Ever since the Hulk stole the show back in 2012’s The Avengers, fans have been clamoring for a solo adventure for Mark Ruffalo and his big, green alter-ego. And yet, we’ve heard nothing and aside from a tiny cameo in Iron Man 3, Bruce Banner has sat out Marvel’s Phase 2. However, Ruffalo himself has spoken out about the matter and it sounds like Earth’s mightiest green rage monster is being constrained by the most powerful force in the universe: rights issues.

When Marvel Studios produced The Incredible Hulk back in 2008 (a film that has become the redheaded stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way), the rights were not owned by Disney and they had to team up with Universal to distribute the film. You may recall that Universal also made 2003’s disastrous, but not as bad as you remember, Hulk. In an interview with Collider, Ruffalo revealed that when Marvel Studios partnered with their new owner, they weren’t able to secure the rights to create and distribute future solo Hulk endeavors:

As far as a Hulk movie, a standalone Hulk movie, Marvel doesn’t really have the rights to that yet. That’s still Universal’s property, so there’s that issue. That’s a big impediment to moving forward with that. Now I don’t think that’s insurmountable, by the way, but I don’t know where it’s going from here for me.

In short, if Marvel Studios wants to make a Bruce Banner solo adventure, Disney is going to need to pony up some cash and there is no way Universal is going to completely give up those distribution rights without a check with a whole bunch of zeroes on it. After all, Disney and Marvel managed to buy out all of the rights to Iron Man, Thor and Captain America from Paramount before the first Avengers movie hit. After that, the price skyrockets.

While we certainly understand this from a business point of view, it’s still a bummer. The Ruffalo version of Hulk is the first time anyone has really gotten the character right on screen and rather than capitalize on it, Marvel Studios has been forced to relegate him to team adventures. If Ultron or Loki spoke legalese, the Hulk would be defeated in a heartbeat.

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