Marvel is getting into the heart of Phase 3 of the master plan for its Cinematic Universe. This latest phase of the MCU kicked off earlier in the year with Captain America: Civil War and is about to go even deeper with the release of Doctor Strange in November. Incidentally, Doctor Strange is hardly a household name for casual audiences, and even many comic book fans are all not well acquainted with the character. The early peeks at the movie are looking promising, but if Marvel is so willing to invest in its lesser known characters, why won’t it give more attention to one of its biggest stars, like the Hulk?
The quick answer would be that the Hulk already had his chance, along with his second chance, at his own feature film, and he blew them both. The first movie, Hulk (2003) can be forgiven a little bit as it came before the establishment of the MCU and studios still weren’t quite sure what they were doing when it came to superheroes. By all means, this movie from director Ang Lee should have and could have worked. Sadly, however, instead of showcasing Lee’s typical knack for gripping character studies we got terrible CGI Hulk-dogs. It also didn’t help that the movie was lambasted by major critics, with one going so far as to say the Hulk looked like “a ticked-off Shrek” (and he wasn’t entirely wrong).
The second take on the verdant behemoth, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk didn’t fair much better, although history tends to paint it in a warmer light. After the disappointment of the first film, The Incredible Hulk came in with severely tempered expectations. Meanwhile, Marvel was still celebrating the massive success of Iron Man. But even if it had the benefits of low expectations and favorable comparison to its predecessor, The Incredible Hulk remains the lowest grossing movie in the official MCU by far.
But, after two failed attempts at bringing the Hulk to the big screen it looks as though the third time was the charm with Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the character in the Avengers movies. The Avengers films did a great job of reintroducing the character without having to smash us over the head with yet another origin story, but the Jolly Green Giant was notably absent from Civil War. We know that Hulk will be returning in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok but there are hints that the movie might go one step further. A report from this year’s San Diego Comic Con revealed what appeared to be very, very large gladiatorial armor that looks eerily similar to what was featured in Greg Pak’s 2006 storyline, Planet Hulk. This is potentially awesome news for Hulk fans everywhere.
The Hulk is easily one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters and still one of the company’s most popular today. “Hulk Hands” remain one of the greatest children’s toys ever, and even inspired new merchandise, as Marvel released its Black Panther claws based on the same idea earlier this year. The Hulk also remains a big draw for video games. Even though it’s been eight long years since we had a proper video game based on the Hulk, the character is still a main feature called out in the details of leading online casinos alongside several other prominent Marvel heroes. While the game is a Marvel-themed spin on a traditional slot-reel, it’s still the only solo outing the character has had since the beginning of the Obama administration! Furthermore, the fact that the Hulk is still popular enough to be seen as a legitimate draw for online gaming just goes to show that he still carries a significant degree of cultural clout, even without his superhero buddies.
Clearly, the Hulk is just as much of a fan favorite as ever, even if that hasn’t necessarily been shown at the box office. We can only hope that the rumors about Thor: Ragnarok are true because it would make for one epic return to the screen for the strongest hero there is. Thor: Ragnarok is due for release November 3, 2017.