Mark Ruffalo, who stars as the Hulk in The Avengers, has signed a six-picture deal with Marvel Studios. If you had asked me previously whether Marvel would take advantage of the ensemble film to spin off another attempt at a Hulk movie — after the dubious successes of 2003′s Hulk starring Eric Bana and 2008′s The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton — I would have put it at even odds at best. Neither movie met with the degree of critical or commercial success that Marvel was looking for, and being on the third actor in a decade to play the character could reasonably be taken as a sign of weakness in the franchise. On the other hand, though, a successful launch of The Avengers could ignite and renew interest in any of the characters, whether it’s the ones with successful franchises such as Iron Man, the ones with no franchises at all such as Hawkeye, or the ones with unsuccessful franchises such as Hulk.
It appears that this will indeed be the case, with The Avengers already bringing in blockbuster numbers internationally (in a rarity for Hollywood productions, its U.S. release on May 5th comes after the release dates for many other countries). I don’t know exactly when Ruffalo signed his deal — it’s possible it’s only being revealed now but was signed earlier — but it’s pretty clear Marvel has every confidence in The Avengers priming its audience to see more of Ruffalo as Dr. Banner and more Hulk. After all, it’s not like they’re going to sign him for a six-picture deal and then just stick him in The Avengers Parts 2-7 and nothing else. A new Hulk movie would be a lock just from this news, but there is one more little tidbit: Paul Gitter of Marvel Entertainment has stated outright that they are looking for a big-budget Hulk feature to hit in 2015. I don’t know how good a job Ruffalo does as Banner — as noted, the movie isn’t out here quite yet — but I think the fact that Marvel is actually working on a long-term plan for the character can only be a good thing.