Of all of the original movie Avengers, the Hulk is the one whose continued presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most mysterious. Much of that has to do with rights and licensing, but there's also a simple question of what to do with him. Given his lack of a trilogy of solo movies that the other Avengers got, he's easily one of the more underdeveloped main characters in the films. On top of that, Thor: Ragnarok already loosely adapted Planet Hulk, one of the more prominent Hulk stories from the comics. The MCU itself is trying to evolve its own identity, hoping to utilize more diversity of genre to keep the films from getting stagnant. With this goal, the MCU would do well to adapt the very horror based, untraditional recent storyline of Immortal Hulk for an upcoming Hulk movie.
What is Immortal Hulk?
Beginning in 2018, Marvel's Immortal Hulk recast the Jade Giant's book from typical superhero trappings to a comic book very much based on Lovecraftian horror. It's initially episodic nature actually resembled a sort of dark deconstruction of the 1970s The Incredible Hulk television series, with Banner hopping from town to town and unleashing the Hulk in a typically gruesome fashion towards the issue's end. More than any series beforehand, the innate body horror aspect of The Hulk has been played with. This can especially be seen in the newest Abomination's particularly hideous appearance. Other Hulk characters, such as Rick Jones, Betty Ross, and Doc Samson, have also had prominent roles after years of being relatively minor in comics.
The title delves even further into Lovecraft territory with the presence of not only the Devil Hulk, but Marvel's ultimate evil known as The-One-Below-All. These beings have throughout the series all vied for control of Banner's body, along with the myriad of other personalities occupying it. These include the intelligent Banner, the barbaric Savage Hulk, and the thuggish Joe Fixit. There's also the gamma-irradiated hell that Banner himself has both been to and sent others to. To top it all off, it seems that The-One-Below-All inevitably wins control of The Hulk's horrific final form... possibly because the two share a common misanthropic goal.
The precedent for horror-based Marvel Cinematic Universe films will already be set with Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness. This upcoming film will also tackle borderline Lovecraftian themes and monsters, and is the perfect movie for Marvel to begin expanding the scope of its films' genres. The first Doctor Strange already displayed mind-bending special effects to create its sense of otherworldliness, and the multiversal sequel will no doubt double down on this and then some. The Hulk, more than any character, is rife with psychological turmoil and struggle. By utilizing the differing personalities at play within its protagonist's head, an Immortal Hulk film could use incredible effects to define the character beyond just smashing. The potential body horror of the character possibly morphing from one form to another, with his face mutating from mild Banner, to pudgy Professor, and monstrous Savage Hulk, would itself be an incredible, if unnerving, sight to see on the big screen. The-One-Below-All could also be somewhat established in Multiverse of Madness, allowing for his and other cosmic entities to be introduced in Immortal Hulk. Furthermore, Immortal Hulk could establish Hulk characters such as Doc Samson and reintroduce others such as Betty Ross.
Given the fact that the original Hulk comics were themselves very much based on 1950s horror and monster movies, this would also be a sort of full-circle effect for the character. It would also (again) set the movie apart from the now very cookie-cutter tone and style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Given how comedic Hulk himself has become in the movies, it would be a more than welcome return to form. Far from the destructive threat to humanity seen in the first two Avengers films, Hulk has devolved from the ultimate weapon of mass destruction to a taco making, almost zen-master punch line, preferring dabbing over smashing. A horrifying, utterly stomach-churning (as much as a PG-13 movie could be) Immortal Hulk movie would be the perfect way to give the character his grit back. The upcoming She-Hulk series is sure to be more lighthearted, given the character's more comedic nature. Thus, having a scary, Junji Ito-esque Hulk movie would be the perfect counterbalance. With Ruffalo recently confirming that Hulk's MCU future is being discussed, let's hope that Banner's next outing smashes fan and genre expectations.