly amused to call back to this old rumor:
"We said, ‘Joss, we can’t do that because he’s not going into space and people are going to think we’re doing ‘Planet Hulk’ because Umberto has some big hot scoop that we’re doing ‘Planet Hulk,’ we can’t do it.’ He goes, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ We said, ‘We don’t know.’"
Dialogue was swiftly changed, with the Quinjet's signal lost somewhere in the Caspian Sea. The background was adjusted in post-production, so we only saw the Quinjet flying through blue sky rather than space. Marvel had dodged a bullet.
Reconsidering The Hulk's Role
The fundamental problem with the Hulk is that, while Marvel owns the production rights to the character, they don't own the distribution rights. That wasn't a problem back before Marvel was purchased by Disney. When the House of Ideas first began to establish the #MCU, they actually didn't have a distribution side to the business at all. That's why we The Incredible Hulk was distributed by Universal. Things changed in August 2009, when the Disney purchase gave Marvel a massive global distribution system. Now, Marvel understandably prioritize franchises where they have control of distribution, and hence earn the full profits from the films. Although Marvel insiders have clearly always been fond of Planet Hulk, this simple business logic meant a solo film was off the table.
Again though, it was during production of Age of Ultron that Marvel first began toying with a potential solution to this issue. As Feige told CinemaBlend, Chris Hemsworth was keen for a change of tone, and he'd noticed the success of films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hemsworth was particularly excited by the idea of featuring other Marvel heroes in his third Thor movie, and he kept approaching Feige and asking who would star alongside him.
The answer was the Hulk. In something of a reversal, Feige began wondering just how far that Quinjet could have taken the Jade Giant.
"And quickly we started to think about the Hulk. We started to think about, 'Well, we last saw Hulk in a quinjet going up into the atmosphere. Maybe it kept going!"
A Planet Hulk film wasn't an option, but would it be possible to blend that arc with the next Thor movie? The pieces began to fall into place. On the one hand, you had the idea of pitting the Hulk and Thor against one another in an arena. On the other, Feige also loved the idea of "the fish out of water comedy of having Bruce Banner on another fricken planet." Feige credits writer Eric Pearson with bringing the idea to life, while he had another task. He had to go back to Joss Whedon and tell him they were taking the Hulk into space after all!
The rest, as they say, is history. By January 2016, the plot of Thor: Ragnarok had even become the foundation for a Hulk arc that would run through Avengers: Infinity War and into Avengers 4. A thrilled Mark Ruffalo explained that, when added together, these plot beats would "feel like a Hulk movie, a standalone movie."
We always like to imagine that #Marvel Studios play the long game. In reality, they're tremendously flexible, and in this case, we can see that their plans were actually changed by a rumor. While we're still not going to see another Hulk solo film anytime soon, the reality is that matters seem to have worked out for the best. The gladiator match between the #Hulk and Thor is one of the most exciting elements of Thor: Ragnarok, and it's also setting up a major character arc for the future.
Do you want to see another solo Hulk movie? Let me know what plots you'd like to see in the comments!