Is Hulk Destined to Become a Bad Guy in The Avengers?
That's the question Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier discussed with MTV recently. It's clear by now that Marvel is launching individual franchises (e.g. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor) in anticipation of the 2011-slated The Avengers. But with a movie consisting of nearly half-a-dozen presumed good guys, who on earth (or not) might prove a worthy adversary? Leterrier pitches this idea: "I would love to see [the Hulk become the villain that fights the Avengers] because I think the best villains are always the ones whose agenda you understand." As it turns out, the idea that the Hulk could turn antagonist has legs that extend all the way from its origins in the comics. Warning: spoilers contained within!
Back in the 1960s when the Avengers debuted, the team consisted of the Hulk, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp and Thor. The group joined forces to battle Loki (Thor's step-brother). Shortly thereafter, the Hulk leaves the team apparently because the other members fear his instability. The Avengers try to locate the Hulk, which results in a battle between the two, and the eventual revival of Captain America. Obviously, this is a cliff-notes account, but it should give you a pretty good idea that this rendering of the Hulk has roots.
The idea has recent grounding, as well, in Marvel's property called The Ultimates, which is a modern-day version of the Avengers. Published in 2002, the original book in the series features Nick Fury as the organizer of the superhero sect. Fury recruits Giant-Man (previously known as Ant-Man), Wasp, The Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. At some point, The Hulk goes AWOL, rampaging through Manhattan. Thor comes into play by assisting the team in subduing the green giant. There's a whole lot more going on in the Marvel Universe, but this storyline seems potentially fitting given that it involves Fury. We've already seen Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) attempt to recruit Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) at the end of Jon Favreau's Iron Man.
Smartly, Leterrier ends his Hulk with the greatest degree of flexibility in the story. As you'll recall in the film, Hulk ends with Bruce Banner tucked away in a mountain lodge enjoying some casual mediation and a new goatee. The camera zooms in as he opens his eyes, revealing both his glowing green irises and a half smile. "That's why I left the door open for whoever's going to direct The Avengers with our last shot," said Leterrier. "Edward and I, we consciously decided to make the last shot of the movie when he opens his eyes and he smirks at the camera. Is he enjoying it? Is he malicious? That's what's great about Edward. You don't know if he's a good guy or bad guy. He's always on this edge and we've been sort of surfing that edge, that very thin edge during the entire movie."
"So that last shot of the movie, if you decide that he's smiling, in control, then he's a good guy, that's The Hulk 2. If Hulk is a failure, then he looks up and smirks and that's eventually the Hulk of The Avengers - the uncontrollable beast that they need to team up to stop."
This whole topic and the various possibilities are incredibly exciting. I love it that Leterrier had the forethought to leave Hulk's future in question. Of course, it's hard to predict what might happen, since The Avengers will be adapted from mountains of Marvel material. For instance, Leterrier recently revealed that Hulk actually contains a supposed brief cameo of Captain America - a scene not in the theatrical version, at least right now. So if Bruce Banner meets Steve Rogers now, how does that track with the broader Avengers story?
There are tons of questions, to be sure, but the one at hand is: Who thinks the Hulk should go bad? And if you think your opinion doesn't count, Leterrier also said, "I would listen to the fans before I listen to the box office. They are the reason why these movies successful." You gotta love this guy!