Comics on Film: Is the Hulk Finally Getting More Love From the MCU?

Comics on Film: Is the Hulk Finally Getting More Love From the MCU?

Oct 13, 2017

Just about a year ago, Marvel's iconic green behemoth, the Hulk, was the subject of a Comics on Film column that lamented the somewhat...tempered treatment the character has received in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the release of 2008's The Incredible Hulk. At the time, we were a little mystified at the idea that one of the pillars of the Avengers wasn't being groomed for a new solo cinematic adventure, especially considering how many fans and critics perceived Mark Ruffalo's first performance in the role in 2012's The Avengers to be that massively successful movie's breakout element.

While we don't really know of any official change in the overall stature of Bruce Banner at Marvel Studios, fans of the Hulk at least have more of a reason to be excited these days. As of this writing, we're only a mere three weeks away from seeing the Hulk's return to the big screen in the highly-anticipated Thor: Ragnarok, a movie which will effectively re-team the two most raw, physically powerful members of the Avengers within the context of the more cosmic setting of the Thor sub-series of films.

Now, we finally have an indication of a specifically-focused new Hulk story to take place in the MCU...perhaps just not in the way we necessarily thought.

 

A Hulk Trilogy Begins in Ragnarok?

As already detailed here at Movies.com in a very nicely comprehensive piece by our own Peter Martin, Mark Ruffalo recently spoke in an interview about the idea that an original discussion about a new, solo Hulk movie has morphed into a story that will be told over the course of three upcoming MCU films: the upcoming Thor film, next year's Avengers: Infinity War, and the untitled fourth Avengers film slated for release in May of 2019.

On the one hand, this makes perfect sense, since the Hulk has proven to be a major highlight of both existing Avengers films thus far, on top of a potential rights conflict with Universal Studios that may currently be stifling some efforts on Marvel Studios' part to get a new, solo Hulk film off the ground. This effectively quashes any possible rights concerns while also laying to rest (most of) Marvel's box office trepidation, since the Hulk on his own hasn't exactly been a major blockbuster franchise in either of his major solo efforts in 2003 and 2008, respectively.

By keeping a dedicated story for Bruce Banner in the generally higher-profile Avengers and Thor franchises, Marvel Studios has the potential to give Banner some much needed focus in the MCU. Sure, fans of the character (like yours truly) will still want to see a new solo film at some point, but if we're getting a Hulk-specific arc in what are sure to be some of the biggest superhero films of the next couple of years, it's hard not to think of that idea as, at the very least, a good starting point.

 

What Can We Expect?

While the idea of a specific character within a cinematic shared universe getting his own full story arc is a bit new, we've seen similar exploitations in other episodic storytelling mediums, most visibly television and, of course, comics. Still, the news brings to mind another prominent "trilogy" of films within another previously established film series, making for three of the most well-regarded entries in another long-running franchise.

People in general have a lot of affection for 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and often call it the best film that the Trek franchise has ever produced — even compared with both the Next Generation-based films as well as the current series first spearheaded by J.J. Abrams. As most series fans know, though, The Wrath of Khan was only the first act in a story that would move through both 1984's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

While the general scenarios and framework of the MCU and the original Star Trek film series are very different, this at least illustrates the viability of creating a trilogy within another, longer-running movie series. Star Trek II-IV are three of the best movies that series ever produced, and if Marvel Studios decides to give us a dedicated Hulk arc within the previously established framework of the next few films, then perhaps the story of Spock's death and rebirth could portend the kinds of possibilities that are achievable by taking a conceptually similar approach.

We'll get our first taste of those possibilities when Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters on November 3rd. Keep an eye on Movies.com for all the major news that breaks about the film between now and its release, and we'll see you for a new Comics on Film next week!


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek PodcastGeekPulse Radio and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Features, Geek, Editorials
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