After 2008's The Incredible Hulk (starring Edward Norton), Marvel had its second film in a connected universe. All the films eventually led to Marvel's [The Avengers](movie:9040) in 2012, and the film starred Mark Ruffalo as Hulk.
With many rumors surrounding the recasting decision, but nothing too damaging, Norton I believe was a fine Bruce Banner, and brought a certain intelligence to the Hulk, as well as his loneliness, which I felt was well done in the film.
However, Norton is a very "A-List" Actor, and Marvel already has quite a few of those. Robert Downey Jr. takes a quite of the takings for the Marvel films. Norton also had re-written a lot of the script for The Incredible Hulk, working that into his contract and receiving additional payment. With Joss Whedon, I feel that he knew where he wanted to go with the script, and didn't want any kind of outsider working on it. Good for him, because he knows what he's doing.
So as much as I love Edward Norton, I'm glad for the sake of the future Marvel films, that we now have Mark Ruffalo (whose performance in The Avengers was really very good).
Ruffalo brought a nervousness and vulnerability to the role of Bruce Banner, yet at the same time, an underlying threat.
Now that Ruffalo is the new Hulk, what does the recasting mean for The Incredible Hulk? Well, hopefully nothing. Marvel has repeated that the film is canon, and remains in the cinematic universe, so any Hulk movie, would be a sequel, despite a different cast. Does that mean Liv Tyler and William Hurt won't be reprising their respective roles as Betty Ross and Gen. Ross? I doubt very much that Marvel would recast everyone, but its not entirely outrageous if it would happen.
I do hope that they aren't recast, just to at least make it seem like nothing has changed since the first Hulk film. Nothing has been indicated about how these other characters are since the events of the first film.
In the Avengers, it seems like Hulk is the only one who doesn't have a supporting character even mentioned. (Jane Foster was even mentioned!) Abomination, Gen. Ross, Dr. Stern, and Betty were all left out of the film (even in mentions). The only two (sort of) Hulk mentions were the story of the bullet in the mouth (which was a deleted scene for the Incredible Hulk), and the "last time I was in New York I sort of...Broke Harlem." Though Captain America is told a little bit about the Super Soldier Serum, that's sort of a reference as well.
Both fun references, but nothing to explain how he gets to India, and nothing to explain the other characters that would be looking for him. Gen Ross and Betty would be looking for him, why do we not have some kind of reference to them since we last saw them in Hulk's film? They surely saw the footage of him with the Avengers. Is SHIELD keeping them away?
Sorry, that's classified information...
(In other words, we don't know)
Now Joss Whedon AND Kevin Feige have both promised that Hulk will be a major part of Avengers 2. I hope so. Nothing's been seen of the big green Goliath since 2012. (That will be three years when Avengers 2 comes out).
Lou Ferrigno and Mark Ruffalo have both teased a solo Hulk film soon, and Ruffalo has said he would be willing to do it. Due to him getting more practice with the CGI in this next Avengers film, I believe its only a matter of time before Hulk will Smash back onto the big screen in full green color.
Now, Kevin Feige has confirmed plans for a cinematic universe stretching out even as far as 2028. Seems hard to believe Hulk isn't somewhere in that timeline, especially since every superhero seems to be getting a trilogy at least in the current lineup. A hulk movie every two or three phases would ensure his presence, so I'm fine with that. Though at that rate, the third Hulk movie might be released around Phase 5, which might be right on (or very near) the 2028 date.
So take a look at this image below:
This is concept art for Avengers 2.
All you comic fans know that that is Iron Man's Hulkbuster suit. We heard from Ruffalo and Whedon that they're exploring Hulk's complexities in the new Avengers film. That, and we'll be seeing more of him in the film. What side will he be on? Will he lose control again? For what reason does Iron Man need to break out the armor?
Of course this is only concept art, and may not have gone beyond concept stage, but it's still something to ponder.
I have my own theory as to why (besides not wanting to) Hulk doesnt have a sequel yet.
In The Incredible Hulk, we follow a lonely Bruce Banner, and at the very end, he goes back off alone and tries to control his anger.
He succeeds in the end as can be seen by the very last scene (pictured above) before Tony Stark walks into a bar (that sounds like a joke, but really, he does.)
Now after he joins the Avengers, he's no longer alone. He has a team, and people to rely on, and people that will rely on him. Hulk movies need to focus on Banner's solitude and difference. It's what Hulk comics have always been about, how separate he is from everybody (including the team) and how he's struggling with his powers and identity (his first appearance had the tagline: Is he man? Is he monster? OR Is he BOTH?).
IF for whatever reason, Iron Man does have to start fighting him, that's the cue for Hulk to be on his own again. After that, I truly believe a solo movie won't be too far behind. Actually, despite my initial thoughts, Avengers 2 could be setting up for Planet Hulk. Tony Stark, fighting Hulk, realizing he could be a threat trying to send him away. Honestly, I feel like Hulk has more chance of meeting up with the Guardians of the Galaxy more than Iron Man does.
Hard to believe that could all happen, since we see Tony and Bruce hanging out at the end of [Iron Man 3](movie:24391). That makes the plot even more complex, and the decisions even harder for the characters. I can see it happening. In the comics, the first Avenger to leave the team was the Hulk. I think it'll happen again.
Now, I personally wouldn't mind seeing a Planet Hulk movie, but it's not my favorite Hulk story. I would much rather see him saving the world again first and fighting an actual Hulk villain.
Seeing Gen. Ross or Abomination again would be cool, or better yet, actually making use of the existing storyline.
At the end of the first Hulk film, Dr. Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson), he gets injured and his wounds get filled with Bruce Banner's blood, causing his forehead to morph.
This is meant to be the introduction of the classic Hulk Villain: The Leader. Makes sense he would pop up again in another Hulk movie, and I personally would like to see it. Bruce's blood made this man evil, that's a complex plot already.
Tim Blake Nelson is also perfect for the role (and also for the Mole Man role over at Fox's Fantastic Four)
Red Hulk could be introduced later on. Ross is up to something by now or that's a really long hangover he's having since Stark left him at the bar.
And, what happened to Abomination?
Last we saw him, he was unconscious after almost being strangled by a chain. That guy is bad news for even the Hulk. Where did they put that guy? Did they get him back to normal? Where do you imprison a guy like that?
(Agents of SHIELD mentioned he was imprisoned somewhere, but he could always escape.)
Marvel is going to be around for awhile and he is a major character. He's been teased for a sequel by two Hulk actors (Ferrigno and Ruffalo).
The ending of the first film, with his anger control and with the Leader, Gen. Ross, Abomination, and the easter eggs for other Hulk characters are too many to ignore forever.
Hulk has a strong (literally) role in the Marvel universe, and a lot of interesting characters to choose from.
What about all the other Hulk references in the MCU?
Bruce Banner is referenced by name several times in [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973), and cameos at the end of Iron Man 3.
He's gonna show up as one of the main stars in Avengers: Age of Ultron, possibly against Iron Man and the Avengers.
I personally believe it will come, but I hope its sooner than later.
Also Read: Avengers 2: Hulk and Hawkeye
What do you all think? I personally cant wait for Ruffalo to "suit up" (more like suit down).