Captain America: Civil War is going to break the mold of previous Marvel films. Up till now, the movies have primarily centered on one character (Avengers aside), the hero who saves the day. Though its Captain America-focused title might indicate otherwise, a whole cast of Marvel heroes will appear in the latest, currently slated to premiere next year. It'll include Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man, Ant-Man, a new Spider Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, among a few others. But Mark Ruffalo's Hulk will not appear in Civil War — and though his character was once included in the script, he was written out of its final iteration.
At the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Hulk takes off in a jet destined for Fiji. Nick Fury quips that Banner might send Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow a postcard. He's not returning from the wilderness yet — though Joss Whedon teased that his future would be "too amazing," according to Cinema Blend, it's a mysterious kind of awesome right now. Ruffalo has also confirmed that the Hulk won't be coming out of hiding for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, so when will we see him again?
Den of Geek has the full rundown of Marvel films coming out over the next few years, so let's see how the Hulk might fare in each of them.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Unlikely. Doctor Strange is the first film setting up the saga of Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a doctor-turned-sorcerer and protector of Earth. It's doubtful that the screenwriters would include the Incredible Hulk in Strange's introduction, though nothing is beyond the Marvel filmmakers.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
Definitely not. Guardians director quashed rumors of a Hulk-Guardians crossover, according to Indiewire. It would require Dr. Banner to travel to space, and that doesn't seem to be in the cards for him just yet.
The new Spidey will first appear in Captain America: Civil War, but 2017's feature will be his first solo act. Tom Holland is slated to appear as Peter Parker. Again, it's probably not the most logical place for Banner to show up, but then again, since when is Spider-Man an Avenger?
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
If Hulk isn't heading to space, it's unlikely he's heading to Thor's planet (in the Marvel universe, the Norse gods are sort of super-powered aliens, rather than actual deities). And good thing — in Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the end of the world as we know it. Best stay away from that, Dr. Banner.
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 (2018)
The first in a two-part saga, Infinity War finally confronts Thanos head-on. The supervillain who appears occasionally in Age of Ultron comes out to play in Infinity War, and it's probably the Hulk's best chance to come out of the shadows — and to save the day with his near-indestructible strength.
Black Panther (2018)
Like Spider-Man, Black Panther will first appear in Civil War before he gets his own movie. Chadwick Boseman will play the legendary hero, which is some damn good casting. Especially if the Hulk comes back for Infinity War, though, it's doubtful that he'll be making a guest star in Black Panther. It's Boseman's show, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Captain Marvel (2018)
Finally, a female-fronted superhero film. I am all for Black Widow, but she needs her own film already. Captain Marvel features the eponymous superhero, alias Carol Danvers, who has some pretty amazing superpowers. She can absorb and shoot out energy and she can fly, in addition to all the Captain America-esque super-speed-super-strength genre of powers. She's likely to crop up in Infinity War, according to Den of Geek, so there's a chance Hulk will do the reverse and make an appearance in her film. But as with Black Panther and Spider-Man, it's unlikely for the very first in a franchise to be a crossover.
Infinity War, Part 2 (2019)
Marvel has planned way into the future with this one — the second installment of Infinity War won't be here for four more years. But it's also the best chance of spotting the Hulk again. If Banner doesn't return in the first film, he must arrive at the eleventh hour to save the day in the conclusion. Four years off is a long time, though.
The Inhumans are kind of like the mutants of X-Men. It makes sense that they'll be introduced last in the Marvel roster, because they're one of the least accessible — and least well-known — of the Marvel inventions. But at this point, each of the series will be so enmeshed in each other I wouldn't be surprised to see a quick Hulk cameo, or even just Dr. Banner tinkering away in the background.
According to E!, Ruffalo told Italian website Bad Taste, "I don’t even know if Hulk will be back soon." Grim news for Marvel fans, but the upcoming offerings are so numerous it would be shocking if he weren't back in the coming years. It just might take a little while.
Image: Walt Disney Studios