Note, potentially huge SPOILERS about Avengers: Age of Ultron (and beyond) are to be found below.
When it comes to Avengers, The Hulk may not be the most dependable - but he's still an integral part of the team. If the latest leak from the Avengers: Age of Ultron set is correct, though, that could all be about to change.
It all starts with Mark Ruffalo, and his love of messing with us all.
There's been a lot of talk lately about Ruffalo's (and by extension The Hulk's) role in Avengers: Age of Ultron - mostly to do with a potential love triangle between Bruce Banner, Black Widow and Hawkeye, and the actor's coy response to the rumors. The most recent news, though, saw Ruffalo imply that the much-anticipated Planet Hulk storyline from the comics would not be finding its way to the big screen after all. As he put it to MTV:
"'Planet Hulk?' I don't think that's the way to go yet...I think you need more Banner. The whole thing is just him as Hulk, on a planet, fighting other gladiators."
Which makes a lot of sense, since every second that Hulk is on screen costs a whole lot more than when it's just Ruffalo - not to mention the hours of motion capture involved for the actor.
For fans of Planet Hulk, though, this is terrible news.
Except, of course, for what happened next.
The story had barely hit the internet before Drew McWeeny of HitFix came out with a huge reveal of his own.
Note, this is where the SPOILERS begin to seriously hit, so take care true believers.
As McWeeny puts it:
Banner continues to play a key role in things in this movie, and when the final war with Ultron spills onto the battlefield and out of the virtual realm, he has a major part to play. Unfortunately, that ends with him onboard a Quinjet on his way off the planet, with no way to immediately turn things around. He's going to have to ride out the trip. It's pre-programmed and he can't stop it.
Which is a pretty intense way for a character to end a movie. The thing is, that isn't all that McWeeny had to say:
Here's where I'd wager his spaceship is headed: wherever the Guardians of the Galaxy are located. If I was a betting man, I'd say there will be no Hulk solo film as part of Phase Three. Instead, Banner's ship will take him to another planet, where he will end up meeting the Guardians and having an adventure with them. Hulk will definitely come out to play a few times. I suspect we'll see some sequences that very much feel like they're part of the Planet Hulk story, but that the larger story will be about the Guardians finding a way to get Banner home, only to end up going with him. That would move a big piece of the puzzle into place to get Thanos looking back at the Earth in time for the third "Avengers" film.
Which means, McWeeny suggests, that Ruffalo is cunningly avoiding the truth, rather than outright lying:
So is Mark Ruffalo telling the truth? Yes. Strictly speaking, he is sure they're not making a "Planet Hulk" film, and he can say so. But is he making a film in which the Hulk appears that uses elements of that story? I'd say it's very, very likely.
The little scamp.
The thing is, why should we care? Other than this providing us with another opportunity to hang out with the Guardians of the Galaxy - and to draw them into the mainstream MCU in time for Avengers 3 - does it really matter if we see any elements of Planet Hulk?
Oh, it matters.
It matters exactly this much:
The only limit on how much it matters, in fact, is the limit you yourself have on thinking that The Hulk being a space-gladiator is an incredibly awesome thing.
Because that's what Planet Hulk is all about.
Better yet - he's only in space in the first place because his own teammates sent him there - having tricked him onto a space shuttle. He happens to crash land on a planet obsessed with gladiatorial combat, gets forced to fight, eventually becomes a cult hero, and then ends up joining a rebellion and becoming King. Of the whole planet.
It's actually even more awesome than that sounds.
Hulk ultimately gets married, has two kids - and actually finds peace. And then there's a nuclear explosion that is also basically The Avengers' (well, technically the Illuminati's, but that's a whole other thing) fault. Which kills his wife, and destroys his home.
It's a good ol' fashioned, action-packed, deeply tragic story arc - which ends with Hulk invading the Earth.
You can probably see why they aren't going to make a live action movie of it - aside from the cost. It's already been made into an animated movie (and riffs on plot beats from any number of sci-fi movies we've already seen).
Some of it, though, could make it through to the MCU - and you know what that means?
We might just get to see something a whole lot like this clip - but with The Hulk doing the fighting:
And that is a thing that we all need in our lives.
[The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) is set for release May 1, 2015. No word yet on whether Tim Riggins is set to cameo.
What do you guys think? Which element of Planet Hulk would you most like to see in the MCU?