‘The Incredible Hulk’ Is Coming to Disney+ & Here’s What It Means

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While we’ve seen a lot of different movies in the MCU, a lot of fans have noticed the lack of Hulk movies ever since the 2008 release of ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ This is quite surprising because of the fact that the Hulk has always been one of the most iconic Marvel characters of all time and is consistently one of the most popular names in the lineup of Marvel Comics characters. Of course, the reason for this can be quite complicated.

Nevertheless, we’ve seen an influx of Hulk-related projects on the Disney side, especially with the release of ‘She-Hulk.’ There are also rumors that a new Hulk movie is on the way and will explore more of the Hulk family. Fans are also excited that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ will now be on Disney+. So, with that said, let’s look at what that means for the Hulk and Marvel Studios.

The Universal Pictures deal is ending

We all know that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is one of the very first movies in the MCU as it came after ‘Iron Man’ in 2008. However, one of the things that people noticed was the lack of sequels after that movie. Granted that the one in the 2008 movie starred Edward Norton, it is still true that Bruce Banner, whom Mark Ruffalo plays, is essentially the same person.

But the problem is that it has been a decade and a half since that movie’s release, but we still haven’t seen any other Hulk movie in the MCU’s lineup even though the Hulk has had a huge role in a lot of the different crossover films in the MCU.

2008 hulk

There’s also the fact that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ was missing in Disney+’s lineup of MCU movies, only for it to soon make its way to the House of Mouse’s streaming platform. This is good news for a lot of fans of the Hulk. But the reason why it took so long for the movie to get to Disney+ can be traced all the way back to the 2003 Universal Pictures ‘Hulk’ movie starring Eric Bana.

Back then, Universal had exclusive rights to distributing any Hulk movies. But when the company couldn’t deliver a sequel to the first movie because let’s face it, that 2003 version wasn’t great, the rights to create a new Hulk movie reverted to Marvel. But the thing is that Universal was still able to retain the distribution rights of any movie starring the Hulk. That’s why the 2008 ‘The Incredible Hulk’ was a joint project between Marvel and Universal, as it was the latter that distributed the film.

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The distribution rights of Universal over the Hulk character, however, persisted for 15 years. According to the SEC filing made in 2006, it was confirmed that Universal agreed to distribute ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and any of its sequels in a manner similar to the distribution rights agreement that Marvel had with Paramount Pictures before Disney acquired Marvel Studios. That filing said:

“Universal Studios has agreed to distribute Marvel’s film The Incredible Hulk and sequels on essentially the same terms as those on which Paramount has agreed to distribute the other films financed and produced under the film facility.”

In that regard, there is good reason to believe that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and any other Hulk movies were solely distributed by Universal for a period of 15 years, starting from the release of the movie in June 2008. Since we are now in June 2023, as of this writing, it is safe to say that the deal is probably over, even though we don’t have an exact confirmation regarding that speculation.

This explains why Marvel Studios never released a Hulk movie in the 15 years after the release of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ even though Marvel produced that 2008 film. Had Marvel Studios decided to produce a Hulk movie, the distribution of the said movie was still up to Universal. And that would have complicated things on the part of Marvel Studios.

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But since 15 years have passed, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is no longer exclusively distributed by Universal Pictures as the company’s rights over the Hulk character’s distribution in the film has already ended. This is why the 2008 ‘The Incredible Hulk’ movie is making its way to Disney+ as part of the MCU lineup of movies.

The Hulk’s distribution rights might revert back to Marvel Studios

Of course, ever since Universal failed to develop a sequel to the 2003 Hulk movie, the rights to produce a Hulk film reverted back to Marvel. That is why the 2008 ‘The Incredible Hulk’ movie was produced by Marvel but was distributed by Universal since the latter didn’t lose the distribution rights over the movie. 

So, in the 15 years that went by since the release of ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ Marvel Studios owned the rights to the Hulk character but needed to have a joint project with Universal in the distribution of any film that starred the Hulk as the leading character. This explains why the Hulk was always just a supporting character in all of the MCU movies that he appeared in, even though he was always one of the most popular Marvel characters of all time.

hulk and she hulk

But the fact that ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ was released and that the MCU is now expanding the Hulk family is good news. That’s because the ending of the distribution rights of Universal Pictures means that the distribution rights of the Hulk’s live-action cinematic portrayal will most likely automatically revert back to Marvel Studios, which falls under the umbrella of the larger Disney company.

This is why fans are now excited about what Marvel Studios will come up with in the future regarding the Hulk. Marvel Studios can now produce a Hulk movie starring the titular character in a leading role without entering into a joint project with Universal. And that is why there’s a good chance that we will see a Hulk-centered movie in the future, especially with the introduction of She-Hulk and Skaar into the MCU.

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