With Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe well underway with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many have wondered what the future holds for the widely popular film franchise and Marvel Studios. If successful, the upcoming release of Guardians of the Galaxy this August will prove that Marvel Studios can sell an audience on just about anything from their deep bench of characters and storylines. After all, not many mainstream live-action blockbusters will feature an intelligent walking tree and a gun-loving talking raccoon as main characters. Phase Two will come to an end on May 1, 2015 with the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but what does Marvel Studios have in store for fans with Phase Three starting up later in 2015.
Well, Phase Three starts on July 17, 2015 with Ant-Man, the first movie from Marvel Studios from a bona fide auteur director with Edgar Wright in the director’s seat, and with Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016, a movie that will go head-to-head with Warner Bros and DC Comics Man of Steel sequel. At the moment, there are only two movies in development for Phase Three with about a few more that are rumored, such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Thor 3, and The Avengers 3. While it’s likely that Thor 3 and The Avengers 3 are locks for Phase Three and Doctor Strange is likely the new superhero to be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there something to be said for the lack of movement on one of the most popular and fan-favorite characters in The Avengers, The Hulk. At the moment, Marvel doesn’t plan to feature “The Big Guy” in his own standalone movie.
Now I can see why Marvel would be hesitant to make another Hulk movie. Ang Lee’s The Hulk in 2003 didn’t exactly change the face of comic book movies in the early 21st Century and its sort of sequel The Incredible Hulk in 2008 is the one movie in Phase One that viewers can actually skip and not miss a beat with the overall story. Since 2003, three different actors have played Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and now Mark Ruffalo), so it’s not so easy to keep the superhero’s mythology consistent throughout the years. But now Marvel Studios has found a Hulk that studio executives and fans can agree on with Mark Ruffalo and it seems that the comic book movie studio should really re-consider placing him as the lead in his own movie. The perfect storyline from the comic books is just waiting to be made into a live-action summer tentpole blockbuster spectacular and that’s Planet Hulk.
From comic book writer Greg Pak, Planet Hulk release ran from spring 2006 through summer 2007. The story starts off the Marvel Illuminati banishing The Hulk from Earth to a distant planet when it become aware that he is uncontrollable. He crash-lands on the planet Sakaar and is immediately sold into slavery as a gladiator. Once The Hulk grows in the ranks and wins the favor of the Sakaarans, The Hulk becomes the king of the planet. The story is actually engaging and shows that The Hulk has a lot of sympathy and humanity. It expands The Hulk as a hero, not only on Earth, but also in Marvel’s cosmic universe. Planet Hulk is probably the one modern-day story that expands The Hulk as a more interesting character in the Marvel universe. Back in February 2013, Latino Review was reporting that Marvel Studios were planning to bring Planet Hulk to the big screen, but ever since the outlet’s initial report, there has been no activity surrounding the project and a wall of denials from Marvel higher-ups such as Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon. Of course, there are a few problems with bringing Planet Hulk to the big screen.
Firstly, the Marvel Illuminati, which is a secret organization that molds and shapes the world’s super-powered people. This group is made up of Iron Man, Professor Charles Xavier, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans. Marvel Studios doesn’t have the film rights to the characters Professor Xavier and Reed Richards (Fox) and Namor the Sub-Mariner (Universal), so it would be difficult to find suitable replacements. The Silver Surfer also plays heavily in the story and Marvel Studios don’t own the film rights to that character either. In the animated movie that Marvel made in 2010, Silver Surfer was replaced with Beta Ray Bill, a Korbinite alien warrior who is worthy enough to wield Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Nevertheless, Marvel Studios could figure out how to replace the characters or simply not include them in the Marvel Illuminati.
Secondly, Mark Ruffalo has a six-picture deal to play Bruce Banner and The Hulk. The problem is that the Planet Hulk storyline doesn’t feature Bruce Banner at all. It starts and ends with The Hulk doing his Hulk-thing with no Bruce Banner in sight. Would Mark Ruffalo agree to appear in a movie that doesn’t really feature him in human form? If so, Mark Ruffalo would be relegated to simply a voiceover job, instead of a full acting job (I’m sorry, but I don’t mean to sound so reductive). At the moment, Ruffalo has officially appeared in The Avengers and Iron Man 3, but only as a cameo in the latter, so I’m not sure if that counts towards his six-picture deal with the comic book movie studio.
Thirdly, Planet Hulk is weird, really weird. The story takes place entirely on a different planet and features strange bug-like aliens with the Sakaarans. Taking into consideration that The Hulk is front-and-center at all times in the would-be movie and it feels that it would be too much for general audiences to take in. That’s of course, if Guardians of the Galaxy is a pure failure. If the cosmic comic book movie succeeds, then Marvel Studios would likely explore as much of their cosmic storylines and characters as possible, including Planet Hulk. But in the end, Planet Hulk just might be too weird for general audiences and hardcore fans alike.
Once The Hulk is the new king of the planet Sakaar, he returns to Earth to seek revenge on the Marvel Illuminati and The Avengers for banishing him to a distant planet in the comic book storyline World War Hulk. A Planet Hulk movie could tease this in a would-be post-credit sequence and could lead into The Avengers 3. Hell, The Avengers could call upon the Guardians of the Galaxy to help them take down The Hulk before the film franchise goes into Phase Four. Needless to say, Marvel Studios needs The Hulk to be around to keep fans happy and to continue to explore their cinematic universe. The only question is: are Marvel Studios and general audiences ready for a live-action Planet Hulk movie? I know I am.
Marvel's Planet Hulk animated film is now on Netflix Instant. Watch it now!