It’s been just over a year since Avengers: Endgame hit theaters, the next Marvel movie, Black Widow, isn’t heading our way until November, and no one’s sure when movie productions will resume. Dire times for Marvel movie fans, dire times.
The dearth of Marvel movies has left fans with plenty of time on their hands. Time to plan. Time to plot. Time to ponder what’s yet to come. All that time has led to fan theories.
Here is where I make my confession, where I level with you: I dislike fan theories. I do. Sometimes deeply. There it is. Why? I’ll tell you: The honest truth is that most fan theories just aren’t that good. They really aren’t. Not for lack of enthusiasm, but simply because they’re completely implausible reaches (like the “Snowpiercer is a sequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” fan theory), don’t really fit with the ongoing narrative of a franchise in a realistic way (like the “Loki has been masquerading as Bruce Banner the whole time” fan theory), or they hinge on a premise that is literally impossible, legally (like the “Life is the prequel to Venom” fan theory). They’re almost always too much or not enough.
But sometimes, there comes along a fan theory that is so elegant in its simplicity that it makes even me stop and go, “That…actually, that’s not half bad.”
Such is the case with the theory posited by Redditor smileimhigh about a potential story for Avengers 5, if and when that movie ever comes to fruition. The theory is a little thin, but solid in its premise. It suggests that Hulk will become the villain of the fifth Avengers movie: The events of Endgame, understandably, has left the survivors grieving and shaken. But it might be worse for Bruce Banner/Hulk as his sacrifices were undermined not once, but twice.
First, he was the first one to volunteer to wear the Infinity Gauntlet and bring their companions back, not Tony Stark. Hulk snapped while wearing the Gauntlet and destroyed his arm to save half the world, but Tony Stark is the one who got all the credit. Yes, Tony died and was rightfully honored for his bravery and sacrifice, but, as always, Tony Stark sucked all the air out of the room when there were other people who also sacrificed greatly.
This leads to Bruce’s second sacrifice: Natasha Romanoff. Natasha and Bruce may not have ever fully consummated or confirmed their relationship, but it was clear there were deep feelings on both sides, even if they were undeclared. Deep feelings that were, arguably, love. And Nat sacrificed herself just as willingly as Tony to save the world, yet her sacrifice went largely unnoticed, uncelebrated, unmarked. Granted, it’s more fitting for Natasha’s character to honor her with a quiet circle of friends rather than a big funeral or headlines like Tony. Still, the lack of a funeral for Natasha is something that seemed so disrespectful that it still sits wrong with fans, let alone with the man who was arguably in love with her. A man who has deeply-rooted rage issues.
The theory goes on to suggest that maybe Bruce, a deeply emotional guy, goes into a bit of a tailspin, growing more resentful and angry about how things played out and also blaming himself for not saving Natasha. So maybe he starts thinking, if only he were as strong as he had been on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok when he allowed Hulk to fully take over and go “Planet Hulk.” Bruce’s grief and resentment and self-loathing, combined with Hulk’s rage and any lingering insecurity brought on by his performance issues in Infinity War, all coalesce and bring out the Devil Hulk, Bruce Banner’s malevolent, alternate personality from the comics, leading to a “World War Hulk” scenario where he becomes World-Breaker Hulk and grows powerful and vengeful enough to destroy the world.
On one hand, it’s unlikely. Mark Ruffalo said after Thor: Ragnarok that that was about the closest we’d ever get to seeing a Planet Hulk/World War Hulk storyline, Marvel doesn’t seem terribly interested in revisiting stories that revolve around the OG Avengers. Aside from Black Widow, every single movie in development is about one of the new Avengers or a not-yet-introduced character, while any ongoing stories with old Avengers will head to Disney+ in the form of TV series. It would be more than a little regressive to have Bruce Banner/Hulk, a character who has already gotten an arc across five different movies, be the villain of the next Avengers movie, especially with newly reacquired villains – say, Doctor Doom, needing to be integrated into the MCU.
On the other hand, fans have been clamoring for a World War Hulk storyline for years, and Marvel is a studio that never completely shuts the door on an idea. If a story comes together and it’s a good idea, Marvel’s willing to consider it – hence us finally getting a standalone movie for Natasha Romanoff. If Ruffalo or a writer has a really great idea to pitch Marvel, they’d at least listen. Plus, simply from a character standpoint, it’s an arc that is true to the spirit of the character. Bruce Banner might have Zen as hell in Endgame, but Hulk is still Hulk and Bruce is still Bruce, and it’s entirely plausible that their extremely chill vibe isn’t as unshakeable as Bruce believes it is.
Who knows? Either way, it’s an interesting theory and one of the simpler but stronger ones that have floated around in the last few years.
Black Widow is the next Marvel movie up. Add Black Widow to your watchlist and we’ll keep you updated.