With 13 films and a combined gross of $10.2 billion under its belt, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has cemented itself as a staple of modern pop culture and the most successful extended movie franchise in history. Since the series' conception in 2008, Marvel has been able to make critically praised and financially successful films out of B and C-list characters like Iron Man and Ant-Man, Star-Lord and Gamora and turn them into widely-beloved personalities.
Strangely, though, they haven't been able to make a complete success out of one of their most prominent characters: The Incredible Hulk. Even though the hero has had two solo films, two successful appearances in The Avengers and is currently slated to co-star alongside Thor in Thor: Ragnarok, the green goliath can't seem to catch a break in the sequel department. While there have been many rumblings about a sequel to 2008's The Incredible Hulk, with either The Incredible Hulk 2 or even a Planet Hulk spin-off, there's been no proof of serious commitment to the project, though the rumors are ongoing.
I am a big fan of The Incredible Hulk and I don't believe it deserves the criticism it usually gets. For me, it was the perfect blend of story, great characters and amazing action. With that said, I want to establish what I think a Hulk 2 with Mark Ruffalo can be, should have and can do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let's get started:
The Approach To 'Hulk 2'
Many have stated that it would be extremely hard to make a compelling solo film for the Hulk, saying "he would just smash his way out and move on with his day", I respectfully disagree with that argument. You see, the Hulk is like an onion: He has many layers and only a few of them have been explored on film.
What I would like to see in this second installment is Bruce Banner's more confident side. We've already seen the paranoid version of the character. Instead, let's work with a Bruce Banner that is confident when turning into the Hulk.
An aspect we've seen countless times in superhero films is a city or the world being in danger. With this film, Marvel could take the chance to have the film be based around a selfish purpose.
What do I mean by that? Have him go on a journey that's entirely for his own benefit. Is someone making a Hulk-neutralizing vaccine? Does M.O.D.O.K. want to harvest the Hulk's organs? Have Banner go on an adventure to stop that to keep himself safe. All of these aspects would bring freshness to the Hulk's story, something it needs to avoid complaints previous Hulk films have had and clichés other films present.
The Characters We Could Include
An important aspect for a story to work are the characters. So far, the only Hulk characters Marvel has delved into on film are Betty Ross and General Ross.
This film would be an opportunity to explore new people. Take Rick Jones as an example: Wouldn't it be cool that he is shown as someone who, despite all the negativity out there towards the Hulk, believes in what the green giant is doing and wants to help him in any way he can? Jones would give the Hulk a friend to lean on, maybe not during a physical confrontation, but be a good remedy for the giant's loneliness. Admit it, we would all love to see a softer side of Hulk that isn't romantic.
Another character that should be explored further is Doc Samson. He not only means a new superhero for the MCU, but would add something that we've never seen in Hulk's live-action stories before: Hulk having a gamma-powered ally that could lift some of the weight off his shoulders. Samson is a noble individual that, with the right writers and actor, could become one of the most likable superhero portrayals to date.
In my opinion, Betty Ross should play a smaller role. This would make the film one of the few superhero adventures that doesn't focus on a romantic relationship but still explores deeper levels and reaches further into a character's subconscious.
The Villains He Should Fight
The green goliath has an impressive rogues gallery. The problem is that we've never seen them on screen. The Hulk is, by nature, a weird character, and with Marvel having paved the way for more outlandish stories in film, now is the perfect time to take advantage of the Hulk's villains.
Keep in mind, I am not talking about feeling like you are hallucinating when watching the film. What I mean is being able to take a guy who has an XL forehead or a gigantic head seriously. With that in mind, I've chosen three characters that can carry the weight of having a whole movie focused on their evil schemes and would work really well in a sequel.
1. The Leader - The Most Intelligent Of Hulk's Enemies
The MCU and Hulk's current state creates the perfect opportunity for The Leader's introduction. Samuel Sterns was a prominent character in The Incredible Hulk and his transformation into the Leader was teased but (unfortunately) never paid off. His inclusion into this world would be perfect simply because of how different he is. Thanks to his superior intelligence, he could throw a plan together, hire muscle to do the dirty work for him, and simply wait for everything to pay off.
And while his appearance may make some think of him as just a funny character, The Leader is a dangerous individual that has come close to defeating the Hulk on several occasions due to his careful and methodical planning.
The character's intelligence enables him to develop a logical plan that unfolds as the film progresses. Said plan has the possibility to surpass the cleverness of plots we've seen in other films, such as Mission: Impossible and surprise the audience with a level of depth that is rarely seen (and needed) in comic book films.
2. M.O.D.O.K. - Mental Mobile Mechanized Organism Designed Only For Killing
M.O.D.O.K. is a complicated topic, his appearance so bizarre he could make even an inexperienced moviegoer go "What the hell am I watching?" How could that be avoided? Present him as who M.O.D.O.K. is at his core: A damaged and scarred individual — with a lot of weapons.
The way M.O.D.O.K. operates opens a myriad number of challenges for Hulk. He is affiliated with A.I.M., the same criminal tech company that was prominently featured in Iron Man 3. With that organization at M.O.D.O.K.'s disposal, it could create conflict for the jade giant throughout an entire film.
The character, due to his physical deformity, needs constant organ transplants to keep his body working. In my opinion, a film of him wanting to get the Hulk's organs to never have to worry about transplants again is a really cool story possibility and embraces the "selfish purpose" we talked about.
3. Red Hulk - Thunderbolt Ross Gone Rogue
General Thunderbolt Ross is someone that's been deeply explored in previous films. With that said, having him morph into his more imposing and threatening alter ego would be simply amazing.
The Red Hulk is a very dangerous adversary, especially for the Hulk. He is a vicious and merciless man with military combat training that's hated the Hulk for years, and finally has the power to stand up to him.
Remember, we are trying to avoid the audience saying "Why doesn't Hulk just fight him and move on?" General Ross/Red Hulk could make a really cool hunter-hunted plot. Maybe have Hulk fight him at the beginning of the film, get his butt handed to him and eventually get the upper hand on his red nemesis. Plus, wouldn't it be sweet to finally see a live-action Hulk vs. Red Hulk fight? William Hurt already reprised his role as General Ross in Captain America: Civil War, so it just seems a shame to waste him.
A Hulk sequel has the potential to add several new facets to the MCU because of the character's nature. The Hulk fulfills a fantasy that many have: Having a hidden power, something that no one knows you possess. That's an aspect that can be deeply explored in a solo film, something that filmmakers haven't been able to do with larger ensemble pieces like The Avengers.
Adding that wish-fulfillment back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe would make the Hulk a much more relatable character and would entice audiences to keep coming back for more. He wouldn't just be the muscle of a group of superheroes, he would be someone fighting for survival or trying to help people or trying to lead a normal life with the curse he's burdened with.
The Hulk is an amazing character (in case that hasn't been clear), who has a crazy and wonderful world around him. And, considering the current state comic book films are in, where people are more open-minded towards more outlandish stories than they were 10 years ago, the Hulk would be a perfect addition to the ever-growing list of super powered characters getting their shot on the silver screen.
Would you like to see Hulk 2 happen? If so, which villain do you think he should fight?