Since the release of The Avengers in 2012, many have continued to question why Marvel Studios have yet to sign off on a standalone movie focusing on The Hulk.
Back in April, Mark Ruffalo appeared to provide the answer to the question, claiming that Marvel cannot release a solo Hulk film as they did not own the rights to do so, with Universal being the owner of that license.. However now, Forbes have offered an explanation that shows that isn’t quite right – and is a little more complex.
Universal picked up the Hulk movie rights in 1990s, however following the financially- and critically-underwhelming release of Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2005, they opted against making a follow-up and subsequently the rights reverted back to Marvel. In turn, they released 2008’s Incredible Hulk, starring Ed Norton. Of course, the fact that Marvel released that goes against Ruffalo’s claim that Universal still hold solo movie rights for the character. As it turns out, the detail is in the distribution rights.
Universal still hold the right to first refusal of distribution, meaning if Marvel go ahead and make a Hulk movie, Universal can refuse to distribute it. Of course, if this were to happen, Marvel’s parent company Disney can pick up the tab and release it themselves. Furthermore, a look back at distribution history of previous Marvel films show that Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor were all distributed by Paramount Pictures.
So, in short, Marvel can make a Hulk film, and they can – one way or another – get it released. So if those two supposed obstacles are no longer obstacles, why haven’t we seen Ruffalo take the lead yet?
Simple. Marvel don’t want to do it.
In fairness to the studio, a look at the cinematic history of Hulk leading his own film isn’t great reading. Incredible Hulk took just $263 million dollars, with it’s 2005 predecessor taking even less with $247 million. If Kevin Feige and company are going to invest $150-$200 million into a solo Hulk project, they are going to need guarantees that they are going to see a healthy profit. Honestly, the guarantee isn’t there. Not when Marvel have several other more bankable movie franchises to mine.
Hulk has proven successful when part of an ensemble feature, something that will very likely again prove with Avengers: Infinity War parts 1 and 2, meaning that while many fans may want to see Hulk go off into space and rule a planet, the chances of it actually happening are pretty darn slim.