For as long as Universal hold onto the distribution rights, The Incredible Hulk will always remain an outlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though the movie hit theaters just six weeks after Iron Man launched the franchise.
From the studio’s standpoint, you can sort of understand why they’d dig their heels in. A solo film for Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner would make big bucks at the box office, and they don’t want to lose out on those profits. And yet, they can’t make one of their own without Kevin Feige’s outfit, so an impasse was settled upon.
New book The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe via ScreenRant reveals that Universal knew this before The Incredible Hulk had even been released, realizing that there was no point in putting the full weight of the marketing machine behind the project when there wasn’t any long-term investment in the MCU at a boardroom level.
“With no long-term benefits for their efforts, it became a concern that Universal was, for lack of a better phrase, phoning in the marketing of the movie. Pragmatically, they had no incentive to invest in Marvel Studios. [Marvel Studios producer Stephen Broussard] knew The Incredible Hulk was going to place second [to Iron Man], so there was personal pressure about landing the movie that might lose money for the studio’s risky two-picture launch.”
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It’s a fascinating situation, one that may yet be resolved for what would no doubt be a mountainous sum of cash, but we’ll be finding out by the middle of next year anyway when we discover whether or not those rumors of a World War Hulk adaptation entering production have any real merit to them.