This past weekend's panels at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) delivered a major reveal in the form of a spoiler for Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and it involves some very pivotal characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those individuals being Hulk and Thor.
The latest news from the Marvel Panel at (SDCC) has Vice President of Marvel Digital Media, Ryan Penagos revealing the gladiator-style armor that Hulk will wear in Thor: Ragnarok. The armor and weaponry are prominently displayed for everyone to see during the panel in Hall H. While some fans may be curiously optimistic because the Hulk is getting to suit up in gladiator armor, die-hard fans of Marvel Comics know that the gladiator armor means much more to the MCU than simply providing Hulk with some useful weaponry. The armor is a key identifier of Hulk's wardrobe during the "Planet Hulk" comic-book event.
Marvel Comics' History Of The Planet Hulk Event
In Marvel Comics, Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk is famously known for suiting up in a gladiator-style armor during the Planet Hulk event, wherein several intelligent super heroes of the Marvel Universe — including Iron Man, Reed Richards and Dr. Strange decided to blast Hulk off into space in order to bring an end to his reign of destruction. The mission appears successful at first, but the whole thing goes to hell when the spaceship holding the Hulk malfunctions and sends him rocketing onto the gladiatorial-fueled world of Sakaar. Eventually, the Hulk (donning his gladiator armor) manages to overthrow the ruling dictatorship of Sakaar and becomes its king. Soon after, the planet of Sakaar is destroyed, leaving Hulk as the sole survivor. The Hulk then journeys back to Earth to enact some misguided revenge on the heroes of Earth in what has been deemed the "World War Hulk" event. More on "World War Hulk" later.
How The 'Planet Hulk' Event Could Be Integrated Into Thor: Ragnarok
If the indication of Hulk donning his gladiatorial armor means anything, it definitely means that particular elements from the Planet Hulk comic event will be incorporated into Thor: Ragnarok. But as to how much of Planet Hulk will make it into Ragnarok is up for debate. There could be an entire portion of the film devoted to Hulk exploring a distant planet like Sakaar, or Thor may venture out on a quest with Hulk that results in them unexpectedly separated from one another. It is then that Hulk will gain an opportunity to go on his solo Planet Hulk adventure.
In the latter scenario, it would make sense for Thor: Ragnarok to feature Hulk by Thor's side while they journey through Hel together. And the perfect way to end their journey would be to leave Hulk stranded on a planet like Sakaar to experience the Planet Hulk arc from Marvel Comics while Thor returns to Earth for a meeting with the Avengers.
(Thor is going to be caught off guard the next time he returns to Earth. His friends and comrades are no longer allies and the Avengers have been disassembled, the god of thunder may very well have a fit when he comes to this conclusion on his own.)
But in the more likely scenario, Thor: Ragnarok will likely feature Hulk and Thor on a distant planet like Sakaar wherein Thor is without his demi-god powers once again. As to how that'll happen may have something to do with Hela coming to the MCU — entirely speculative at the moment.
Although, the idea of Thor losing his demi-god powers once again would raise the amount of risk in his upcoming adventures, especially if the only other person around to help him is the uncontrollable Hulk. Having some mortality and risk given back to Thor would definitely spark interest from fans in seeing the fate of Thor play out because in all honesty, Thor is kind of a lame duck superhero. He's invulnerable to almost anything and an immortal demi-god from Asgard; there's no real risk to anything he does if his life is never in jeopardy. But if Thor were to lose his powers while on a planet like Sakaar for instance, he'd definitely have to rely on his skills and know-how to survive the savage planet, as well as forming an alliance with the Hulk.
No Doubting It Anymore, Planet Hulk Is Coming!
Either way, some elements of the Planet Hulk comic event will play into Thor: Ragnarok. The gladiatorial armor revealed during (SDCC) this week is enough evidence to safely confirm that Hulk will indeed participate in some iteration of the Planet Hulk event. The armor itself is enough to ponder on in determining that fact.
When it comes to the Hulk, we need to think rationally about his mindset and lack thereof. In the Hulk's case, he's never been very tame and as he stands in the MCU, the Hulk's alter-ego Bruce Banner hasn't gained any level of control over the Hulk. However, we can't fail to mention how the Hulk began to demonstrate his ability to control himself during Avengers: Age of Ultron. But regardless of the subtle change in the Hulk's behavior, he's still known to be an uncontrollable beast with no limitation of power or rage. And it's highly unlikely that the Hulk will allow anyone to place the gladiatorial armor on him, much less wear it by his own volition unless a specific event during Thor: Ragnarok grants the Hulk control over his rage, allowing him the foresight of rational thinking in order for him to use the armor given to him.
There's also a comic-book basis for the Hulk becoming self-aware during the Planet Hulk event, wherein a device is placed on the Hulk to allow him to control his baser instincts. The device is deemed an "obedience disk," which makes perfect sense in placing it on the Hulk. He would be subdued and able to communicate due to commands being issued to do so. If the events of Thor: Ragnarok play out similarly to the Planet Hulk event, the Hulk may be outfitted with an obedience disk that'll aide him in the long run by giving him control over his rage and using the full capacity of his brain. However, that drives the question of what could happen in the scenario that the obedience disk is removed from the Hulk at an unexpected moment — will the Hulk immediately go into one of his berserker rages or will he retain some level of control?
Does The Hulk Have A Mind Of His Own, Or Is It Just Bruce In The Background Of Everything?
Regardless of the obedience disk being utilized in the film, if and when Hulk becomes self aware of his nature, it'll be quite interesting to see which persona the Hulk will embody. There's potential for the Hulk to have his own level of consciousness hidden underneath all the rage and fury or for him to actually have Bruce Banner's consciousness underneath all the rage. Either scenario has some level of plausibility to it. The Hulk does appear to have a mind of his own at times, despite all the rage exhibited when he' angry. He also seems to be displaying personality attributes. It's possible that those underlying attributes are only a part of the Hulk because Bruce Banner is the subconscious mind behind the Hulk, and vice-versa.
The two play hand in hand with one another. If the personality attributes are anything to go off of, it could mean that Bruce Banner has actually been in control of the Hulk the entire time — he just hasn't had full control over the anger (which sets off incidences of the Hulk raging). Or in the latter scenario, depicting the Hulk as his own person would provide more depth to his character. As well as giving the Hulk an opportunity to shine in subtly comedic moments — being able to vocalize a pun or play on words. We know Hulk likes to play around as he punched Thor after their victory in The Avengers (2012), we may get to see more of the Hulk's wild antics during Thor: Ragnarok if he takes control of his raw nature.
For now, all we can do is theorize on how much Thor: Ragnarok will mirror the Marvel Comics event of Planet Hulk. There may be an entire depiction of the comic event or simply some subtle elements from the comic event which will aid the progression of Thor: Ragnarok. In the mean time, check out the animated feature of Planet Hulk. It'll give you a good idea of what to expect from the Hulk if Thor: Ragnarok mirrors the Planet Hulk event at some point in the film. The trailer for the animated Planet Hulk movie is embedded below:
(There's still one question begging to be asked, in regards to the Hulk's fate during Thor: Ragnarok. We don't know how much of the Planet Hulk event will make it into the film despite the promotional image of Hulk's gladiatorial armor, which may only be utilized to a small degree. Is it possible that the gladiatorial armor will be given to the Hulk towards the conclusion of Ragnarok as he's left on Sakarr to fully enact the Planet Hulk event? From there, anything could happen, including a solo adventure for the Hulk. We'll just have to wait and find out when more information is revealed.)
What do you think? Should the entire Planet Hulk event take place during Thor: Ragnarok or should Ragnarok be used to set up Hulk's own solo feature in Phase 4 of Marvel's Cinematic Universe? Have any thought? Leave them in the comments section below.
Thor: Ragnarok premieres domestically November 3, 2017. Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, and Tessa Thompson.