Hulk Storyline A Major Part of Avengers: Infinity War & Untitled Avengers 4
Mark Ruffalo made the rounds this past weekend after having said that a standalone Hulk movie "would never happen". Ever since "puny god", fans have clamored to see the emerald titan and his alter ego portrayed by Ruffalo in his own movie. The last standalone Hulk movie we got was The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton way back in the "I am Iron Man" days. The issue lies with Marvel being able to use the character but Universal still holding the movie distribution rights to him and his canon. Whatever is going on behind the scenes that disallows a deal to be made, a la the Sony and Marvel deal for Spider-Man, is well above my pay grade, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
After the live-action panel at D23, Ruffalo walked the press line along with his fellow Infinity War stars. At one point, he spoke with Erik Davis of Fandango, where he was asked about Hulk’s story. We don't have Ruffalo's exact words, but Davis summarized it in a tweet:
Until there's concrete word from Ruffalo or Marvel/Disney, we'll have to take Davis' interpretation of the conversation on its face. We can only speculate as to what exactly happens to Hulk that would necessitate him having a major arc in a story that's filled to capacity with characters deserving of their own time in the spotlight. So let's do that.
The next time we'll see Hulk smash is in Thor: Ragnarok. At the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron we saw the Hulk take a jet and disappear with the aid Stark's cloaking technology. After the destruction he caused when Wanda messed with his mind, he decided he needed to put some space between him and anyone he could hurt, namely Black Widow. The next time we saw him was in the first trailer for Ragnarok, dressed up like a gladiator, where he must do battle against Thor in the arena. As we know from the movie synopsis and the trailer, Thor is on this planet by no doing of his own and is basically a prisoner being made to fight in the Grandmaster's (Jeff Goldblum) games on that planet.
So we know that the name of the gladiator-style planet is Sakaar and we can guess that Ragnarok doesn't end well for our heroes. What's the significance? For those who've read the Planet Hulk comic series, you're already seeing where I'm going. For those who haven't, Planet Hulk is basically a storyline where the Hulk crash-lands on the planet Sakaar, gets taken prisoner and forced to fight in the gladiator games on the planet. He wins the day and finally finds peace on a world where he doesn't feel like he has to hide anymore. So much so that he settles down with a family. Of course, no comic book person can be happy for more than 5 minutes at a time for some reason, and things lead to things lead to Hulk being very angry. We all know the saying "the madder he gets, the stronger he gets". Let's just say he was very, very mad. So much so that he and his crew go back to Earth and started going to town on everyone from Doctor Strange to Professor X. Now we're into World War Hulk, the followup comic series to Planet Hulk. I don't want to get into too much detail, (besides, I want you to go read it, it's phenomenal.) but it eventually took Marvel's version of Superman (at least as far as being overpowered is concerned) to calm him down, by way of expending enough energy in their fight. Even afterward, he ASKED to be taken down, permanently, or his rage would consume the planet. That's how angry he was.
Now that we see the connection between Sakaar in Planet Hulk and in Ragnarok, plus the outfit he's wearing in that trailer and the potential major storyline in Avengers 3 & 4, you can see why I would be leaning toward some variation of this happening. What am I saying? Basically, that the events surrounding the Hulk in Age of Ultron and Ragnarok could lead to a variation of the World War Hulk storyline in Untitled Avengers 4 after Infinity War. That's a lot of ground to cover in 2 movies, but I think it's possible. Likely? Maybe not, but possible. With Ebony Maw's suggestion ability and the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, there's no telling what kind of madness could happen in Infinity War, and if Hulk is so important to that storyline AND the storyline of the next Avengers film, then why not? Remember, Avengers 4 is NOT A DIRECT CONTINUATION OF Infinity War, meaning that you won't be seeing "To Be Continued" at the end of Infinity War.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the future of the MCU after the two Avengers films.