There’s a big, green secret ingredient on the loose in Marvel and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. When U.S. moviegoers flood theaters for the first domestic showings Thursday at midnight, there’s no worries that Robert Downey Jr. won’t own every scene he’s in as fast talking and sarcastic Tony Stark aka Iron Man. What will deliver an unexpected surprise is Hulk’s role in some of the film’s most memorable and side-splitting scenes. In some respects, the big green guy overshadows his proportionally diminutive superhero cohorts.
Of the four core Avengers: Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Asgardian God Thor, Hulk stands alone without a penciled in solo sequel film planned. Iron Man 3 goes in front o the cameras in less than three weeks for a May 2013 release, with Thor 2 landing in November 2013 and Captain America 2 fighting for another just cause a short five months later in April 2014.
The Avengers early bow in overseas markets already has audiences yammering about Mark Ruffalo’s accessible portrayal as often misunderstood Dr. Bruce Banner, and the exceptional CGI work on his digital Hulk model. I would wager that if an exit poll asked moviegoers which Avenger they want to see in a solo film next, Hulk would probably come out on top.
This newfound interest in Hulk is a 180-degree turn from the character’s lack of likeability coming into The Avengers. Marvel tried twice to bring Hulk to the big screen before; a standalone effort starring Eric Bana and an Avengers tie-in starring Edward Norton. Though The Incredible Hulk successfully set up Banner to appear in The Avengers, it is considered the least successful of the films attached to the franchise.
There’s good news on two fronts regarding Ruffalo’s portrayal of Dr. Banner and Hulk. First, Marvel recognizes this third iteration is a hit and, per a Marvel Paul Gitter interview with Forbes, are not ruling out working him into a solo feature. In order to do so, they have to work through the current backlog of projects already in some stage of development, but could put a solo Hulk film together for release in 2015. Given Hulk’s warm reception before even hitting American shores, Marvel might begin early work on Hulk 2 by early next year to make a 2015 release.
Don’t worry about a fourth actor stepping into the role that Mark Ruffalo has successfully branded his own in only one film. In speaking to Collider during The Avengers press rounds, Ruffalo let slip that his deal with Marvel to portray Dr. Banner and mo-cap Hulk is a six-movie deal. Figure that The Avengers is the first and Ruffalo is locked into five more films, one of which almost assuredly The Avengers 2.
Look for our The Avengers review either tomorrow or the next day, and stop back to follow the film’s domestic box office run at records through the upcoming weekend.