Well this explains a few things. Back when Mark Ruffalo debuted his take on Bruce Banner/Hulk back in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, there was instant fan clamor for a new, standalone Hulk movie. Yet many Marvel movies have been announced since then, and not one of them is the Hulk project. Given that phase three of the Marvel cinematic universe has now been locked down until 2019, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it’ll be 2020 at the earliest before we get a Hulk feature.
So what’s the hold-up? It’s certainly not Mark Ruffalo. He’s confirmed to Collider that he still has four movies on his Marvel contract, adding that “that could always go further.” And he’s long been on board the idea of a Hulk movie.
Of those four movies, “I could show up in another character’s movie; I could do Avengers 3 and 4; I could do a Hulk standalone; I could do a combination of those things. That’s four or five, I think,” he told the site.
And yet here’s the bit we didn’t know. “As far as a Hulk movie, a standalone Hulk movie, Marvel doesn’t really have the rights to that yet. That’s still Universal’s property, so there’s that issue.”
When asked to clarify that, he added that “that’s a big impediment to moving forward with that. Now I don’t think that’s insurmountable, by the way, but I don’t know where it’s going from here for me.”
A few things there, then. Universal backed Ang Lee’s hugely underrated Hulk movie back in 2003, and also was heavily involved in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which starred Ed Norton. Presumably, Marvel has to either do a deal with Universal to get the standalone movie rights back, or wait for them to lapse. From what Ruffalo has said, it sounds like a matter of “when” rather than “if.”
Note that the actor said “I don’t know where it’s going from here for me,” which may hint – although it may be us reading too much into things – that when a standalone Hulk movie does come around, Ruffalo may not be playing the character. We guess it depends just how long it takes.
Either way, for all the talk of a Planet Hulk movie, for example, it’s pretty much moot until the full film rights to Hulk are back in Marvel’s vault. And that clearly hasn’t happened yet, hence the character making appearances in Avengers movies thus far.