Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been wondering when Mark Rufflao's Hulk will next get the spotlight, ever since The Incedible Hulk came and went back in 2008.
OF the many planned film in the upcoming MCU slate, there's been no mention of another Hulk solo feature. In fact, Ruffalo and Marvel Studios executives like Kevin Feige have repeatedly shot down the idea of another Hulk movie getting made anytime soon.
However, a new interview reveals that while Hulk won't be returning in his own MCU solo movie, he will in fact get a featured story arc - one that will unfold as a trilogy in the next few films, starting with Thor: Ragnarok.
Speaking to Cinemablend, Mark Ruffalo revealed the plan for Hulk's major story arc, which will start to unfold in Thor: Ragnarok, before continuing in Avengers: Infinity War next year, and the Avengers 4 the year afterward.
As Ruffalo tells it:
"So basically, Kevin [Feige] pulled me aside before this, and said, 'If you were gonna do a... if we were going to do a standalone Hulk movie, what would it be?' And I said, 'I think it should be this, this, this, and this and this, and ends up like this.' And he's like, 'I love that. Why don't we do that in the next three movies, starting with Thor 3 and then we go into Avengers 3 and 4.' And I was like, 'That sounds great!' And so we are at the beginning of this arc."
So, what is Hulk's story arc going to be? Looking at Thor: Ragnarok, we may already have some major clues...
Thor: Ragarnok will adapt the titular storyline from Marvel Comics about Asgard facing the end of days; however, it will also be using material from a very famous Hulk story known as "Planet Hulk."
"Planet Hulk" finds Bruce Banner/Hulk having been transported off-planet by a secret cabal of Marvel superheroes (The Illumanti), ultimately landing on the savage gladiatorial planet Sakaar. There, Hulk becomes the champion of the gladiatorial games, and with the help of some fellow alien warriors, dethrones the Sakaar's cruel emperor to become the fabled hero known as "The Sakaarson."
Sakaar will be the backdrop for where Thor finds himself early on in Ragnarok, when he's forced to compete in the gladiatorial games of The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), against a Hulk who has not returned to his Bruce Banner persona in quite some time. With Thor: Ragnarok drawing upon "Planet Hulk" and possibly leaving Hulk as a hero on a cosmic scale, it's not hard to imagine where the events of the subsequent Avengers: Infinity War films may take the rest of this Hulk trilogy...
After "Planet Hulk" we next saw Hulk featured in the major Marvel Comics event "World War Hulk," where the Jade Giant finally returns to Earth, after the rocket that sent him to Sakaar explodes, wiping out an entire planet of his loyal subjects and seemingly his wife, as well. The enraged Hulk then leads his group of warriors, the Warbound, back to Earth, in a full-scale invasion that's meant as revenge against the heroes that banished him.
Marvel fans have been calling for both "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" to become major MCU events for a long time, and if anything, this Hulk trilogy storyline could be what they get.
We already know how "Planet Hulk" has been adapted for Thor: Ragarnok. Based on mounting evidence (like the official Infinity War poster), it's been speculated that Hulk (still wandering the cosmos) could be beaten down or banished to some far-off dimension by Thanos, early one in Avengers 3. That would set the character up for a long trek home, and we could see him arrive on Earth with an entire armada behind him by the time the redemptive events of Avengers 4 unfold.
After that, who knows? Will we see the tradition comics continue as "Skaar, Son of Hulk" is introduced in MCU Phase 4? Maybe.
Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters on Noevember 3rd. Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on May 4, 2018; Avengers 4 follows on May 3, 2019.