There have been three iterations of Marvel's Incredible Hulk character onscreen not counting Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno's iconic portraits of the character on TV in the late 1970s. Universal and Ang Lee's 2003 take on the character starring Eric Bana is a fan favorite in some circles, but it was far from successful and in this writer's mind, wasn't at all good. Marvel Studios got the rights back to the character in time for a 2008 version of the film directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Edward Norton and while it features a strong first act and some good character work reportedly written and pushed by the star himself, the picture devolves into a clamorous third act that is a mess of action and nothing more. While this writer hasn't seen the third construction in Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" starring Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and the titular green behemoth, by all accounts the character has seen thumbs up approval from critics and fans alike (read our most recent version of "The Avengers" review here).
Still, when asked recently if a third solo "Hulk" film could be on the horizon, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige pretty much confirmed that plan wasn't in the cards. "Well, no. This was [the character's] other shot, right?," Feige told the Huffington Post in reference to the Hulk In "The Avengers" film. "I mean, this was the third appearance of Hulk and everything that we had and were going for, we put in to Hulk's appearance in 'Avengers.' So, I love that people are saying that and are feeling that way about Hulk, but mission accomplished at this point."
Yet this runs contrary to a more recent interview in Forbes with Paul Gitter, Marvel Entertainment's President of Consumer Products for North America. Evidently the Hulk has been tracking so well in audience popularity thanks to "The Avengers" film Marvel are revising their game plan.
Forbes says Marvel executives have been “pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal response” to the green monster turned super hero, and expect this fan popularity to further grow once "The Avengers" hits on May 4th. “His sales are up in a major way. We repositioned him from where he was always misunderstood to now depicting him in a more heroic and aspirational manner,” Gitter told Forbes.
Forbes says, quoting Gitter, "that if the Hulk’s successful turnaround continues, Gitter says Marvel will 'spin him off to a stand-alone [TV] program next year,' supported by a big budget franchise movie in 2015." So the TV program, we knew (Guillermo del Toro is supposed to be an executive-producer), but a 2015 franchise movie is certainly a new idea. Would whoever starred in the TV show also star in the movie? Apparently Marvel is so over the moon with the emotional and impulsive Bruce Banner alter ego they're exploring ways to promote the Hulk as a corporate icon in the same way that MetLife uses the Peanuts' characters as their corporate mascots. Update: And make note: apparently Mark Ruffalo says he's signed on for six Marvel films. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Of course, before placing the horse before the cart, presumably the show would have to be a hit before the movie could take place, but it sounds like Marvel are at least feeling very positive and hopeful about the character as of right now. Let's keep an eye out to see if this plan sticks.