Mark Ruffalo has epitomized Bruce Banner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since his appearance in the 2012 movie The Avengers. But if you want to see him in a standalone movie, your want will sadly go unfulfilled. We’ve known for months now that any standalone Hulk movie looks about as likely as George Lucas reacquiring his rights to Star Wars.
But Ruffalo has given me a grain of hope...and an idea.
Critics and fans alike have praised Ruffalo for his restrained performance as the gamma-irradiated scientist who turns into a green, indestructible rage beast. Plus, fellow Avengers Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man have had multiple movies based on their lives. Why is Bruce Banner the monster-non-grata in the MCU?
It’s all a question of rights. Once upon a time, when Marvel was a struggling media company, it sold the rights to various characters to various studios. Spider-Man went to Sony. The X-Men and the Fantastic Four were scooped up by Fox. And Universal claimed the Hulk.
As Ruffalo told Yahoo,
"Marvel and Universal famously don’t get along very well, and so that’s working against us, definitely. But I know for a fact that everyone is holding out hope that one day we can do it. But the nature of the relationship right now, it’s a little prohibitive. And I hope that that changes, that changes with regimes, it changes over the course of time. But right now it doesn’t look particularly promising."
The idea that Universal’s rights could “change over the course of time” is something I’m holding on to, because I would very much love to see Ruffalo get his own film. He’s an award-winning actor who has the range and sensitivity to play that rarest of characters: an emotional scientist.
It’s up to Ruffalo himself to take on fewer small movies that actors love in favor of big-budget movies, which would go a long way to prove his bankability to Universal.
Lucky for us, we fans are known for our patience (albeit the vocal and long-suffering kind). After all, we waited 45 years after the creation of The Avengers for something as wonderful as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Hulk has had two standalone movies, which were only moderately successful, both in terms of ratings and earnings. Hulk (2003), produced by Universal, earned $245.4 million, and The Incredible Hulk (2008), produced by Marvel but distributed by Universal, earned $263.4 million.