Petition for Mark Ruffalo to get his own post-Avengers 4 Hulk film
This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
Two nights after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, fans set up a Change.org petition (link) for Marvel Studios to extend Mark Ruffalo’s contract to include The Incredible Hulk 2, Avengers 5 and The Incredible Hulk 3, and for Universal Pictures (who has the right of first refusal to distribute any Marvel Studios-produced Hulk films) to let Disney have the distribution rights and Disney, in return, give Universal for each of any potential post-Avengers 4 Hulk films the same thing they gave Paramount Pictures for The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and future Indiana Jones films (8%-9% of the worldwide distribution revenue cut, studio credit and placement of Universal’s logo following Marvel Studios’ logo in each film’s opening titles, promotional materials and merchandise). “Marvel Studios presents in association with Universal Pictures.” The petition is very long, specific and persuasive.
With 400-600 signatures and climbing, the petition is supposedly a reaction to the Hulk’s small appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. The enormous green rage monster hasn’t had his own standalone movie for the past ten years since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. That was before Mark Ruffalo entered the picture. Since his portrayal as Bruce Banner starting with 2012’s The Avengers, people have been begging for The Incredible Hulk 2. Marvel didn’t even talk about doing another Hulk movie until after Age Of Ultron. It might’ve been Joss Whedon himself who requested it. I’m not a hundred percent. Marvel sadly didn’t give Hulk a Phase 3 movie either (the rights issue with Universal may be why). Instead, they worked in a character arc for Bruce Banner which began in last year’s Thor: Ragnarok. It continued recently in Avengers: Infinity War, and will conclude in next year’s untitled Avengers 4.
The Incredible Hulk is unpopular compared to the other MCU films despite being the second film in the series (after Iron Man). Hulk is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. So, it’d make sense to have him be the centrepiece of one of Marvel’s first self-produced films. But sadly, history repeats itself. And Lee’s Hulk from 2003 was lucky to break even worldwide. As for The Incredible Hulk… 🙁
What’s ironic is that before Paramount entered the picture, Marvel Studios originally wanted Universal to distribute all their films, possibly because Universal, during that time, had the film rights to Hulk and Namor The Sub-Mariner. However, negotiations dragged on so Paramount ended up with the distribution rights to the Iron Man films and the first Thor, Captain America and Avengers films.
Despite this, Universal still got the rights to distribute The Incredible Hulk and the right of first refusal to do the same for future films. You see, when Universal failed to produce a sequel to Ang Lee’s Hulk, Marvel proposed that if Marvel could have the film production rights back, they would make at least one more Hulk movie, spending $100 million-plus, and pay Universal to distribute. The catch was that Universal could only have claim to distribute if Hulk were the central character. Marvel owed Universal nothing when Hulk appeared in the Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok.
Given the deal with Sony for Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’d think they could do something similar with Universal. Here’s the thing. While Sony had the rights to produce and distribute Spider-Man films to begin with (and still do), Universal only has the right of first refusal to distribute Hulk films. Sony (Columbia Pictures) co-produced Spider-Man: Homecoming and will do the same for any/all sequels. So, Disney didn’t/won’t cover the entire budget. They don’t even own any of the distribution rights. Sony owns them all. Except Paramount didn’t finance any part of the budgets of Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers or Iron Man 3 (the last two of which they got free money off of just for letting Disney distribute instead). So, is Disney/Marvel being unfair with Universal compared to Paramount? Is Universal waiting for Disney to show them the same generosity?
Does Disney/Marvel want Universal to co-finance? If so, do the guys at Universal feel they shouldn’t have to because Paramount didn’t have to? Mark Ruffalo says it’s Universal’s fault. Then again, why would he bite the hand that feeds him?
Never mind Avengers and Iron Man 3. Paramount and Lucasfilm Ltd were under contract to co-produce five Indiana Jones films. Thus far, there have only been four. Sometime after Disney bought Lucasfilm, they bought Paramount’s rights to co-produce and distribute Indiana Jones 5. Paramount still kept the distribution rights to the first four and will receive an undisclosed fee for any additional Indiana Jones film Disney/Lucasfilm makes/releases.
There’s a bit of a strain between Marvel and Universal. Universal still owns the them park rights to several Marvel characters. Following the AT&T-Tme Warner merger, Comcast (owner of NBCUniversal) made a rival $65 billion all-cash counter-bid for 21st Century Fox against Disney’s $52.4 billion stock offer. This lead to Disney raising the bid to $71.3 billion cash-and-stock. Comcast dropped out of the bidding war to focus on Sky plc. Had Comcast remained in the bidding or even won, not only would it have prevented X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four from joining the MCU, but it could’ve potentially put a bigger strain between Marvel and Universal and lower any chance of a post-Avengers 4 Hulk film even more. But it’s not like Disney and Universal haven’t had disagreements before (just ask Oswald the Lucky Rabbit).
Even though Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton and The Incredible Hulk is the least successful MCU movie, Marvel still acknowledges the events in that movie. Tim Roth signed on with Marvel to reprise his role as Emil Blonsky aka Abomination for three more films. One, of which, was supposed to be Avengers: Age of Ultron, but scheduling forced writer-director Joss Whedon to cut his scene(s) out. William Hurt reprised his role as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (now Secretary of State) in Captain America: Civil War and recently in Avengers: Infinity War. They even talked about introducing Red Hulk in Civil War, but that idea was scrapped.
Civil War and Infinity War co-director Joe Russo confirmed Thanos “snapped” Ross’s daughter, Betty, played by Liv Tyler in The Incredible Hulk, offscreen along with the other half of humanity. So, is Marvel setting up an Incredible Hulk 2?
Rawson Marshall Thurber (known for directing We’re The Millers and Central Intelligence) expressed interest in making a live action film adaptation of the Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk comic book. That crossover is now possible thanks to the Disney-Fox merger. 20th Century Fox, since 2000, owns the film production/distribution rights to the X-Men characters. Buying Fox lets Disney tie-up some “loose ends” from the acquisition of Marvel. Still, the question on my mind is, which character would a WvH movie would centre on? Considering Wolverine would probably only act as a supporting character in the MCU as Marvel Studios couldn’t top last year’s Logan. Also, giving an MCU Wolverine his own movie would be an insult to Hugh Jackman’s haunting/final performance as the Wolverine. But if HvW centres on Hulk, it would fall under Universal’s right of first refusal. So, there’s a bit of a dilemma.
That said, The Incredible Hulk 2 or 3 would be the perfect movie to introduce Wolverine into the MCU. Like how Civil War introduced Spider-Man and Black Panther. In the comics, Wolverine first debuted in The Incredible Hulk issue #181.
Thurber would have a low chance of directing. For one thing, his latest film, the Legendary Pictures-produced, Dwayne Johnson-starrer Skyscraper, which Universal also released, flopped. For another, the only person Ruffalo would probably want as director is: Louis Letterier, director of The Incredible Hulk. Before casting Norton, Letterier wanted Ruffalo for the role of Bruce Banner. Sadly though, Marvel preferred Norton because he was “more famous and Ruffalo, back then, only did small, quirky comedies”. Then, Ruffalo ended up replacing Norton in The Avengers. It’s a pain in the ass being politically correct. Ruffalo and Letterier still kept in touch long after The Incredible Hulk. Letterier even casted Ruffalo in his 2013 feature Now You See Me. So, having Letterier direct a sequel to his film with the same supporting cast and a lead actor he’d be comfortable working with and vice versa doesn’t sound far fetched.
Avengers 4 will mark the end of an era. There’s even a possibility that some characters will meet their makers. Iron Man, Thor and Captain America being possible contenders. Spider-Man: Far From Home and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are the only confirmed MCU Phase 4 films thus far. A Black Widow movie is in development. Hulk’s fate at the end of Avengers 4 will determine the possibility of another Hulk movie and his future in the MCU.
What do you guys think? Is Disney being unfair with Universal as oppose to Paramount? Is Hulk’s potential being waisted as a supporting character?