Despite his popularity with audiences, Bruce Banner a.k.a The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has experienced a pretty rough on-screen life throughout the run of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character has become a primary fixture in the MCU, but hasn't starred in a solo film since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Many fans seemed shocked when the Phase 3 movie lineup revealed that Marvel had no plans for a Hulk solo film in the near future; however, that doesn’t mean the character won’t be integral to the universe.
Sitting down with Yahoo Movies, Ruffalo explained that while Hulk won’t receive a standalone movie anytime soon, the character would undergo a major arc throughout Phase 3, amounting to his own standalone story. Ruffalo explained:
I'd love to do a Hulk movie, but that's beyond my control. It's controlled by Universal [Pictures]. Marvel doesn't even hold the rights to it. So, it's not on the horizon. And I don't know if it will be. But we have worked a really interesting arc into Thor 3, Avengers 3 and 4 for Banner that I think will – when it’s all added up – will feel like a Hulk movie, a standalone movie.
So the rights for the character's solo outings belong to Universal, meaning that while neither Banner nor Hulk will take center stage any time soon, Marvel hasn’t forgotten about the character's popularity. If anything, this shows a level of increased complexity for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as they are moving away from the idea of solo, self-contained adventures in order to plant plot threads that will pay off over a period of time. As Ruffalo says, the character has already been confirmed to appear in Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. That’s more Hulk across more movies than any Marvel Phase has seen thus far.
We’ve seen these sorts of tactics work well before. While Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) have yet to get their own standalone movies – which they totally deserve – the characters have still undergone major changes in terms of personality and motivation as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has pressed forward. From a plot perspective, some characters work better when viewed from the sideline; Marvel seems to think that Hulk represents one of those characters. One could argue that it’s an incredibly smart move on Marvel’s part because it gives them more time to flesh out Banner and his violent, green alter ego over the course of several movies. If they had to pack an arc into a single film, the character would be left with nowhere to go by the time the film had ended.
If anything, the lack of a solo Hulk film should be considered a blessing by fans of the giant green rage monster. Although the character won’t get a singular solo outing, his presence will permeate three MCU films during Marvel’s Phase 3. By the time the final battle with Thanos has come to a close, audiences will have seen a definitive, satisfying arc for the beloved, misunderstood Avenger. SOunds better, right?