In the late 1990s, Marvel was hit by bankruptcy, which resorted to them having to sell the film rights to many of their characters to multiple movie studios. One of these studios was Universal Pictures, who were sold the movie rights to Hulk, Namor, and all of their related characters.
Universal then went on to produce director Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003, and later distributed Louis Leterrier's MCU canon film, The Incredible Hulk, in 2008. Hive4media also reported that the studio had begun development on a standalone Namor movie in 2001, but the character still has yet to make his live-action debut on the big screen.
The exact details about these movie rights are unclear, but Marvel Studios has been allowed to include the Hulk in multiple MCU films, such as The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok. Although, they're currently unable to make another standalone Hulk movie.
Marvel is also prohibited from including Namor in any MCU film but did allude to the existence of the character's homeworld of Atlantis in an Easter egg in Iron Man 2. This new rumor now suggests that the movie rights to Hulk and Namor may have reportedly returned to Marvel Studios.
According to Jeremy Conrad from MCU Cosmic, one of his supposedly reliable sources claims that Marvel Studios may have reclaimed the film rights to both Hulk and Namor.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Prior to this news, it was revealed that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige had asked actor Mark Ruffalo to pitch him ideas for the Hulk's future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If true, fans could potentially see a lot more from the strongest Avenger beyond his guest appearances in other MCU movies. While a sequel to The Incredible Hulk might now be a possibility, audiences probably shouldn’t expect to see another standalone Hulk movie until 2023 at the earliest, as Marvel is already busy producing twelve movies and eight Disney+ series.
It's also unlikely that Marvel Studios will want to begin development on a standalone Namor film, due to the success of DC's Aquaman movie. Rumors also suggest that the Submariner might make his live-action debut in the sequel to Black Panther.
In the last nine years, the film rights to several other characters also returned to Marvel Studios. Blade & Ghost Rider's movie rights returned in 2013. Deadpool, X-Men, Fantastic Four and the film rights to all of their related characters were also reclaimed by Marvel Studios after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox last year in March.
The movie rights to The Defenders are currently in limbo. Marvel is unable to use Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher and all related characters in future MCU projects until two years have passed since the cancellation of their respective Netflix series.
As Marvel Studios continues to regain the movie rights to almost all of their iconic characters, the possibilities are endless in what stories Kevin Feige will soon be able to tell within the MCU.