This is a good weekend for superhero movie fans. The Flash is now in theaters, and you can watch DC try to catch up to the multiverse hijinks of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Or instead of seeing The Flash, you can watch The Incredible Hulk on Disney+.
One of those films stars an occasional outlaw, and the other features Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, a fugitive who is on the run from the U.S. military, which wants to turn Banner’s alter ego, the Hulk, into a weapon. This is also a big deal because The Incredible Hulk is poised to have a big influence on the upcoming MCU movies.
Have you ever wondered why The Incredible Hulk wasn’t on Disney+ before now? It’s because this movie was produced by Universal Pictures and Marvel Studios a year before Disney purchased Marvel in 2009. Because Universal had produced and released Ang Lee’s Hulk movie in 2003, the studio retained the cinematic rights to the character at a time when Marvel was just beginning to make its big screen plans. Marvel and Universal were able to come to terms for this film in return for the former maintaining the movie’s distribution rights. This is why it’s been on other streaming platforms instead of Disney+.
However, Deadline is reporting that Universal’s distribution rights to The Incredible Hulk have expired since the film has just reached its 15th anniversary. Disney isn’t wasting any time putting up the movie, and for the first time, the second film in the MCU is now on Disney+. This leaves Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man: No Way Home as the only MCU movies that aren’t on Disney+. But given the recent arrival of the other Spider-Man movies on Disney+, Far From Home and No Way Home will probably arrive down the line.
As part of Marvel’s drive to make its own movies, the studio went after established stars to headline their films. Ed Norton was chosen to portray Bruce Banner/Hulk, while Lou Ferrigno, the star of the ’70s Incredible Hulk TV series, provided Hulk’s voice in the film. By all accounts, Norton was very hands-on with this movie, and he did an uncredited rewrite of the script and he reportedly participated in the editing process as well. But this appears to have soured his relationship with Marvel, and the studio replaced Norton with Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. Ruffalo most recently portrayed Bruce/Hulk in Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney At Law series.
Eight years after The Incredible Hulk was released in theaters, William Hurt reprised his role as General Thaddeus Ross in Captain America: Civil War. Hurt also returned for Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Black Widow before he passed away in 2022. Incredible Hulk‘s Tim Roth also returned to his role as Emil Blonsky/Abomination in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and She-Hulk.
But next year, Captain America: Brave New World is going to finally tackle one of Incredible Hulk‘s lingering plot threads: The transformation of Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) into The Leader, a Gamma-enhanced super genius and one of the Hulk’s greatest villains. Additionally, Liv Tyler has signed on to reprise her role as Bruce Banner’s ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross. Harrison Ford will also star in the film as President Ross, as he takes over the role from Hurt. At this point, the only major Incredible Hulk characters who aren’t in Brave New World are the Abomination and the Hulk himself.
Captain America: Brave New World will hit theaters on July 26, 2024.
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