The general consensus among most people who went to see The Avengers earlier this year was that of all the colourful superpowered mega-titans on display in Joss Whedon’s genre-defining comic-book ensemble, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was the one who absolutely smashed it. Imbuing the great green rage-monster’s alter ego Bruce Banner with a gentle, resigned tristesse, rather than the rampant (and ultimately boring) torment that both Eric Bana and Ed Norton’s takes seemed to suffer from, Ruffalo left space for the character’s comic side to emerge and fuelled talk of a new standalone Hulk movie.
As the actor is signed on to star in five more films for Marvel studios, many expected that proposition to be one of the first to emerge in the wake of The Avengers’ blockbuster success. With the film having passed the bn mark last month, secondly only to James Cameron’s Avatar and Titanic in terms of all-time grosses, execs have been greenlighting comic-book movies like spandex is going out of fashion. As well as sequels to Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and The Avengers itself, Marvel last month saw fit to put the offbeat and little known Guardians of the Galaxy into production. But still, no announcement of a new Hulk movie.
Interviewed at the Toronto film festival, where he is promoting his new film Thanks for Sharing, Ruffalo appeared to suggest that Marvel have given up on the idea after both Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003 and Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk in 2008 failed to set the world on fire.
“I think they’ve done it. I think they feel that they’ve done that,” Ruffalo told MTV News. “I think they don’t really know where to go [with the character].”
If true, this looks to me like a rather admirable admission of failure. The character does seem to need other figures to bounce off on the big screen: all the best laughs in The Avengers featured CGI Ruffalo’s no-nonsense, brutal and bombastic entanglements with friends and enemies alike, so perhaps he’s better used for cameo appearances in films driven by other comic-book heroes. The Hulk’s personality, it seems, only really blooms when he has to deal with other people.
Perhaps Sad Hulk, as we’ll call him, belongs on the small screen, wandering miserably around small town America to the strains of the 1970s TV series’ maudlin end credits theme. Fans of the Lou Ferrigno era will be pleased to note that there are plans afoot to create a new show, though Ruffalo does not seem likely to be involved. Have producers made the right call here?
Elsewhere in the rapidly expanding Marvel universe this week, rumours abound that Doctor Strange may turn up in Thor: The Dark World (the upcoming Thor sequel). Some reports had suggested that none other than Viggo Mortensen himself might be set to portray the cosmic sorcerer, a story emanating from the Twitter account of one Roger Wardell, who has been furiously tweeting rumours about a whole range of Marvel upcoming projects for months. People began listening when his prediction that Falcon would be appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was confirmed elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Marvel executive Victoria Alonso has shot down any suggestion that Mortensen is involved with upcoming projects, which would, it has to be said, have been a pretty impressive coup. “We would love to work with Viggo Mortensen. I’ve been trying that for years,” she told Worst Previews. “But I don’t know if Viggo is even acting anymore. I thought he wasn’t acting anymore. It would be great to work with him in the future, but we don’t have him signed, no.”
It’s nevertheless intriguing to note some of Wardell’s other “exclusives”. Apparently, The Mandarin will be the main villain in Iron Man 3, and Marvel are seriously considering getting Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts to pull on a power suit in the same film. Wardell also reckons shots from The Avengers will be recycled for the forthcoming TV show on the ABC network in the US.
Whedon himself, however, this week told MTV News the show would most likely focus on different characters to those who appeared in the film. “It needs to be its own thing,” he said. “It needs to be adjacent but you don’t want to do a show where you’re constantly going, ‘Iron Man just left, but he was totally here a minute ago.’”
The show’s main figures will probably not have superpowers, added the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator. “That makes them a little bit – even though they’re a big organisation – underdogs, and that’s interesting to me.”
In a separate interview with Vulture, he added: “The important thing to me is that we know what the show is. We love what it is. It came together very organically, so when we went in to pitch [to Marvel], it wasn’t like, ‘We’re trying to find this because you want a TV show,’ it was, ‘Check this out.’ And that’s a good way to walk in a room.”
Meanwhile, Whedon has already been planning his sequel to The Avengers, at least in terms of where it begins. “The creation of the team is not the happy ending,” he told Canada’s 24 Hours. “It is the beginning of something that is complex and difficult, and now I get to dig a little deeper. And maybe, while I’m digging, just twist that knife. And that’s exciting for me.”
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