The Jade Giant’s treatment in Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame encourages one fan to form a Change.org petition to get him in the spotlight again for the first time since 2008.
One month after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, I, like many of you reading, had the honor…let me rephrase…the privilege of seeing, in my opinion, the GREATEST movie crossover in history on the BIG SCREEN. In 3D no less. How did it NOT get nominated for Best Picture?! Given that, I was shocked by the lack of Hulk in it. SPOILER ALERT!
His only scene in the movie, the best out of all of them (FIGHT ME!), was at the very beginning. Thanos and the Black Order sieged the Asgardian ship, with Thanos overpowering Thor, killing Heimdall and Loki, and beating the Hulk to a bloody pulp. I’ll say that again. The Mad Titan beat the “Enormous Green Rage Monster” black and blue. I wouldn’t mind it so much if the Hulk actually appeared in the rest of the movie afterward. Besides his face occasionally replacing that of Bruce Banner’s, just to yell, “NO-O-O-O-O!” For all the people who complain about the Spinosaurus killing the T-Rex in Jurassic Park III, no one’s moaning or complaining about this!
Then a year passed and Avengers: Endgame was released in theatres. The Hulk character arc that began in Thor: Ragnarok and continued in Infinity War FINALLY concluded. OFF-SCREEN. That’s right. Bruce and Hulk are revealed to have settled their differences during the 5-year time skip and Bruce/Hulk is now Professor Hulk just like that. It’s like trying to put a puzzle together and the pieces just magically come together when you turn your head. Granted, it’d be less work. But still. Something’s missing. Also, movies are NOT puzzles. They weren’t made to bore us to death. To add insult to the injury, Prof. Hulk doesn’t even do anything in the climax. Besides undoing Thanos’ work. Other than that, nothing. He doesn’t even get a rematch with Thanos; nor does he fight Cull Obsidian, those flying Chitauri Leviathans, those Chitauri Gorilla-things (seriously, what was the point of having those creatures in the movie?), or even the Hulk’s past self from 2012 (who did nothing but complain about stairs). For his last appearance in The Infinity Saga, you’d think he would’ve done more. What a complete waste for the character. From getting his movies in 2003 & 2008 to being completely wasted in 2018 & 2019. Well, on the plus side, they didn’t kill him off.
I can’t be the only person who feels this way and, thankfully…I wasn’t. A month after the release of Infinity War, one of the many people who saw Infinity War in theatres set up a Change.org petition to get Disney/Marvel and Universal to resolve their differences and make The Incredible Hulk 2 happen before actor Mark Ruffalo is too old for the role. Ever since Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton in the role of Dr. R. Bruce Banner in 2012’s The Avengers, winning the hearts of critics and audiences alike, people have been begging for an Incredible Hulk 2 starring Ruffalo. Unfortunately, Marvel’s new parent company, Disney would NOT allow them to make any stand-alone Hulk films so long as Universal Pictures holds the distribution rights.
How did Universal get the distribution rights, you ask? It all began in the ’90s. The bankrupt Marvel Comics was just bought by Toy Biz, who decided the best course of action to recoup the money they spent on the acquisition by selling (or licensing) the film (production AND distribution) rights to their various properties. Spider-Man and Ghost Rider went to Sony (Columbia Pictures), X-Men went to 20th Century Fox, Howard the Duck went to Lucasfilm Ltd. and Universal (but…we don’t talk about that), Blade went to New Line Cinema, Deadpool went to New Line and then to Fox, Daredevil and Electra went to Regency Enterprises with their distribution partner 20th Century Fox, Fantastic Four, and Silver Surfer went to German film studio Constantin Film (and made that unreleased low-budget ashcan copy from 1994 with legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman before sub-licensing the rights to Fox, but that’s another story for another article), and Hulk and Namor The Sub-Mariner went to Universal. Universal made one Hulk movie in 2003 simply titled, Hulk, directed by Ang Lee (yes, the same Ang Lee who directed Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and recently the Will Smith snooze-fest, Gemini Man) and starring Eric Bana as Banner.
Then, around the mid-2000s, Marvel opened their film production arm, Marvel Studios, and secured their distribution deal with Paramount Pictures as they didn’t have their own distribution arm and Disney did not yet buy them. In 2006, Kevin Feige called Ron Meyer, then-CEO of Universal, and asked if they had a Hulk movie in development. Meyer said no and Feige proposed that if Marvel could have the film rights back early before the contract expired, then Marvel could make at least one more Hulk film with a budget of around $100 million and pay Universal to distribute with a continuous right of first refusal to do the same for future Hulk films. As you may have guessed, Meyer agreed and The Incredible Hulk happened. There was one catch though. Hulk had to be the central main character. NOT a supporting character. So when Hulk appeared in the Avengers movies and Ragnarok, Universal had no claim over the distribution rights. So, Marvel Studios has the film PRODUCTION rights while Universal has a continuous right of first refusal to pick up the film DISTRIBUTION rights to each of any film Marvel makes that is centered around Hulk. I don’t know if the same qualifies for Namor The Sub-Mariner. Universal had the film rights at the time and they keep going back and forth about who has the rights now. In fact, Feige said in April 2018 that the Namor film rights were “complicated”. Does Universal also have the distribution rights to solo Namor films?
Three years later, Disney bought Marvel and took over distribution for their films after their deal with Paramount expired. The last two films Paramount was supposed to release were The Avengers and Iron Man 3. Then, Disney bought the distribution rights off Paramount for $150 million-plus 8-9% of the worldwide box office revenue cut Paramount would’ve gotten had they released them themselves, with Paramount’s logo appearing in the films’ opening titles, promotional materials, and merchandise and the credits reading “Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures”. I expected Disney to do the same with Universal for future stand-alone Hulk films, “Marvel Studios presents in association with Universal Pictures”, but~…no dice. It’s complicated. While Paramount’s contract with Marvel was limited to 6 films, Iron Man 1, 2 & 3, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers, Universal’s was for ALL future Hulk films. Furthermore, unlike Fox and Sony’s contracts where, as part of their licensing agreement, need(ed) to keep making movies to renew the contracts, Universal’s right of first refusal, like many, is probably continuous. It doesn’t expire until basically the Heat-death of the Universe. The first refusal means they have the first dibs, but NOT the obligation, to distribute any Marvel-produced Hulk film, and IF, for any reason, Universal said “no thanks”, Disney would then get to distribute. But because Ruffalo is the BEST damn Hulk EVER compared to Norton and Bana, Universal may as well OWN the distribution rights. There’s absolutely NO WAY they’re gonna refuse to distribute a Hulk movie starring HIM. They could use more franchises anyway. Fast & Furious and Jurassic World are on their last legs as it is.
You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem after Marvel’s deal with Sony for Spider-Man to join the MCU. Except playing ball with Sony was the ONLY way to get Spidy in the MCU because Sony has the film production AND distribution rights. Sony co-produced, owned, financed 100% of and distributed Homecoming and Far From Home worldwide in all formats as well as have complete creative control and get 100% of the profits with Marvel Studios just getting a 5% producing fee while No Way Home‘s production costs and profits are split 75% by Sony and 25% by Marvel with Sony distributing worldwide in all formats. Marvel would self-produce, own and finance 100% of Hulk movies with Universal distributing worldwide in all formats with Marvel having complete creative control and get 100% of the profits but Universal gets an 8-10% distribution fee. I suppose when it comes down to it, Disney doesn’t wanna share. Especially if they’re doing all the work. The inter-company crossover with Sony works because Sony covers most, if not all, the production costs and, again, it’s the ONLY way to get Spiderman in the MCU. Hulk is still in the MCU either way. He just can’t be the main character of his own movie if it means Universal gets to distribute. Then again, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer co-produced The Hobbit Trilogy with New Line Cinema because United Artists held the distribution rights, but Disney isn’t as flexible as Warner Bros. The loophole in the contract is having Hulk be a supporting character in other MCU films, which has proven to be more profitable. SHouldn’t the reverse be just as likely to succeed? Ignoring the distribution rights debacle, Hulk by himself has failed to break even at the box office in 2003 and 2008. When Thor: The Dark World failed, Ragnarok had Thor team up with Hulk and Doctor Strange. When The Amazing Spiderman 2 failed, Homecoming had Spiderman team up with Iron Man. Why not use the same method for Hulk? The petition goes into more detail regarding that subject.
Even before this, Disney and Universal had bad blood between them since Oswald The Lucky Rabbit (but, again, that’s another story). However, two years ago, Disney and Universal set aside their differences and co-produced/co-released M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, a crossover sequel between his two other films, Unbreakable (which Disney owns via Touchstone Pictures) and Split (which Universal owns via their first-look deal with Blumhouse). GASP! Have they FINALLY learn how to SHARE?! Maybe. Sadly though, two years have passed since Glass and Endgame left theatres as quickly as they came, and still no announcement of an Incredible Hulk 2. There IS, however, a She-Hulk limited event series coming to Disney+ starring Tatiana Maslany (of Orphan Black fame) as the title character with Ruffalo and Tim Roth reprising their roles as Prof. Hulk and Abomination respectively.
Roth was originally supposed to reprise his role as Abomination from The Incredible Hulk in Age of Ultron but scheduling forced writer-director Joss Whedon to cut his scenes out. Between that, Abomination appearing in the upcoming Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings and the upcoming She-Hulk series, William Hurt reprising his role as General Thaddeus Ross from The Incredible Hulk in Captain America: Civil War, Infinity War, Endgame and Black Widow, and Hulk’s inter-woven character arc in Ragnarok, Infinity War, and Endgame, could Marvel possibly be setting up a potential Incredible Hulk 2? Ruffalo himself expressed interest in a Hulk movie taking place in between Infinity War and Endgame. That’d be awesome. Filling in the blanks in his character arc!
The sad irony is that Ruffalo was The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier’s first choice for the role of Bruce Banner before casting Norton but Marvel wanted Norton because he was a bigger name. Leterrier and Ruffalo would later work together on 2013’s Now You See Me. Leterrier better return to direct episodes of She-Hulk.
If you want my personal opinion, Disney is being unfair with Universal regarding this debacle. Paramount get 8-9% of the worldwide box office gross for The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and future Indiana Jones movie, as well as having their logo and marquee credit attached to said films, and what does Universal get? The Blame? It was Marvel’s idea in the first place! I know Ruffalo said it’s Universal’s fault, as he said in a Hulk voice, “Take that, Universal, now what you gonna do?! You could’ve had THIS!” Then again, he couldn’t say it’s Disney/Marvel’s fault. They’re the ones who actually make the movies. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you (COUGH, COUGH Scarlett Johansson).
But The Incredible Hulk isn’t the only Disney-owned movie that Universal has any rights to distribute. The other two being The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. Disney bought the home video/TV/digital distribution rights, ownership, and copyrights to those movies from The Jim Henson Company in addition to The Muppets IP. However, neither film went into the Disney Vault because neither Disney nor TJHC have the rights to distribute them in U.S theatres. Universal does, due to prior contractual obligations made when they bought both equity stakes in the Associated Film Distribution joint-venture from ITC Entertainment and EMI Films. Universal still holds those rights to this day. In fact, two years ago, on The Muppet Movie‘s 40th Anniversary, Fathom Events partnered with Universal to give the movie a limited theatrical release on July 25th & 30th and they’re doing the same for The Great Muppet Caper this year on August 8th & 11th. I heard no complaints from Disney regarding that.
A similar situation happened in 2018 when Universal released Insidious: The Last Key, “a Stage 6 Films presentation.” Stage 6’s parent company, Sony didn’t seem to mind having one of their competitors releasing their product. Then again, Universal only holds the rights to distribute in U.S theatres (which they inherited after Focus Features bought/absorbed FilmDistrict). All other distribution rights are held by Sony. Is that the solution? Letting Universal have the rights to distribute Hulk (or Namor) movies in U.S (and maybe Canadian & Chinese) theatres with all other distribution rights being held by Disney? But would Universal just want the privilege of being the ones to bring the Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo to theatres when they could instead get free money for each of them like Paramount gets? Is having it be “A Universal Release” THAT important to them? Or is Disney NOT being generous enough with them as they were with Paramount?
Then again, Universal may or may not have the best judgment, regarding how to release it. Universal released The Incredible Hulk on June 8th, 2008. One month after Paramount released Iron Man. This may have lead to The Incredible Hulk failing to break even at the box office. Then again, Marvel didn’t have that much faith in Iron Man to begin with as the IP lacked the popularity Hulk’s had. Captain Marvel and Endgame were released two months apart from each other but Disney was at least smart enough to put an extra 30-day gap with Captain Marvel being released at the beginning of March and Endgame being released at the end of April.
According to the petition, there are other ways Disney and Universal could settle this besides giving Universal what Paramount got:
- Negative pick-up deal: If Disney’s concerned about financing the entire movie only for Universal to distribute, have Universal cover 100% of the film’s initial budget (if it increases, Marvel would cover it themselves) and split the net profit 50-50 with Marvel paying Universal a distribution fee.
- Franchise trade: Disney trade Universal the rights to one of their franchises (Die Hard, Alien, Predator; etc.) in exchange for the distribution rights.
- Disney+ series: Universal have DreamWorks Animation Television produce an animated TV series based on a Classic Media property Disney or Fox made a live action film adaptation of (George of The Jungle, Fat Albert, Mr. Magoo, UnderDog, The Lone Ranger; etc.) for Disney+. Then maybe Disney wouldn’t have a problem with Universal distributing future Hulk movies.
- Have the distribution rights to each film revert to Disney after a certain number of years.
The petition in question, thus far, only has about 3,180 signatures. Even then, would a simple petition be enough to change the minds of a media giant like Disney/Marvel or Universal? One was able to sway HBO Max to FINALLY #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Then again, that petition was promoted heavily on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and an ambitious GoFundMe campaign to fly a plane banner over San Diego Comic-Con reading, “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut”. Sadly though, I don’t see #TheIncredibleHulk2 or #WeWantAHulkMovie trending anywhere.
Whether the petition will reach its goal is yet to be determined. Whether it’ll change anything or not, only one way to find it. Or is it doomed to join #ReleaseThePilotVersion (of The Thing 2011) and “Revive Neil Blomkamp’s Alien 5” as one of the many failed petitions? I could speculate. What say you? Do you wish to see Ruffalo as Prof. Hulk in his own movie? If so, make your voice heard!
Let us know in the comments below and or tag us on Twitter at @PlexReel!