A Case for a Planet Hulk Movie
I’m a fan of the Incredible Hulk. He’s always been among my favorite heroes/anti-hero, all the way back to the Lou Ferrigno days (which were technically before my time, but those reruns were essential to making me a comic fan). I like the Hulk best in his later incarnations, where the bestial rage-monster shtick is replaced with a cunning, predatory intellect, making him capable of stringing multi-syllabic, “smash”-agnostic words together. This “smart” version of the Hulk elevates the big green guy out of the King Kong/force of nature space and into the realm of an actual, interactive character who reached peak awesome during the “Planet Hulk” event.
I think that would be epic on the big screen.
For those who don’t know, Planet Hulk and its follow on event, “World War Hulk,” were an event running through The Incredible Hulk and other titles from 2006 through 2007. To briefly summarize, Planet Hulk is about Hulk’s exile to an alien planet, after a cabal of Earth’s ‘wisest’ and most experienced heroes decide that he’s too dangerous to remain on Earth. Using deception, they try to send him to a Edenic world where he can basically run free and chase butterflies (they’re basically sending him to the farm where all our childhood dogs are), but a freak wormhole dumps him on a planet populated by an insectoid empire who turn him into a gladiator. The plot pretty much goes full Conan the Barbarian from that point on. Suffice it to say, it’s spacey, epic, and badass.
Now, the reason I bring all this up is that I have a modest proposal for Marvel: that they should make a standalone Hulk movie in Phase 3, and that it should be based on Planet Hulk. I know it sounds whacky, given that capsule description up above, but I’m serious—Planet Hulk is precisely the kind of direction the MCU should go.
First of all, we haven’t had a standalone Hulk movie since 2008’s flick starring Ed Norton (which is technically the first MCU film, thanks to RDJ’s brief appearance as Stark). Mark Ruffalo’s turn as Bruce Banner in the Avengers was a surprise gem, and it would fantastic to see him in a solo outing as a more intelligent Hulk, who can really draw on Ruffalo’s resources as an actor. Even if Marvel doesn’t do Planet Hulk, this still has to happen.
Secondly, if space gods fighting space elves over magic space lava lamps worked for Thor: The Dark World, I don’t see why the Hulk couldn’t work on a cosmic level (especially after Guardians of the Galaxy becomes the smash hit of the year. Lets make it happen, people…). And finally, Marvel needs to keep pushing boundaries if the MCU is gonna live forever. We’ve seen the Hulk (and countless aliens, megastorms, nebulously ‘fer’in’ terrorists, and yes, super villains) trash familiar American cities so many times that it’s basically really damn boring. It’s time to start wrecking cities on entirely different planets.
It’s a simple recipe: make John Carter of Mars, only the hero is green, the bad guys are bugs, and the movie is marketed properly. I just made you a billion bucks, Marvel.
The Planet Hulk plot really served to remove Hulk from the Civil War plot line that was affecting the rest of the Marvel U at the time. It makes sense from a creative perspective: whichever side of the Superhuman Registration Act that the Hulk fell on (presumably the “con” side, since the pro-registration, pro-government side was eminently more smashable than the rebels) would, well, have a Hulk. It was eminently easier to write him out of the story than try to work the living tsunami that is he into the story. With SHIELD seemingly dismantled in the MCU, and no super human ‘illuminati’ to concoct the plan that sent Bruce away in the comic, I could imagine the story unfolding thusly:
In Age of Ultron, we see a slightly more together Bruce/Hulk. Working with Stark, he has begun various and sundry treatments to control the big green machine, and when he does Hulk out he has a lot more self-control and exhibits significantly more intelligence. Throughout the movie, it seems like Bruce has a handle on things, until Ultron hits him with a gamma weapon that juices him up, causing him to lose control and rampage. The heroes pull it through of course, but Cap and Tony have a brief exchange about needing a contingency plan.
Maybe we see Banner again in a forthcoming flick—meditating with Dr. Strange or working along Dr. Pym in Ant Man. He’s haggard but keep it together. Cut to Hulk’s standalone flick, which would unfold more or less like the comics: in the first ten minutes he’s exposed to a gamma burst which causes a rampage. Tony (probably Director Stark of the reconstituted SHIELD at this point) enacts the contingency he and Steve alluded to in Age of Ultron and bup, bup, bup, you’ve got Hulk flying through a wormhole to adventure! If they pull it off, they could have the green meanie home in time to throw down with Thanos.
Now, I don’t really expect any of this to happen. Well, I could imagine a standalone Hulk movie, but not one quite as out there as Planet Hulk. No, I expect the next Hulk movie to once again detail Bruce Banner’s struggle to contain the beast within (again, again). But I think that Marvel could take the opportunity to go in a vastly different direction for some surprisingly delightful results. It all hinges on the Guardians—if Marvel feels that their journey into weirdness is sufficiently rewarded, maybe we’ll be treated to some of the cooler, if more absurd plots lurking in their vaults. For my part, I shall buy ten tickets and a Rocket Raccoon plush toy to be my snuggle buddy.