The Hulk Spin-off Movie Rights Finally Explained

Ben Bussey
UK Movies Writer

A report has been published claiming to definitively answer the frequently asked question of why Marvel have not made another Hulk solo movie since 2008′s ‘The Incredible Hulk.’

Marvel themselves have remained conspicuously quiet on the matter, with the only semi-official word coming from Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo, who explained back in April that the solo film rights were still held by Universal, who made the first ‘Hulk’ movie back in 2003 and distributed the Marvel-produced sequel/soft reboot in 2008 - the same year as ‘Iron Man.’

In addition, ‘Avengers’ and ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ writer-director Joss Whedon has also stated that he requested Marvel leave both Hulk and Hawkeye alone between the two team-up movies, owing to his ‘big plans’ for the characters.

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According to the new report on the matter by Mark Hughes of Forbes, Ruffalo’s explanation is at least partially correct. Marvel, Hughes explains, “regained the film production rights to the Hulk in 2005, after Universal’s license of the character lapsed due to failure to enter production on a sequel to 2003′s Ang Lee film Hulk.”

However, Hughes continues, “despite obtaining the cinematic rights to make Hulk movies, Marvel did not obtain distribution rights. Universal held those rights, and today I can confirm the exact situation is that Universal currently retains the right of first refusal to distribute any Hulk films in the future.”

Presumably, obtaining these particular rights was not quite of such importance to Marvel this time ten years ago, when - despite being essentially independent as a film production studio - Marvel were not yet able to distribute films on their own.

Aside from ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ the first films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Iron Man 2,' ‘Thor,’ ‘Captain America: the First Avenger’ and ‘Avengers Assemble - were all distributed by Paramount, before Disney took over distribution from ‘Iron Man 3′ onwards.

However, as Hughes goes on to argue, Marvel are still clearly not averse to teaming up with other studios, as their current deal to collaborate with Sony on ‘Spider-Man’ would seem to reflect. 

As such, he suggests, a similar collaboration with Universal would not seem out of the question - assuming both parties felt the deal would prove profitable enough. And this, Hughes argues, seems to be the greatest concern: after both existing ‘Hulk’ movies brought in under $265 million worldwide on theatrical release, off the back of budgets upwards of $150 million (to say nothing of marketing costs, etc), there is justifiable concern that the Hulk just isn’t a safe bet as a solo property.

Of course, as Hughes acknowledges, the storylines most frequently cited as showing great potential (and certainly the most fan demand) for the big screen treatment are ‘World War Hulk’ and ‘Planet Hulk,’ both of which would be massive undertakings offering a great deal more than just the Green Goliath himself for spectacle.

And, as evidenced by the in-production ‘Captain America: Civil War’ - which, based on its cast list, looks more like a third ‘Avengers’ movie than a bona fide Cap solo effort - Marvel are certainly not averse to beefing up solo movies with supporting turns from other established MCU characters. As such, ‘World War Hulk’ could conceivably encompass most if not all of Marvel’s earthbound heroes, whilst ‘Planet Hulk’ might easily incorporate the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Either way, we must once again emphasise Marvel themselves have given no official statement on the matter.

Still, given that Marvel seem unable to produce an unsuccessful film in recent years (though of course it remains to be seen how ‘Ant-Man’ will fare), would a solo ‘Hulk’ film really be such a risk anymore? Let us know what you think below.

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Picture Credit: Universal, Marvel