At the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Hulk/Bruce Banner dipped out on his fellow Avengers, his destination unknown. The Hulk had been the most conflicted of the Avengers and despite a growing connection with the Black Widow that had really seemed to develop in that second Avengers movie, it was somewhat of a logical next step for The Hulk to vanish for a while. He then remained on the sidelines for Captain America: Civil War. The idea was that we wouldn’t see the big green wrecking ball until The Avengers: Infinity War.
And then that first trailer for Thor: Ragnarok dropped and there he is, the Hulk, squaring off with Thor in a gladiator pit. We don’t yet know what the outcome of their fight is, but as we could see in trailers released later on, they seem to have patched things up as Hulk is part of the Revengers, joining Thor in his fight against Hela.
But going back to that initial teaser trailer, when The Hulk smashed through the walls of the gladiator pit and Thor responded by joyfully celebrating and calling him “a friend from work,” we all had a good laugh. Man, those two really are adorable together. Yet after the laughter stopped, we were left to wonder and ask, what is The Hulk doing in Thor’s world?
The answer to that question lies in the Planet Hulk storyline, which ran in the mid-2000’s. In Planet Hulk, Hulk left Earth and ended up Sakaar, an alien world, where he became a gladiator. Of course let’s be honest, you make Hulk a gladiator and it’s only a matter of time before he’s the best gladiator there is, which is exactly what happened. Once it did and Hulk’s popularity grew, Hulk led a rebellion comprised of fellow gladiators against the Red King, the ruler of Sakaar. The rebellion proved successful and Hulk became the new ruler of Sakaar.
It’s at this point that you may be questioning the plausibility of such a development, how this would even be possible, given Hulk’s nature and style, not to mention his inability to form even the most basic of intelligible sentences. Your concerns wouldn’t be met with skepticism or disdain from me. Yet as it turns out, space travel did wonders for Hulk and helped create a new iteration of Hulk that was known as Green Scar. Green Scar was not just stronger, but smarter. He wasn’t Bruce Banner-smart, but smart enough to handle managing a rebellion and what would follow.
Based on the trailers that have been released, Thor: Ragnarok seems to borrow heavily from the Planet Hulk storyline, mainly with the gladiator fighting and a smarter version of The Hulk, one who is able to interact more with others. It doesn’t look like there’s a Red King here though, with Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster filling that role as the one who presides over the gladiator pits in Sakaar.
Prior to The Avengers’ release in 2012, there had been a couple stand alone movies about The Hulk released in recent years, one with Ed Norton and another with Eric Bana. Neither were all that great and are now nothing more than debris in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, with Mark Ruffalo now playing Bruce Banner, the sweet to Hulk’s sour, there was some thinking that Marvel might try and take another crack at a Hulk movie. Yet so far it’s been nothing more than speculation and it seems as if Thor: Ragnarok will be the closest thing we will get to a Hulk stand alone movie, as early reviews have said he practically shares top billing with Thor.