When I spoke to Joss Whedon about “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” during the film's release, I asked him about one of the scenes that was cut between script and production. While I'll respect his request not to detail the scene completely, I can say that it had to do with Hulk's ultimate fate in the film. While it wasn't the exact same fate that he ultimately has in the finished film, I think it's safe to say that Whedon laid down some explicit ideas that became the foundation for the much more ambiguous ending.
Keep in mind the last few images we see of the Hulk. He's in the Quinjet. He's already told the Widow that there's no place on the planet that he feels like he's not a threat to someone else. In those last few moments, he looks up at the sky above the Quinjet, and then the next time we hear about him, no one can find him. He's just gone. The Quinjet showed up, but there's no Hulk. Anywhere.
While they haven't officially said that Hulk went to space, ummmmm… Hulk went to space. And now JoBlo is saying they've confirmed that Mark Ruffalo will be playing a key role in “Thor: Ragnarok.” I've been hearing that they were actively working to decide where to reintroduce the Hulk, and James Gunn has been adamant that it was not happening in “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2”. While we're not sure where “Captain Marvel” takes place, there is a chance that they'll include elements from the cosmic side of the Marvel universe in that film, and that seemed like a possibility. That film is still struggling to pin down some of the key creative choices and players, though, and got pushed back a half-year.
“Thor: Ragnarok” makes perfect sense. It's a return to the more cosmic battlefields for Thor, and word is there is an actual battlefield world where much of the film takes place. If that's correct, then they could easily write it so Hulk feels like he's finally found a place where he fits, and that struggle between Hulk and Bruce Banner for control of their shared physical form could be an important subplot as Thor tries to take back control of Asgard from Loki, who has been living as Odin since the end of “Thor: The Dark World.”
By the time this film comes out, three of the main franchises in the Marvel universe will have closed out their trilogies. We're reaching a real turning point for the company. They're working on plans for how the next decade looks as they have to deal with the “ending” of the series that have built their success, “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” and “Thor.” With “Infinity War,” they'll also be closing out their “Avengers” trilogy, and that's a pretty hefty batch of world building and storytelling that will be wrapped up, with new characters and series becoming very important.
In this home stretch, we're seeing far more crossovers between the various films. The third “Captain America” is basically just as big as an “Avengers” film, a massive collection of characters, and it sounds like “Thor: Ragnarok” is going to feature at least one of Earth's mightiest heroes teaming up with the true son of Asgard. I'm excited to see how they come together, and how this leads to Hulk's eventual return to Earth. I really like the choice of Taika Waititi as director for the film, and I'm getting very excited to see what this one is.
If you trace all the stories we've run about Hulk and his off-world adventures, it's an interesting picture of how Marvel develops an idea from film to film until they finally find the version they like the most.
We'll see that final version when “Thor: Ragnarok” is in theaters November 3, 2017.