Angry monsters arguably don’t often elicit sympathy from movie audiences, but The Incredible Hulk is definitely among the potential exceptions. The backstory of this oft-misunderstood superhero is, after all, one of despair. The Hulk’s origins center on a biological lab experiment gone wrong – leading to the character’s transformation from human to monster. It’s certainly a history fit to be interpreted on the big screen. And yet statements from some of those closest to the character in his most recent cinematic incarnation suggest that we probably won’t see another Hulk standalone film any time soon. But why exactly? Well, it seems that there are several key reasons.
“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” Those were the famous words coined by the TV creators of one of the most popular superheroes in history: The Incredible Hulk. However, lately you might be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood doesn’t want you to see the big green monster in any capacity in which he really has his own spotlight and voice.
The Incredible Hulk made his first colorful appearance in the early ’60s, with his debut coming courtesy of a comic book of the same name. The Incredible Hulk was first distributed in 1962. And the furious brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby soon shot into the stratosphere.
The story of a shy, nervous scientist who transforms into an enormous green monster certainly resonated with comic book fans. Unsurprisingly, it also led to various other ventures in the ensuing years, including toys, cartoons, video games and pretty much any other merchandizable product you can imagine.
The medium of television was another successful proving ground. The character was, of course, the focal point for ’70s show The Incredible Hulk, in which he was famously portrayed by Lou Ferrigno for five consecutive seasons. And this fired the green monster into the public consciousness in a serious way.
By the time the 1988 mini-series Reunion rolled around, it was clear, in fact, that there was genuine hunger among audiences to follow the tortured protagonist’s story. And this success begged the question: what would a fully-fledged motion picture based around The Hulk be like?
With such a popular and long-standing history, you might well think that today The Incredible Hulk would have no problem landing his very own standalone film. And with the sheer number of comic book movie adaptations that have been made over the past 20 years, surely, it would be fair to assume, there’s room for a new Hulk outing? Well, maybe not…
The powerhouse character has, of course, already been the focus of two relatively recent Hulk movies: 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately, though, neither of those outings exactly launched the superhero to a new level. In fact, if anything, they arguably tarnished the big green guy a tad.
Despite Hulk grossing big bucks upon its release, the movie wasn’t without its share of criticism. As Miami Herald critic Rene Rodriguez wrote in a review at the time, “The main problem with… Hulk, really, is that there isn’t enough Hulk in it.”
And while a reboot released five years afterwards was met with somewhat less in the way of criticism – while also enjoying a successful run at the box office – it wasn’t without its detractors, either. As Dana Stevens scathingly wrote for Slate, “Why remake a crappy movie five years later if it’s only going to be marginally less crappy?”
But perhaps Hulk star Mark Ruffalo has provided the best insight into why, exactly, we aren’t going to see the popular green beast in his own flick. Speaking to Variety in 2017, the portrayer of the character in The Avengers film and its sequels bluntly stated, “I want to just make one thing perfectly clear today: a standalone Hulk movie will never happen.”
Ruffalo then launched into some rather stinging criticism of Universal Studios for its apparent lack of business savvy when it comes to working with Marvel. “Universal has the rights to the standalone Hulk movie, and for some reason they don’t know how to play well with Marvel, and they don’t want to make money,” the actor claimed.
Soon afterwards, however, Ruffalo did take back his words a little. Specifically, in July 2017 the actor took to Twitter to say, “I want a standalone Hulk movie. I know I said there wouldn’t be one, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one.”
Unsurprisingly, fans of the much-loved superhero voiced their displeasure at the news on social media. One Twitter user by the name of Phillydude 41-33 commented, “That’s a shame, because Ruffalo is by far the best Hulk there has been – Yo @Marvel & @UniversalPics – get over yourselves and get this done.”
What’s more, Phillydude was far from the only fan to hit out at the movie studios over their alleged stalemate. “Apparently Mark Ruffalo said there won’t be a standalone Hulk movie. It sucks,” lamented another disgruntled user on Twitter; although they did concede, “But I understand why Disney won’t do it.”
There were, though, also those who rejoiced over the news – happy to continue to see the character remain in a support role rather than being the main focal point. You see, some are of the opinion that the angry humanoid beast is best when he’s sharing the screen with other superheroes.
One Twitter user wrote, “He’s amazing in an ensemble, the sizzle on the steak. A solo film – not using Hulk to his best.” And another concurred, saying, “Agreed. Only way it would work is some sort of journey-of-discovery story. More of a Banner story; not Hulk.”
But questions remain. Would a reboot prove to be more of a critical hit than the divisive previous Hulk films? How would it fare at the box office compared to other hugely successful recent comic book movie adaptations? And ultimately, would it live up to expectations if it finally did get the, ahem, green light? The unfortunate catch-all answer is that we may never know.
Okay, so then maybe we won’t get a standalone Hulk movie in the near future. But that said, perhaps the great demand from audiences to see it one day is The Hulk’s biggest legacy. Speaking with IndieWire in 2017, president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, certainly highlighted this very point.
Feige said, “I think that back and forth continues, and I don’t know if it will ever happen. But I will tell you [that] it makes me very, very happy going from a world, ten years ago, when people were questioning the viability of Hulk in a standalone film, to getting asked every other interview, ‘When will there be another standalone Hulk?’” Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.