If The Avengers had a breakout star, it was The Hulk. Audiences fell in love with both the way the Green Goliath was portrayed on the screen and also what Mark Ruffalo brought to the role of Bruce Banner. Fans, myself included, were clamoring for a Hulk film even before the final frames of The Avengers unfurled. Well, it looks like it will take a while, but we might get our wish–in a big way. But the rumor has some kinks that need to be worked out first.
Latino Review’s El Mayimbe posted a defiant video blog early this morning where he rails against Marvel Studios and their “war” with his employer over the website releasing spoilers of Marvel films. You should really watch the video. It has the feel of a wrestling promo.
Anyway, El Mayimbe’s revenge against Marvel is his revealing that the Hulk will become a big part of the studios’ Phase 3, including a sequel to 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, with a major series of Hulk comic book story lines being adapted for the screen. What story lines? Well, I’ll tell you, so here’s your SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!!
So, Mayimbe’s sources say that the Hulk will Hulk out far more violently and dangerously than ever before in The Avengers 2. So much so that Tony Stark and his secret, hidden cadre of superpowered allies called the Illuminati decide it is better that he be banished from the face of the Earth, never to return. This banishment will come in one of the final scenes of The Avengers 2.
Stark intends to ship off Hulk to a peaceful planet so he can live out his life in comfort and safety. Unfortunately, as The Incredible Hulk 2 will show, the ship hits a wormhole and instead of the idyllic paradise, Hulk is sent to a hellish gladiatorial world, a world where Hulk has to fight aliens as strong as him–if not stronger–on a daily basis to survive. Eventually. Hulk fights his way into becoming king of the planet, and quickly sets about making plans for revenge on his former friends.
That revenge comes in The Avengers 3 as Hulk and a small group of his fellow gladiators find a way back to Earth and declare war on the planet. The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must once again protect their home from an invading force in search of vengeance, only this time the vengeance is justified and they are to blame.
Comic book fans should recognize that synopsis as the same as 2006’s Planet Hulk story line and it’s sequel crossover, 2007’s World War Hulk. It’s definitely one of the most exciting and important Hulk stories in the character’s history, and would make a fairly good series of movies. But there are several roadblocks in the comic story being adapted to the big screen as El Mayimbe describes it. What are these roadblocks? Well, I’ll tell you that too.
- The Illuminati: In the comics, the Illuminati are composed of well-respected members of the superhero community, typically people in leadership positions, who have banded together to police their fellow heroes from behind the scenes. The team consists of Iron Man and, later, Captain America. No problem there, as both have already been introduced into the Marvel Film Universe. Other members have included Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Black Bolt and Namor. Again, not much of a problem, because Dr. Strange is rumored to have a film in Phase 3, Black Panther and the Inhumans, of which Black Bolt is king of, have films in development at Marvel, and the studio also owns the rights to Namor. However, the comic book Illuminati also included Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards, Beast and Professor Charles Xavier. Rights to these characters are owned by Fox. Unless there will be a new era of cooperation between the two studios (and considering the kerfuffle last year when Marvel wanted to borrow Galactus from Fox, that new era is unlikely) , these characters will either have to be left out or replaced. And they are fairly big parts of the story line.
- The film Tony Stark isn’t really Illuminati material: The film Tony is a man who bucks authority and doesn’t like it when shadowy organizations lie and keep secrets from him. Having him willingly head up a covert organization and using his power and influence to subvert other people’s rights is something that flies in the face of his characterization up to now, and any change to his status quo is something that you’re going to have to establish sometime before Phase 2 ends.
- Wither the Bruce/Tony bromance?: Tony and Bruce bonded quite a lot during The Avengers, developing a friendship based on their scientific backgrounds. Tony even encouraged Bruce to loosen up a bit (which could be used as a way to guilt Tony into shipping Bruce off). The friendship is to fresh for this kind of betrayal to have any great weight, yet there is enough of a bond there where you’d think Stark would be the one leading the calls for exile.
- It’s not called Planet Banner or World War Banner: When El Mayimbe justifies the future of the Marvel film franchise being so Hulk focused by noting that Ruffalo was signed to six-films and he wouldn’t be happy with just supporting roles or cameos, I had to laugh. Because if the planned films are in anyway faithful to the comic book stories, Banner will essentially be a supporting character in this narrative. Ruffalo might have less screen time in The Incredible Hulk 2 than he did in The Avengers.
- The film Hulk isn’t quite as smart as the comic Hulk is: The comic book Hulk’s intelligence fluctuated greatly over the character’s history, ranging from having Banner’s full intelligence to being dumb as dirt. While the Planet Hulk-era comic book Hulk wasn’t a genius, he was smarter than what has been portrayed on screen so far. Can you see the film Hulk being king of anything? Even leading an army?
- Cost in comparison to return might not be favorable: Granted, the success of The Avengers probably opened up the purse strings a lot, but this series will be costly. And Disney surely remembers the last time it had a movie where a hero from Earth got embroiled in a war on a foreign planet full of CGI creatures. That was John Carter and it didn’t do all that well. Hulk might be more of a known quantity than John Carter, but if it was the concept that kept audiences away from the latter’s film, then Marvel will have a spot of trouble.
- There are other Hulk stories to tell: El Mayimbe asks who would want to see Hulk fight army guys again. I would. I’m sure a lot of other people would too. Heck, having Banner on the run from authorities was good enough for five years of a TV show, wasn’t it? But even if El Mayimbe is on to something there, that is not the only type of story Hulk is known for. Look at Peter David’s run on the character. There are at least three incarnations of the character that you can work from which seem a more natural progression from what has come before in the film world. Yes, the Planet Hulk story line was successful because comic creators went back to the “hunted monster” well too often, but the film franchise hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
- It would make the Avengers franchise repetitive: If this is true, it would mean that each of the three films featured the team taking on a threat from outer space. Granted, this is based on the assumption Thanos will attack Earth in The Avengers 2, but it still is going back to the same well three times. You have to be careful how you sell that to the audience.
- There was already a Planet Hulk film: In 2010, Lionsgate released an animated adaptation for the Planet Hulk arc on home video. The film stopped before the World War Hulk crossover began, and wasn’t quite as faithful to the original text as the proposed live-action version appears to be, but even with those differences, Marvel will be competing with itself here.
- Where would this leave the Hulk after this: In the comic books, where a new issue comes out every month, it is easier to progress from a shocking change to the status quo such as this. However, when films have years between installments, it’s not so easy to work around a character change such as this. The Hulk as he appears could support a long string of sequels. The Hulk after this series of films might not. It could very well take a valuable property off the table for the sake of one big payoff.
These are not insurmountable obstacles to overcome. But it’s all pretty daunting nonetheless. This could be the road that the Marvel Film Franchise is going down, but I don’t think it’s quite the slam dunk that El Mayimbe thinks it is. Logically, it does have a certain logic to it, and would make a good story, but so would a whole lot of other plotlines. We’ll have to see what develops.