With the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Two about to come to a close with Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, let's look ahead to what might come in Phase Three starting 2015. Although there are only three official movies in Phase Three with Captain America 3, Ant-Man, and The Avengers 3, it's believed that Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would also come into play in Marvel's bigger plan for worldwide superhero movie domination.
Now it's unclear if Guardians of the Galaxy will be a hit film, but let's assume Disney's marketing and the Marvel brand name would be enough to generate positive box office numbers. If that's the case, Guardians of the Galaxy will set the stage for a new team up movie with The Avengers one day. But how will the cosmic team join forces with Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
According to Drew McWeeny from HitFix, Marvel might "kill two birds with one stone" with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and a possible Planet Hulk movie (Read my thoughts on a live-action Planet Hulk movie here). As we all know, Marvel has a penchant for connecting all of their movies and making sure larger stories bleed into each other from film-to-film. Apparently, the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron would directly lead into the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel film. From McWeeny's Motion Capture blog:
READ WITH CAUTION: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and PLANET HULK.
"Without giving away why and how, let's look at the state of things for Bruce Banner at the end of "Age Of Ultron." 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 Quin jet 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.
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."
This is either true or in-depth speculation. Considering the source, I would bet on the former. Drew McWeeny is one of the best movie bloggers out there, so I'm inclined to believe this report. However, since Marvel hasn't confirmed it, we have to place this bit of information with a rumor tag for now.
I can see a way for Bruce Banner to play a bigger hero role in Age of Ultron, considering Tony Stark took the biggest risk guiding a nuclear missile into outer space in the first movie. This would be a good way to directly connect Guardians of the Galaxy with The Avengers by giving audiences a taste of what's to come in The Avengers 3.
According to Mark Ruffalo, he doesn't think a Planet Hulk movie would be a good idea as a standalone movie. Ruffalo feels that the Planet Hulk storyline is too Hulk-centric and people need Bruce Banner to connect with on the big screen. Maybe he's right, but we've already had two very Bruce Banner heavy Hulk movies and audiences didn't seem too receptive to Ang Lee's The Hulk in 2003 and Marvel's The Incredible Hulk in 2008. Ruffalo explained to MTV:
“I don’t think that’s where they’re going to go (Marvel Studios)… “Planet Hulk” is: they actually launch Bruce Banner into space to try and get rid of him and the Hulk. And he ends up freaking out, smashing up the spaceship, and it goes off course and it ends up on this planet of gladiator creatures, like pre-Christian, Romanesque.
“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. He falls in love, he has a baby, he finds a woman… and then The Avengers nuke the planet.”
Tying in Bruce Banner/The Hulk with Guardians of the Galaxy seems like a very good idea from a narrative point-of-view. Just think of the banter and interplay between Chris Pratt's Star-Lord and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. Maybe The Hulk and Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon will have a big fight scene. Maybe Banner will have Gamora as a love interest. If Guardians of the Galaxy is a hit, audiences and fans would love to see The Hulk join forces with the cosmic team of outlaws.
If the end point of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is to get Bruce Banner back to Earth, it would be a very good way to set up The Avengers 3. When Latino Review started the Planet Hulk rumors back in 2013, it was believed that The Avengers 3 would include elements of the World War Hulk story, which features The Hulk's return to Earth. In Planet Hulk, the Marvel Illuminati exile The Hulk to a distant planet where he eventually works his way from slave to king. After he becomes the planet's ruler, he seeks revenge on The Avengers for sending him away and declares war on Earth. If Banner accidentally gets shot off into outer space at the end of Age of Ultron, then his return back to Earth would be welcomed instead of feared. In this way, Marvel seems to be focusing on Thanos as the main villain in The Avengers 3 and not The Hulk.
If true, Marvel seems to be just getting started with its ambitious plan to interweave stories and characters into one giant and episodic movie. It also shows that Marvel is really thinking about the future and not making it up as they go along. With so many other movie studios trying to copy their formula, it's good to see Marvel do what they do best: building a cinematic universe for a mass audience to enjoy.