Due to the distribution rights being held up at Universal, Hulk has only had the chance to lead one solo outing in the MCU with Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk in 2008. Since Mark Ruffalo took over the role in 2012's The Avengers, the green Avenger has only had the chance to be a side character.
But that all may be about to change as, following his major role in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, reports swirled that a World War Hulk movie is in development at Marvel Studios. Although, despite having been rumored to bring production this year, development hasn't shown much progress.
Ruffalo even expressed his interest in a World War Hulk project, teasing that his MCU story could go anywhere down the line. However, with the rights issues with Universal still in play, can Marvel Studios even push forward with the project?
Latest Report Spells Trouble for World War Hulk
A recent report from The Wrap offered an update on the situation surrounding Hulk and Namor's movie rights - as Universal currently holds the distribution rights for solo projects starring the two heroes. But what does this mean for the rumored World War Hulk project in development at Marvel Studios?
Just as Hulk has been for his past MCU appearances, Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore revealed Namor had to be "borrowed" from Universal for his recent role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This shuts down past rumors that the rights had already returned to Disney, although they may be back next year.
Moore also revealed that while the underwater ruler "can return," he cannot star in a solo movie. Given the rights situation between Disney and Universal surrounding Hulk is the same as Namor's, this does not bode well for the rumored World War Hulk project.
However, this may not always be the case as, following recent evidence that Disney would regain these Marvel rights from Universal in June 2023, insider MyTimeToShineHello claimed that "they'll get the rights back in the next two years."
Universal last distributed a Marvel Studios outing in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk, but that came before Disney's $4 billion acquisition of the MCU studio. Since then, Hulk has only been able to serve as a side character and not lead his own project, and that will likely continue to be the case until the rights are recovered.
Is World War Hulk Still in Development at Marvel Studios?
Since World War Hulk was first reported to be in development in October 2021, updates have been scarce, with one insider revealing in July that they haven't heard anything about the project in around a year. So, between the apparent lack of movement and the rights issues, is it even still in the works?
The initial report claimed She-Hulk would set the stage for World War Hulk before production began on the blockbuster follow-up in late 2022 in time for a late 2023 release. However, none of that appears to be paying off, aside from one off-handed tease of a theatrical follow-up in the legal comedy finale.
Perhaps this may indicate either development has reached a halt on the project, possibly due to the rights issues, or maybe just paused. If Marvel Studios will indeed be reclaiming the full rights to Hulk and Namor in the coming years, it may seek to push forward on development soon.
Interestingly, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently revealed that the potential of Namor leading his own solo outing hinges on the response to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This could indicate that door may not be closed completely and that a resolution to the rights issues may be in sight.
But unfortunately, fans will probably be waiting until Phase 7 and the next saga after Avengers: Secret Wars before World War Hulk. Perhaps a shift in rights could also open the doors to Namor leading his own solo project, especially after the overwhelming response to Tenoch Huerta's Black Panther 2 character.
For now, Mark Ruffalo's latest appearance as the Hulk can be seen on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law which is streaming now on Disney+.