I Am On the Fence About a Planet Hulk Movie
Posted by Sean Ian Mills
How cool was it when the Hulk punched that Leviathan during the big climax of The Avengers? I can still remember the audience bursting into cheers as my own heart soared. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as thrilling as that moment since. That punch may very well be the defining moment of the entire Avengers franchise.
So where’s the new Hulk solo movie?
Mark Ruffalo nailed it in The Avengers. He fit the role perfectly, and I for one couldn’t be happier with his performance. I think we can all also agree that the Hulk was the breakout character of the movie. Joss Whedon got the Hulk absolutely right, his feats of strength writ large on the big screen. The character couldn’t be hotter. But we’ve heard bupkis about any new Hulk movies.
Other than rumors that Marvel might send the Hulk into space for an adaptation of the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics – to which I am fairly unsure about. A lot of people want to see Planet Hulk on the big screen, but I don’t think I’m one of them.
On the one hand, I just don’t think Planet Hulk would be the best use of the character in the Marvel Movieverse. The storyline worked fine for the comics, but a movie is a different beast entirely, especially in the Movieverse continuity. For one thing, Bruce Banner barely factors into Planet Hulk, so Ruffalo would be wasted. You better believe that matters in a big budget movie.
In the comics, Planet Hulk is a story about the Avengers sending Hulk out into space so that he can’t trouble the people of Earth anymore. Hulk winds up on a strange alien planet, where he’s immediately captured and turned into a gladiator, exactly like the gladiators of Ancient Rome. Hulk suppresses Banner so that he never has to change back, and the Big Green Machine eventually fights his way to freedom and then leads an uprising against the cruel regime that imprisoned him. It’s a pretty standard storyline, but the bare bones approach of Hulk smashing everything to freedom really appealed to readers.
But I don’t want this adapted to film (other than the cartoon adaptation they already made). The story is as basic as it gets: Hulk as a gladiator. There is little depth to the Hulk or his characterization. He doesn’t like being controlled, so he breaks free and then takes the fight to the people who tried to control him. He makes a bunch of friends along the way, and finds love, but it’s just the Hulk smashing everything until he wins, and that’s not my kind of movie.
I prefer my Hulk set firmly in the context of Earth, where HULK IS THE STRONGEST THERE IS! If you plop the Hulk into the world of Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s just another freaky looking alien. And if you take away Banner, that makes it even worse, and Hulk becomes even less human. Do we really want Mark Ruffalo running around on some alien gladiator planet? Doesn’t he work better as the nerdy science guy on Earth?
On the other hand, Hulk has already had two mediocre outings that kept him on Earth. Sending him into space would be new and interesting. I will go on record as a fan of both Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003 and the Edward Norton reboot in 2008, which is an often-ignored part of the wider Movieverse. But society as a whole isn’t too favorable to either film. They outright dislike Lee’s film, and generally ignore the Norton movie. Both were about Bruce Banner as a tortured soul, where being the Hulk was a great curse that he tried to cure.
That’s why Joss Whedon got the character right in The Avengers. In that film, the Hulk was embraced, treated as something useful and fun. Sure, Banner was still bothered by having to become the Hulk, but by the end, both he and the Big Green Guy were embraced by their fellow heroes, and Hulk was instrumental in saving the day.
That’s the Hulk I want to see in future films.
I don’t want to watch the Avengers or anyone else send Hulk off into space to get rid of him. I don’t want to see Banner and friends spend their lives trying to cure the Hulk. I want to see a movie where Banner embraces the Hulk in the context of life on Earth, where he remains the strongest person alive, but also fallibly human.
I don’t exactly have any ideas beyond that. But there are decades worth of great Hulk stories out there. People only remember ‘Planet Hulk’ because it was recent, and there haven’t been any Hulk stories as notable since. But these movies no longer rely on any sort of direct adaptation. Most of the new Marvel movies are original stories, borrowing freely from the comics to make something uniquely their own.
The Hulk is in just such a position. Planet Hulk would be a rote adaptation for the breakout star of the franchise. There’s no doubt that the character is going to explode all over again in next year’s Age of Ultron.
After that, Hulk is going to be too big to just sit around playing gladiator games.