Say what you want about J.J. Abrams being in charge of the nerdiverse, but we shouldn’t underestimate Kevin Feige.
As the head of Marvel Studios, he’s ultimately in charge of The Avengers and all its subsidiary characters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor) as well as upcoming comic flicks like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the re-jigged “Fantastic Four” film, and the rumoured “Deadpool” franchise.
It’s a fairly safe bet that when Hugh Jackman finally hangs up his adamantium claws, Marvel will give Fox a boatload of money for the rights to X-Men and reboot that franchise as part of their expanded universe, and presumably Spider-Man will suffer the same fate if Marvel Studios’ mind boggling winning streak holds out.
All of which ignores a big, green elephant in the room.
Or at least something the size of an elephant.
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In a recent interview with digital spy, Feige mentioned potential upcoming projects featuring the Hulk, and basically said there aren’t any.
Whilst Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and this heavily armed raccoon are getting standalone films:
…The Jade Giant is, according to Feige, only confirmed for Avengers 2.
It indicates a basic problem: The Hulk is really difficult to do on film because his powers are impossible, even by comic standards.
A product of gamma radiation and the surpressed id of his human counterpart, the Hulk’s strength is often said to be limitless. The angrier he is, the stronger he becomes. The comics have seen him accomplishing impossible feats, like holding up a mountain and (awesomely) punching Superman into space during a Marvel/DCcrossover fight.
Obviously, these things would look ridiculous on camera.
In the 70s, when the Hulk was playing by a sprayed-green Lou Ferrigno, his debut appearance saw him using his awesome powers to… tip a car over. Slowly. And break a window.
It was a little underwhelming by modern standards.
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In 2003, “Crouching Tiger” director Ang Lee had a stab at the Green Goliath with the imaginatively titled “Hulk,” which did at least see the Hulk doing some imaginatively cool things like hammer-throwing a tank and jumping for miles at a time, but unfortunately these scenes were inter-cut with Eric “what ever happened to Eric Bana?” Bana and Nick “best mugshot ever” Nolte talking about their feelings, and Jennifer “holy shit that’s the chick from Labyrinth” Connelly crying.
Edward Norton took over the role in 2008, but despite that movie featuring more action scenes than Ang Lee’s effort (ie: at least three) the Hulk once again seemed kinda weak. Sure, he tore a police car in half and had a bit of a punch up with The Abomination, but there were no moments that caused the audience to go “wow!”
Even 2003-Hulk’s tank throwing was more of a showstopper than anything in the 2008 movie, and 2003-Hulk was awful.
Recently, Mark Ruffalo has been playing Bruce Banner/the Hulk in a movie called “The Avengers,” which was kind of an indy thing that nobody really went to see. Honestly, it barely made its own budget back…
Marvel’s bank account these days must be guarded by a dragon…
Which is a shame, as Ruffalo is awesome in it, and it features probably the only moment in non-comic media so far that genuinely demonstrated what the Hulk should be physically capable of.
I’m not going to pretend like anyone reading a Hulk article hasn’t seen the Avengers, but let’s be clear: punching a spaceship to death with a single blow is exactly what the Hulk would do in the comics, and it’s an inspired moment in the movie.
So, if Hulk can be done right in The Avengers, why can’t he be done right the rest of the time?
With Ruffalo so popular with fans, there was brief talk of a TV series in the style of the old, Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno serial, but this would be impossible. The budget would need to be about ninety kajillion dollars, a number so big I’m pretty sure it‘s not real.
People have said that with Game of Thrones et al being so big, a mega-budget Hulk series would be doable, but it rather ignores the fact that a lot of Game of Thrones is actually light on effects. Once you establish the sets and costumes, all that’s needed to make a standard Thrones episode is a bit of fake blood and an actress willing to get her norks out.
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Presumably, the Hulk would have to be a computer generated character, and this is hardly ever done on TV. Even Game of Thrones keeps Danaerys’ dragons in a wicker basket for 95% of the show’s runtime, because CGI is shockingly expensive. It would be cheaper to pay someone to come to everyone’s house individually and describe a scene to them through interpretive dance.
Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and the other shows we think of as being effects heavy are almost never doing anything as technically difficult as a realistic Hulk would be.
So we can rule out a series, and it brings us to the bigger question: Why no more upcoming Hulk movies?!
Basically, it’s because the Hulk himself is kind of a one-note character. Sure, Bruce Banner is interesting – a man tormented by his own mind, constantly on the run and living in fear of being pushed too far – but once he has been pushed too far, the Hulk isn’t good for much except jumping and punching.
It’s fun for a big action scene. But once you’ve seen Hulk smash something once, there’s not a lot of places you can go. You can have him do cool one-off things like hammer-throwing a tank or killing a giant metal space whale with one punch, but then those things are off the menu permanently; using them again would feel hacky and derivative. The last thing you want is an audience saying “Oh, he punched a five hundred foot robot to death. How clichÃ©.”
Then there’s the issue of triggering. Bruce Banner doesn’t WANT to be the Hulk, which means we have to have a scene where someone makes him angry and he turns against his will, and then at the end of any story he turns of his own accord and saves the day. It’s the story arc both Hulk movies and even his appearance in The Avengers followed.
All of this ignores that it’s very, very difficult to make Hulk’s powers look credible on screen. It’s hard to believe an audience would actually buy something (roughly) human sized holding up a mountain, which leads to our ultimate problem: The Hulk is a comic book character.
When Alan Moore wrote “Watchmen,” he deliberately intended to explore the limits of what a comic could do; it’s one of many reasons behind his vehement objections to the movie adaptation.
The Hulk may be in the same boat as Watchmen in that he only really works on the page – Hulk movies don’t succeed because the Hulk is the most comic book of comic book characters.
Which means Kevin Feige is probably right to keep him back for Avengers 2 and not give him anything else to do.