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What We Want in Marvel Studios Phase 4: WORLD WAR HULK

Phase 3 has been revealed and it looks astonishing, but what about Phase 4? We explain why the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future could revolve around the Green Goliath.

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It's a really great time to be a fan of comic book movies, isn't it? This week, Marvel Studios announced its plans for Phase 3 and there's a lot of reasons to get excited. Civil War, Black Panther, Infinity War, Captain Marvel, and more? The image of Fry saying "shut up and take my money!" has never been more appropriate. We're going to spend a lot of cash at the box office until 2019, but Marvel Studios must have plans after the big encounter with Thanos, right? Phase 4 is still some time away, but there's no way they aren't mapping out what'll happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe once the Mad Titan has finally been defeated. It seems a little odd not to give Hulk, a fan favorite from The Avengers, his own movie, doesn't it? Remember all of those rumors that Marvel Studios was allegedly discussing a PLANET HULK movie? However, Kevin Feige confirmed the character will play a role in Phase 3's movies. Could this be building up to sending the Green Goliath away from Earth? Obviously, there's no way for us to know for sure what they have planned just yet, but we think WORLD WAR HULK would be perfect for Phase 4. Yeah, it's still years away, but it has the potential to be all kinds of awesome.

Yes, this is 110% speculation.

Before we discuss Phase 3 and beyond, let's talk a little bit about that Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer (if you haven't watched it, click here right now) and how it could tease Hulk's bigger role the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future. In the trailer, we see Hulk fighting Iron Man, and a shot of Bruce Banner looking all kinds of depressed. We also see Black Widow attempt to calm the super-strong character down and there's quite a lot of destruction in a city. Did Hulk cause this and the Avengers have to try to stop the formidable character? Did Hulk do this after a burst of anger (even though he seemingly has control) or was he being manipulated?

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HYDRA's big plan involving Helicarriers was stopped, but as we saw at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Wolfgang von Strucker is holding Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in a facility. In the trailer, we see a base located in snowy mountains and we also spot a shirtless Banner wondering through the snow. Did HYDRA get their hands on Banner and experiment on him at this location? Is that why Captain America, Iron Man and Hawkeye are seen in a similar setting? Could it be a rescue mission? If so, HYDRA could be responsible for why Hulk lets loose and Tony Stark has to step into a Hulkbuster armor. It looks like Black Widow's the one to eventually calm the big guy down, but clearly, the damage has been done.

The trailer also reveals a severely traumatized Banner as he's with his teammates. Manipulated or not, he must be realizing the Hulk is a seemingly unstoppable force of destruction. Even when he thinks he has control, something could happen to make the monster lash out and do unthinkable kinds of damage. This has to be taking a huge toll on Banner's psyche. He's tried and tried to control the Hulk, but as you can see in this trailer, it looks like he can't guarantee that he'll always have full control over the Hulk's actions.

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So, what does this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The Avengers basically have a time bomb on their team -- one that even they would have a huge amount of trouble stopping. This could begin the discussion of how the team should deal with a worst case scenario involving the Hulk. Could Tony Stark -- the blunt and logical one -- present the idea of sending Hulk off-planet? With the cosmic stage expanding, he could begin research and narrow down planets which could support life. Something could knock Hulk's ship off course and he winds up on Sakaar. Or could Banner be the one to reach the conclusion that he's too dangerous to stick around? Or -- and this is stretching a bit -- could the events in Infinity War send the green dude drifting off into space and he eventually he lands on planet Sakaar? Could a big battle with Thanos send Hulk floating through space and he eventually ends up on Sakaar? Perhaps Hulk makes a big sacrifice and his actions result in the defeat of Thanos, but said actions result in a huge force and he vanishes. That would be one heck of a way to conclude Phase 3, wouldn't it?

Once on Sakaar, Marvel Studios has so much great material to draw from. Greg Pak's terrific PLANET HULK would be stunning on the big screen. With so many advancements in motion capture performances (e.g. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc), this would give actor Mark Ruffalo plenty to work with. Seeing as Guardians of the Galaxy was such a success and Phase 3 will continue to expand the cosmic stage, the idea of having Hulk spend a majority of his time on an alien planet shouldn't seem unrealistic or too out-there for the general audience. Even if the heroes of Earth aren't the ones who sent him off Earth, there's still so many ways the writers could have Hulk blame the Avengers for what happens on Sakaar. Perhaps the Avengers were searching for him and Hulk stumbles upon a probe? Later on, he believes the great tragedy stemmed from that. With Phase 3 going cosmic heavy, the possibilities to draw a link back to the big characters seems endless.

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With Infinity War wrapping up Phase 3, we see many people wondering how Marvel Studios can hope to top that experience. It's an understandable concern; Thanos is awesome and his story should be huge. They've been building it up for years, after all. We think having Hulk -- one of the standout characters from The Avengers -- as the antagonist in Phase 4's conclusion has the potential to be epic and overflowing with spectacle and fan service. Not only could it be loaded with phenomenal action, but it also has the potential to include a lot of heart and have a more complex antagonist.

This isn't just a bad guy who wants to destroy everything. This is a man who has lost what he loves and still won't bring himself to take a life. He has immense power and rage, yet he still holds back. He wants to make his "enemies" suffer and humiliate them, but he isn't twisted or diabolical. Villains haven't been the most appealing part of Marvel Studios' projects, so building up to WORLD WAR HULK could offer something totally refreshing. It's not the team of heroes uniting to face a big bad and save the world from destruction (until the end, that is). Instead, it makes everyone look at their morals. Sure, there happens to be plenty of punching and smashing along the way, but it's about getting a good look at who these heroes are and what they're willing to do for the greater good -- or at least what they think is the greater good. We know Marvel Studios doesn't do direct adaptations, but there's so many ways they can pull inspiration from this story and still hit us with many of its biggest developments. No matter how Hulk ends up on Sakaar and comes back to Earth seeking justice, this story arc would be a compelling addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's history.

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At the end of Phase 4, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be heavily populated with heroes. There will be a new Avengers roster, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Inhumans, and who knows what else. Building up to the Phase 4 finale would more than likely include the introduction of a few new franchises. Maybe if we're lucky She-Hulk will be one of them. That would certainly enhance the overall story without blatantly forcing Hulk into the narrative. When the not-so-jolly green giant finally comes back to Earth and he has only justice on his mind, there will be a lot of opposition. How thrilling was seeing Hulk briefly battle Thor back in The Avengers? Now imagine if a movie focused on Marvel Studios' biggest heroes doing their best to stop the Hulk. From a battle on the moon with Black Bolt to a slugfest with Doctor Strange to a jaw-dropping conclusion (which likely wouldn't involve Sentry, but there's so many ways to work around that), WORLD WAR HULK would be an astonishing thing to witness in theaters.

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Would you like to see Phase 4 work its way towards World War Hulk or do you think it should go in a different direction?