One of the big questions that has been hanging around the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its first year of existence has been, "What do we do with Hulk?" The Incredible Hulk was viewed as an under-performer compared to other heroes in the Marvel stable, and while the character was certainly a standout in Joss Whedon's The Avengers, there was no substantial role for him found in Phase Two. Stories have been stirring lately about what the studio could be planning for the giant green monster in Phase Three, and now a new interesting bit of speculation has hit the web.
Fair Warning: What lies ahead could be some very big spoilers for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. We're not 100% sure that the rumors and speculation in this story are true - and it very well could not be - but if you don't want to take the risk then I would recommend heading back over here.
Without delving into too many details, HitFix says that the final act will see Bruce Banner/Hulk stuck on a rocket with a trajectory set to go into deep space. While some of you might say that this sounds just like a set up for a Planet Hulk movie - a rumor that Mark Ruffalo denied earlier today - this new report suggests that Marvel Studios has something entirely different planned. Instead of having a Hulk solo movie as part of Phase Three, instead the Green Monster will be hooking up with Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
While this rumor is entirely dependent on a) Guardians of the Galaxy being popular enough to warrant an immediate sequel, and b) The Avengers: Age of Ultron ending with a space-bound Hulk, I am willing to believe it. As proven by the lackluster box office results and critical reception for The Incredible Hulk, the green beast is not the easiest character to sell in a solo venture. That said, Marvel just had an incredible amount of success putting Nick Fury and Black Widow alongside Captain America in The Winter Soldier. If the studio is seeing grouping as a viable option for boosting their under-performing properties, I don't see why Hulk being a part of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is that far out an idea.
Of course, one possible obstacle here is Mark Ruffalo. One of the principal reasons why a Planet Hulk movie wouldn't work is because it would feature almost all green guy and very little Bruce Banner, and give the actor very little time outside of a motion-capture suit. If Ruffalo wouldn't be pleased with that, would he be pleased with the idea of once again sharing the spotlight with five or more other lead characters, as he will have done by that point in two Avengers films? This is information only Mark Ruffalo knows, and even if you were to ask him about it he would have to keep tight lipped due to Marvel's secrecy policies.
As of now, Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a rather empty slate. Peyton Reed's Ant-Man is penciled in for July 17, 2015, and Captain America 3 is being prepped for May 6, 2016, but the schedule remains wide open beyond that. The studio has planted flags on both July 8, 2016 and May 5, 2017, but neither title has been announced yet. In addition to rumors of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 being a part of Marvel's future plans, they also have both Thor 3 and Doctor Strange in the works.