Building from the rapport we saw established in The Avengers, it seemed like a logical conclusion that superheros Thor and Hulk would find themselves paired up for an adventure on their own, and it looks as if next month’s Thor: Ragnrok is going to be just that. But that wasn’t always the case.
Early in the development of the Thor threequel, now known as Ragnarok, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk wasn’t planned to be in the film until the story was well in development. And that meant they had to fudge the last appearance of Hulk in 2015’s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron just a bit.
As Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige said to The Wrap –
[W]e didn’t have any plans to [feature Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok] and Joss (Whedon) was doing ‘Age of Ultron’ at that time. The way it ends as you recall with Hulk in the Quinjet going off, right? We said, ‘Joss, we can’t do that because he’s not going into space and people are going to think we’re doing ‘Planet Hulk.’ He goes, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ We said, ‘We don’t know.’ So, if you go back and look at that shot of the movie, he’s in the sky. It’s blue sky. So in the movie, it’s, ‘We lost the signal out by the Caspian Sea.’ Or something like that, it was all earthbound.
So how exactly did the Marvel brain trust get to the point where the decided to add Hulk into the film’s mix? Feige explains –
We wanted to do something totally different with Thor. Chris Hemsworth really was like, ‘When do other Marvel players come in with me?’ Definitely, [we] want Hela in the movie. Definitely wanted, of course, the continuing relationship with Loki. We had early ideas for Valkyrie. We were talking about Balder. We were talking about Beta Ray Bill, but, that’s not enough. But we were like, ‘We need something big.’
Well, what if he did go to space? We would jokily call it ‘Planet Thor,’ for a while. I went, ‘You know what that means?’ They go, ‘What?’ I go, ‘That means Hulk went to space at the end of Ultron.’ So, I had to tell Joss. And this was a year after Ultron came out. It was kind of a big thing. We were like, ‘You gotta change it Joss, he’s not going to space.’ A year after I go, ‘Joss, guess where he’s going?’ ‘He’s going to space.’
I would like to point out that it appears that Feige’s memory may be a bit fuzzy on the timeline of events. Age Of Utron came out in May of 2015 and Feige states that the decision to have Hulk appear in the next Thor movie didn’t come about until sometime or so a year later. However, Ruffalo signed onto the film in November 2015, just six months after Age Of Utron‘s release. So the decision more likely had to have been made to add Banner/Hulk into the film sometime during those six months.
This does confirm that Marvel never was contemplating sending Hulk off into space for a potential adaption of the fan favorite Planet Hulk/World War Hulk storylines. In fact, Feige states that they were actively trying to discourage fans from thinking this. Most likely, that would be due to the fact that Marvel doesn’t have the rights to distribute a Hulk solo film, those lie with Universal. Yet another nail on the already well-secured coffin of that Planet Hulk/World War Hulk rumor that started making the rounds more than two years before Age Of Ultron was even released.