We’ve known for a while that the reason that Marvel Studios can’t release a solo Incredible Hulk film is that Universal still owns the distribution rights for any such film, and a deal would need to be worked out between the two entities in order for that to happen. This wasn’t a problem so much before Marvel was bought up by Disney, as it allowed the two films that do exist – Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk and the more recent, part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe 2008 Incredible Hulk – to have happened. However, it is looking as if history will not be repeating itself any time soon.
Speaking with Yahoo!, actor Mark Ruffalo, who has played Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in Marvel’s two Avengers films, explained that the issue behind why there won’t be a solo Hulk film in the foreseeable future may not come down to just business.
Marvel and Universal famously don’t get along very well, and so that’s working against us, definitely. But I know for a fact that everyone is holding out hope that one day we can do it. But the nature of the relationship right now, it’s a little prohibitive. And I hope that that changes, that changes with regimes, it changes over the course of time. But right now it doesn’t look particularly promising.
While there are some fundamental differences in the situation, Marvel has recently worked on a sharing agreement with Sony Pictures for the Spider-Man character, allowing the webslinger to appear in Marvel’s films while Sony still maintains the complete film rights and will feature the character in their own solo films. So there is a precedent that an agreement between Marvel and Universal could be reached. However, this situation sounds as if there is some ego or personality conflict involved. And that very often can be more of an overriding factor in these types of deals coming about than any it-would-be-good-for-everyone common sense.
In the meantime, Marvel can and will continue to have Bruce Banner/The Hulk appear in their other films. Ruffalo is set to appear in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok in what is assumed to be a fairly substantial role. He also has a prominent role in both Avengers films. Since he can appear as part of a group or teamed-up with the lead in another solo film, it would be interesting to see exactly how much latitude Marvel actually has with the character.