Planet Hulk: a comic that should be a movie

Feature Rob Leane 7 Feb 2014 - 06:46

Rob looks at why one Marvel comic book run is a sure-fire Hulk-smash in the making...

In the wake of 2012’s summer smash Avengers Assemble there was one character everyone wanted to see more of: Hulk. Not only did the CGI/mo-cap portrayal of the jade giant hit the right notes, but Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the wry genius Bruce Banner was incredible too.

While Ruffalo’s Banner brought the dead-pan sarcasm, the beast itself got the biggest laughs of the movie thanks to two hilarious face-offs with Asgardians. After sitting through Ang Lee’s Hulk (which lots at the site love, but then lots of people don't) and Louis Leterrier’s slow-moving The Incredible Hulk, Whedon and Ruffalo’s take on the character finally presented what most fans wanted – emotional beats for Banner coupled with great comedy and action for his huge green alter-ego.

However, while bashing out another Thor or Cap movie was always going to be comparatively easy, choosing the direction of a new Hulk franchise is a much more difficult task for Marvel Studios.

We’ve already seen two movies in which the Hulk faces off against General Ross and swoons over his daughter Betty, albeit without Ruffalo. Surely an attempt to follow The Avengers with more of the same would feel like a bit of a cop-out?

While Kevin Feige and co are probably weighing up several options for the green giant, there’s one fan-favourite comic book run which seems like a popular choice - Planet Hulk.

Why it would work

In a cinematic universe where the Hulk has been established as more powerful than everyone else on the planet, drawing inspiration from Greg Pak’s decision to exile the character off-world could be a great way the freshen up the character.

In separating the Hulk from the rest of mankind, Planet Hulk dumps the jade giant in an ancient Rome-like alien planet where his powers are weakened, but gradually return throughout the narrative. What comes next is a dramatic series of huge action sequences; the Hulk must fight for his freedom in the gladiatorial arena whilst the planet’s leader The Red King attempts to seek vengeance on him after an embarrassing public battle.

Despite stating repeatedly that he just wants to be left alone, the Hulk comes to befriend a strong selection of supporting characters, including a love interest for Hulk and a feisty insect that goes from innocent idiot to vengeful beast. These brand new roles could open the door to more great casting by Marvel and help further widen the MCU.

Having defeated all the tests the Red King can throw at him, the Hulk manages to escape with his new warbound comrades, setting in motion a military coup plot which later sees Hulk helping to overthrowing the Red King.

This whole plot of the Hulk regaining his powers, fighting off various gladiatorial challenges and helping dismantle an evil government could make a cinematic feast of epic set pieces and huge fight scenes. Surely an earth-bound Hulk movie would be a bit underwhelming in comparison?

There are plenty of big emotional beats for the rage monster too as he falls in love, struggles with his inner Banner and eventually sees the new world he has come to love destroyed by the very ship that brought him there. Seeing these emotive moments on screen could be a great way to add some depth to this new take on the character, rather than re-visiting old plot-points.

Planet Hulk could also help establish a whole new phase of Marvel movies by leading into World War Hulk. In this sequel an enraged Hulk returns to earth seeking green-fisted vengeance on those who sent him off-world in the first place. All the Avengers trying to stop a justifiably pissed-off Hulk could be a welcome change to the usual superhero dynamic of squeaky-clean heroes versus obvious villains.

Potential problems

There are many factors which could make this production difficult, not least the fact that Bruce Banner only appears in a few fleeting moments throughout the narrative. He features in the prequel series Peace in Our Time, then briefly appears in a dream sequence and later shows up for mere seconds to meet Hulk’s new love interest Caiera during their wedding.

Actual screen-time for Ruffalo would be a problem then, but it’s something Marvel could probably work around. In a word where Captain America barely keeps his mask on for five minutes, and a handy way to see inside Iron Man’s helmet has been invented, creating a way to see more Banner in a Hulk story is surely possible. Marvel would only need to expand on those dream sequences and romantic scenes and drop in a few newly-written moments.

A bigger issue though, is the fact that this whole narrative takes place at a different point in Hulk’s timeline. Banner seems to have a fair amount of control over the Hulk in the Marvel cinematic universe currently, and both are generally regarded as heroes. Contrastingly, the Hulk seems to be in control in Planet Hulk and the world has turned against the jade giant. He is trusted so little that the Illuminati think it best to give him the ultimate deportation. The Illuminati also haven’t been established in the Marvel cinematic universe at all, which poses another problem.

Again, both these problems could be worked around. With distrust in S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming a central theme in the Marvel cinematic universe through Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the spy agency could easily fill the role of the Illuminati in a film adaptation. A bit of fiddling would also be needed to shift the Banner-Hulk dynamic, but wouldn’t need to eat much screen time.

Seeing as Marvel has mainly built this theme of S.H.I.E.L.D. as being untrustworthy through the new releases of Phase 2, it is completely plausible that they could generate mistrust in Hulk through Avengers: Age Of Ultron and some background references in Phase 3. This could then culminate in the events of Peace In Our Time as an extended post-credits sting for Avengers 3.

As with the recent animated adaptation, some character changes would need to be made. The Silver Surfer appears to face the Hulk and his friends in the arena, but isn’t a Marvel Studios property. Splicing in an alien character from the MCU would be fairly easy though. Expect Marvel to either ignore this scene altogether or weave in an Asgardian or anyone from Guardians Of The Galaxy instead, which could be a great opportunity for an unexpected cameo.

There would also be problems with budget as Marvel studios attempt to build a whole alien world filled with many CGI characters. However, having seen multiple realms in Thor: The Dark World and the ambitious concept art for Guardians Of The Galaxy, it looks like building a whole planet filled completely with aliens is exactly the kind of thing Marvel are building towards.

Will it ever happen?

"Well I’m really not supposed to comment, but no, that’s nonsense", retorted Joss Whedon when queried about the possibilities of a Planet Hulk movie. 

The fact that Marvel Studios is currently deliberating how to create a solo outing for Ruffalo and Whedon’s popular take on the Hulk is undeniable. Now that he has been established as the strongest force on earth, sending him off-planet for a while is surely one option on the table at Marvel Towers.

Injecting Ruffalo’s wry performance into the Planet Hulk story, or something similar to it, is surely one of the stronger options on said table. The aftermath of Planet Hulk with World War Hulk, the creation of Red Hulk and the introduction of Hulk’s children could also open many doors on-screen Hulk appearances for years to come – definitely something Marvel would want to invest in.

With Captain America 3, Thor 3 and Ant-Man already queued-up for Phase 3 of the Marvel cinematic universe though, there’s only really one slot left before Avengers 3 presumably drops in 2018, with Doctor Strange currently looking like the top tip.

Seeds also haven’t been sown (yet) during Phase 2 for any ill-feelings towards Banner or the Hulk, so it would be a huge surprise if he got booted into space at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It seems more likely then, that if Marvel Studios is planning Planet Hulk, this is how it will go down: we'll see the Hulk go a bit too far in Avengers: Age of Ultron, leading to some hints in other Phase 3 Marvel cinematic universe  properties that S.H.I.E.L.D. are working on something huge and shifty, before calling on Banner in Avengers 3, only to see him exiled at the end of the film, allowing Planet Hulk a core slot in Phase 4.

Whether it’s this property or another though, there will surely be a new Hulk movie in Phase 4. So expect some big-screen smashing in approximately 2019.

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Disqus - noscript

not gonna happen. Unless a focus group identifies raging green gamma powered boners as a selling point with the female crowd. Hulk as a romcom? ugh

And that is is how you should do a hulk movie! Tease ot in avengers 2, set it up in avengers 3, then planet hulk, then avengers 4 world war hulk. And we might finally see the hulkbuster amour used properly!

Its a better than average animated feature already. The true test will be seeing how Guardians of the Galaxy fares. If Joe public are happy with that aspect on the Marvel universe then maybe they will accept the illuminati marooning Banner

Two words why Marvel/Disney will never do this storyline - John Carter.

I really like PH and WWH series but I really don't think this will happen. The average multiplexer simply won't buy into Hulk in space and having a relationship with an 8 foot silver amazon.

The only way currently, that this could be justified story wise, is if Banner banishes himself, as the reason he was banished to mars in the first place was because he couldn't control the Hulk and neither could anyone else.
IF Banner was to voluntarily go ( as above ), OR be accidentally trapped on the other side of an event horizon like the Iron man was in Avengers , THEN it could work.
It could also prove to be a serious team building feature for the Avengers as they all team up to work out a way to get him back.
The animated version of this comic has already been done, and is quite good.

That could work - have the Guardians seraching for him...

Hulk is best as a supporting character

Red hulk

I see your point, but the circumstances differ...

JC was a stand alone property with little in-built fan base - the Hulk is one of the stand out players in what has become the biggest franchise in movies...

I think a phase 4 slot for Planet Hulk is likely.

If by that you mean watch the Hulk Buster Armour get smashed, yes!

Phase 4??? Wasnt it confirmed somewhere that there will only be 3?

Don't think so - I'm sure i read somewhere that they had their slate filled up till about 2020 or something!

If Banner makes the choice to leave that eliminates a chunk of plot to follow-up into World War Hulk as it gives him no motivation to come back

I really love Planet Hulk (and World War Hulk) but no, it's just not going to happen, it wouldn't work. So many elements of the story would need to be changed, length would be a problem.
It will just have to stick to being an animated film imo.
The next Hulk film could be the Shield/Incredible Hulk storyline from the comics (recent) where Maria Hill is director. Bruce is a proper genuis to rival Stark and wants to help the world for a change and Shield gets to use Hulk for muscle.
Could be someone does something to Bruce to make him have no control over Hulk and it's him on the run (from every hero but wouldn't see them apart from odd scene) fighting against whoever caused it - Leader, Rulk or something - and proving innocence. Could be the Rulk storyline but I would have to see Uata get knocked the fook out just like the comic :)

Personally I would not like to see Planet Hulk as a film... I wasn't keen on it in the comics and it's only purpose was to get to World War Hulk. I'm sure they can work out an alternative way to get to that story instead.

The problem with Planet Hulk is it will essential be a CGI Animated Movie and require little to hardly any live action sequences.

Hulk is one of my favourite characters and agree that the Avengers is his best version, although I really enjoyed the Ang Lee/Eric Bana Hulk fim. I wasn't keen on the Ed Norton version and kinda feel they should do a full on prequel Hulk film reboot with Mark Ruffalo... as an apology and just be upfront about it.

The animated short film Hulk vs Thor would be a better choice, where Hulk has his body taken over by Loki and goes on a rampage through Asgard.

Yeah but how much fun would it be...

All current marvel films make a killing, they can afird to make something 'non commercial'

Theres already a planet hulk animated film, thats how I found out.about.the comics hulk, the film was half decent too, I recommend it

Because I'm a bit sad, I've often given a thought as to how they could do a Hulk-heavy film like 'Planet Hulk' and still make it relatable and give enough opportunity for Ruffalo to do his thing.

A potential answer is to keep the first half of the film the same Banner/Hulk dynamic as established in the MCU, with the savage Hulk only making an appearance when crashing, under attack or in the arena. However, when Hiroim - one of Hulk's allies - figures that the only way they're going to survive the arena is with Banner's smarts and Hulk's raw power, he takes him on a psychically-guided meditation (something he does on the way back to Earth in the comics) to merge his two personalities, so that when he awakens from meditation he finds himself transformed into a more intelligent Hulk that can progress the story when the big green guy is required to have conversations as well as hit things.

And yes, Kevin Feige, I'm happy to meet...

Actually I like the Hulk, he was one of the redeeming factors in the average Avengers movie. I totally go and he hasn't been fully developed in that movie previously.

I would have liked to see more of the TV themed 'helping people where he can, but moving on when 'they' find him' kind of thing that we got snippets of at the beginning of The Incredible Hulk and Avengers Assemble.

I honestly don't see why people see "Planet Hulk" as the definitive Hulk story, when it takes away so much of what makes Hulk interesting and simply turns him into just another grim warrior who pushes people away and acts like he's some badass who doesn't care. We already have Wolverine whenever we want "edgy loner" stories. It's done to death. Hulk works better in the Savage persona, or the Joe Fixit persona, or the Mindless Persona, or as Banner, than as the Green Scar who is simply another boring "wandering warrior". The Savage persona has the childlike innocence which allows him to draw on themes of man's inhumanity to man. The Joe Fixit persona has the Green Scar's general attitude but a much deeper well of complexity, being contemptuous of the weakling Banner but also contemptuous of the more powerful Savage who he views as too stupid to properly use his power. The Mindless persona is useful as antagonist who underscores the reason why Ross considers Banner a monster.
I'd much prefer a Hulk movie where Banner and Stark work together to give Banner more control over the Banner's current Savage Hulk and end up creating Joe Fixit. Initially they view it as a success since Fixit is easier for the Avengers to deal with, but eventually his new amorality and prickly pride make him a "loose cannon", causing dramatic tension when the team realize there's no safe way to tell him off about it. Eventually Banner discovers that the transformation is volatile and there's no telling whether any given transformation will result in Savage, Fixit... or something else. Drama ensues when the villain of the day defeats our heroes but does something cruel enough to make Banner so suicidal and Savage/Fixit so enraged that Mindless Hulk emerges, saving the day but also becoming as much a threat as the villain was. They succeed in getting Banner in control again, but the movie ends with our heroes asking Banner whether he thinks that might happen again and Banner responding "...I hope not..." Dun dun duuuun!

No thanks!! I've already seen John Carter. Same thing. I'd rather they used their imaginations.

Yeah man. Spot on. Big Green A-Team type shizzle.

You don't know what the hell you're talkin about buddy

Respectfully submitted: "Planet Hulk" has too many disparate sci-fi concepts packed into one story to ever be a good candidate for a big-time tent-pole blockbuster.

A big reason the Marvel movies are so successful is they manage to ground the heroes in a world relatable to the average movie-goer. What may seem "AWESOME!!!!!!" to an embedded comic fan can easily get a collective "WTF?" from a mainstream audience. I mean... Sweet Jesus, can you imagine the trailer? "Why the hell is Hulk on planet Mongo?"

Planet Hulk would be perfect and so would World War Hulk. They'd need to introduce the Inhumans beforehand, though. It's a shame that World War Hulk can't really happen until Marvel get the Fantastic Four rights back.

On that note, it also sucks that Civil War can't happen until Fantastic Four and Spiderman are back with Marvel.

Read Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. Then come back and repeat that comment. Dude is one of the most interesting character in the Marvel universe.

I would agree that Planet Hulk would be a bit difficult to pull off, but Guardians of the Galaxy will be similar, aesthetically. So we'll see how well they do that.

Terrible movie idea......should be dead on arrival. Story needs to focus equally on Banner and Hulk where Banner's smarts and desire to do good are played up and Hulk's innocence and usage for the end good work with some awesome action. Need him in a reasonable fashion that is going to have people rooting/liking both Banner and Hulk to be a cinematic success for the masses.

Then they should make a Rocket Racoon movie where all the characters are raccoons.

I've already read them thanks.

In the MCU a solo Hulk film wouldn't really work. Marvel have tried two solo Hulk films and neither have been great (although I think TIH is underrated).

Planet Hulk would be an interesting diversion for the MCU but I think 'John Carter' got there first. World War Hulk would be cool but it's an ensemble story from what I remember - Hulk would be a supporting character...

A third solo Hulk film is sure to be a massive hit like the previous two...

Remember, that for better or worse, that GotG will not have any of the 'baggage' that Hulk has. There is a whole load of people that have never picked up a comic and will always associate Hulk with the 70's Bill Bixby version and would see Hulk in space as anathema.
Would love to be proved wrong though :)

no, it centred on Hulk. the real problems I think would be from the Illuminati, which would have to be built up, and Hulk facing the Marvel U, much of which is owned is by Sony movie wise. so maybe if they were to do it should involve Guardians of the Galaxy and tie in to Thanos somehow.

If I ever get to see Wolverine vs. Hulk on screen I might just flip my lid.

I actually agree with this. The other problems being from the Illuminati, Hulk always being angry and therefore in control, and only the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy would stand in his way, though that might work.

I could maybe see them doing this in Phase 4. Have Hulk banished at the end of Avengers 3. Give him a Planet Hulk film. Have him return for World War Hulk (essentially Avengers4) going up against Avengers/GotG/Defenders...

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