By Michael Arbeiter, Hollywood.com Staff
Warning: potential spoilers for the future of the Marvel movie universe to follow....
Although we should know better by now than to doubt the Marvel dream, we still have a bit of trouble fully accepting the veracity when new projects hit the rumor mill. While a good deal of the studio's projects have surfaced in rumor form, years prior to materializing onscreen (think early mentions of The Avengers and its string of origin story movies, or the chatter that reintroduced Guardians of the Galaxy to the public conscious), we can't help but be skeptical upon hearing clamor regarding a new title... especially one drawn from the deep well of Marvel's ""stranger"" stories.
As such, we're not sure whether or not to place any faith in new discussions about an Avengers 2 follow-up centering on the Hulk and a resulting Avengers threequel. According to Latino Review, whose inside info has hit and missed in the pass, the proposed Hulk spin-off would draw from the comic book arc ""Planet Hulk,"" sending Bruce Banner off into outer space (by Marvel's Illuminati), where he'd land on an alien planet and become a Spartacus-like warrior. The Avengers 3, the film to follow, would return the Hulk and his extraterrestrial army to earth to exact revenge on his excommunicators and former colleagues (derived from the comic book storyline ""World War Hulk""). At this point, all we have to bank on is the Latino Review's revelation of these alleged projects Marvel has yet to enter the conversation with confirmation or denial (nor should they for some time to come). But if we're compelled to shrug off the plausibility of such titles based solely on the nature of their material, we should recall Marvel's recent history of long incubating projects many of which didn't seem possible either.
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Over the past decade and change, the comic book enterprise has sprouted one of the most profitable, exciting film studios in the industry. Marvel cemented its superhuman prowess with The Avengers in 2012, a good four years (at least) after the first hints that such a film was in the works. Over this course of time, rumors about the developing project were met with varying degrees of hesitation disbelief that any production company would take on such a project, or pessimism regarding whether Hollywood could do the comic book troupe justice. Even a 2008 Collider interview with Marvel's President of Production Kevin Feige that suggested the film as a sure thing (""In 2011, [we have] what we're calling The First Avenger: Captain America in early summer followed up, of course, by The Avengers."") was met with a deal of skepticism. Mainstream cinema was not conducive to what many fans would imagine as a genuine Avengers movie. And even if they could muster up a pleasing assembly, many were sure that only the already invested comic book geek populace would be interested in seeing it. Not an endeavor that any pragmatic production company would deem worthy.
But as we know, The Avengers not only came to fruition, but annihilated the international box office, earning more than $1.5 billion dollars (making it the third highest grossing film in history). With this new degree of esteem attached to Marvel's passion projects, fans could place more faith in future properties, titles they might only a year prior considered long-shots. For instance: the chin-strokingly strange Guardians of the Galaxy, a film adaptation rumored initially in 2011, is now a concrete task for the studio, with casting stories involving names like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler (impossible ventures by the standards of our cynical minds circa the previous decade). Ant-Man, another in-the-works title from some highly oddball source material, would have been easily dismissed just a few years back. But these stories have a home in the big screen world now, thanks to the creative forces at Marvel staying true to passion and imagination. When you make something you'll like, others will like it, too.
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Which brings us to the latest, ""Uh, really?"" venture for Marvel: another Hulk movie. And a weird one, at that. Truth be told, America has not met its Hulk movies with a good deal of celebration: both Ang Lee's brooding Eric Bana film Hulk and the Initiative series' Edward Norton starrer The Incredible Hulk disappointed, rendering fans unsure if Banner could handle a feature film all on his own. More beloved as the antihero than either of his predecessors was The Avengers' Mark Ruffalo, who is signed on for five more Marvel movies as the not-so-jolly green giant. And with audiences' refreshed investment in all things Avenger, a new canonical Hulk movie would likely fare much better than the 2003 and 2008 films... even if the plot (Hulk landing on planet and becoming a gladiator and later king to the alien race) bears a striking resemblance to another recent Disney sci-fi film that didn't do so hot. ""Planet Hulk"", which earned an animated straight-to-DVD picture in 2010, could transpire with aplomb under the careful eye of Marvel's Rolodex of superstar filmmakers. Whether it will take form or not is yet to be determined. The only thing we should trust in for sure is that we live in a time when it can as proven by Joss Whedon's Avengers, and developing entities like Guardians, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, and more, nothing is off limits for the mainstream cinema anymore.
And that is an incredible thing.
[Photo Credit: Marvel(2)]
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