If Hulk fans thought the green giant would make a smash in a long-rumored Planet Hulk movie, he will … sort of. It just took a while to get there.
Planet Hulk isn’t actually happening. For anyone who remembers when rumblings of a movie adaptation surfaced in 2013, it might seem like the hulking “Gladiator Hulk” in Thor: Ragnarok is bringing the epic storyline onscreen. The image is somewhat deceptive. Marvel fans may be turning green at the thought of Hulk’s conquest of Sakaar being diluted just to pump some additional action into Thor 3, but even more of Planet Hulk was originally supposed to be lifted from the arena for Asgardian glory. Bruce Banner would have just been displaced by Thor as its champion.
At least the MCU giving Hulk a gladiatorial victory in the Thor movie by bowing down to the character with the same respect shown in the comic. Thor: Ragnarok producer Brad Winderbaum admits that merging the Hulk story with that of Thor’s latest adventure was part of the brainstorming.
“I mean, it was a very early idea,” he told ScreenRant. “In the earliest development of Thor, we were looking at ‘Planet Hulk’ as inspiration, maybe not even to integrate the Hulk into the franchise but the idea of a planet where there’s gladiatorial games as being a Thor predicament. It really was a cool idea to us. Somewhere in the early conversations, when it looked like it was going that way, it was a no-brainer. It actually started off as like, ‘… could we have Hulk in there too?’ And then as soon as that spark ignited, it ignited kind of an idea machine. And suddenly [Hulk] was married to the plot.”
Teasers of Thor and Hulk in the ring, not to mention its aftermath, in the trailers have no doubt amped up anticipation in fans as they wait impatiently like ancient coliseum-goers to see who hammers whom in the ultimate face-off. The uncertain future of their friendship in the MCU also hangs in the balance. Now you might finally get why a direct Planet Hulk adaptation wouldn’t have crushed the box office. There was a reason Joss Whedon denied rumors of Planet Hulk being the prelude to World War Hulk, which totally made sense after the path to Thanos was revealed. Even Mark Ruffalo was against it.
“I don’t think that’s the way to go yet,” Ruffalo told MTV. “I think you need more Banner. The whole thing is just him as Hulk, on a planet, fighting other gladiators. He falls in love, he has a baby, he finds a woman … and then The Avengers nuke the planet.”
It seems the MCU has found enough balance between the human Bruce Banner strengthening his relationship with Thor and Gladiator Hulk taking the arena by storm. While this might not be Planet Hulk in the flesh, I have a feeling the whole gladiator thing is still going to win over Hulk and Thor fans alike in the end.