Fans of Marvel comics have spotted similarities to the popular “Planet Hulk’ storyline in the trailers for the upcoming ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, begging the question “why not just make a stand-alone Hulk film?” Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo provided an answer in a recent interview with Collider.
“That’s still Universal’s property… Now, I don’t think that’s insurmountable, by the way, but I don’t know where it’s going from here for me.”
In other words, it’s a film rights issue. This time it comes down to distribution rights. In cases like the Fantastic Four and X-Men, Marvel Studios lacks the production rights to use those characters on film in any capacity. Marvel has had the production rights to Hulk since 2003, allowing them to use the character in movies like ‘The Avengers’, but lack the distribution rights to put any Hulk-titled film in theaters or home video. They can’t fly a movie under the banner of Bruce Banner. On the other hand, Universal cannot make a film with the Hulk in it, but could sell a Blu-ray of one if it could. It’s currently a legal standoff that ensures a Hulk film will never get made or distributed by anyone.
The latest comment from Ruffalo is a little more hopeful than previous comments. For example, this is what he said during Disney’s D23 Expo:
“I just want to make one thing perfectly clear today, a standalone Hulk movie will never happen, because Universal has the rights to the standalone Hulk movie and for some reason, they don’t know how to play well with Marvel, and they don’t want to make money.”
So that’s…progress? It’s possible that the mutually beneficial success of Sony sharing the rights to Spider-Man could inspire Universal to likewise play ball with Marvel Studios, but that’s obviously not yet the case. Until then we can see Hulk on the big screen in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, out November 3rd.