The Deal: I write pitches set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also sometimes other things. This pitch isn’t a direct sequel, but follows the end of Thunderbolts 2, a sequel to Thunderbolts 1.
The Pitch: Okay, I know I said I wanted to introduce Amadeus Cho in my pitch for Iron Man 4, and I’m assuming we did. But I feel like I didn’t do it justice, and I’d need to introduce him here, anyway, to the wider audience. So I’m doing something I haven’t before, and I’m adding an additional scene to Iron Man 4, really to flesh out things I didn’t describe in detail (if you want to see where this fits with that pitch, go here):
I’m imagining Pepper giving a press conference to announce this initiative, saying she doesn’t want to live in a world without an Iron Man, so she intends to find the next one. Reporters start asking questions, starting with dumb ones like whether or not she’s sold the show to HBO. Finally, one asks how you can replace the smartest man on Earth. That’s when Amadeus Cho stands up and says, “Sixth. I’m Amadeus Cho, the Seventh. Seventh smartest human on Earth, just ahead of Vision, not the seventh Amadeus Cho in an unbroken line of self-importance. I believe Ms. Potts is currently number 6, though I don’t expect that to last. ” Pepper, intrigued, pulls him aside. He tells her, “You won’t choose me; there’s too much of Tony in me, and if you’re building a new Iron Person from scratch, why would you start off with the same hubris and relative character defects? But you’ve a better chance of success if I work with you. It’s taken me years to develop my models- it was helpful, the five years half the population was missing; not a lot happened, so I had a nice, solid chunk of time to refine my models.“
I’m imagining now that Cho would be riding shotgun with Pepper as we set up Riri Williams for her own TV show, called Ironheart. Anywyay, onto this pitch:
We open on a television screen, 2008. On the screen is news footage, taken from the Incredible Hulk. We see a young Asian boy riveted to the screen, as Hulk smashes. His mom comes in, surprised he’s awake, before realizing he’s crying, and holds him. She pats his back and says she knows the Hulk is scary. Casting would be tough, because you need a kid who is the definition of precocious. The kid is defiant, and says “I’m sad. Dr. Banner is trapped inside the Hulk. He just wants to be left alone so he can fix things. Why they won’t they leave him alone?” He grabs onto his mother’s shoulder, and we can cut away.
I’m assuming this takes place after the Replacement 4’s series, and Hulk is relatively well liked, and relatively in control of himself. This sets off Ross, who has spent years plotting his revenge against the Hulk, working to assemble his Thunderbolts as an anti-Hulk squad. So he does the unthinkable: he gives Hulk the same treatment as the Abomination- by shooting him with the gamma bullet at the end of the Thunderbolts 2 credits. Not only does this bring out an old Hulk, but a feral one. Bruce has just enough of a hand on the wheel to try and steer him away from population centers and run, but he can’t de-Hulk- there’s nothing he can do to calm down (if we want to really drive this wedge home, Hulk runs to Natasha’s grave, tries to meditate there while playing the recorded message from the Quinnjet). It fails, and he tears the tree there out and throws it towards the horizon.
When we meet Amadeus Cho, at first, he seems like ADHD personified. But what we come to realize is that he’s an evolution; most human beings follow a single thought at a time, start to finish; they might get distracted and do something else in the middle, and then resume the first line of thought (we saw Tony do this a lot while inventing), but Amadeus has the first truly multi-threaded brain in our species, capable of following complex and parallel thought processes. He sounds like a crazy person because we can’t follow him, and because human language really can’t express multiple ideas at the same time (about the only media that can is comics and maybe video, and even then, you can really only express a very simple pictorial idea and a more complicated textual one- there are definite limits; note to directors: illustrating his thought processes with a comic page with multiple colored text boxes appearing on screen in parallel with lines forming around them even as he, in the center, moves around, might be a good idea).
Amadeus Cho watches footage of a more feral looking Hulk rampaging as the military attacks. Cho is eating a Ho-Ho at a food counter. Cho, irritated, asks if they can turn that Fox News crap off, to which the cook snaps, “No outside food.”
He shoves the entire thing in his mouth, then says, through a very full mouth, “See, no Ho-Ho.” He chews then swallows and adds, “And it’s certainly not outside anymore.” The cook says that he’s lucky he’s a good customer. “Good customer? I’m single-handedly putting your daughters through med school and braces.” The cook wrinkles his nose and tells him it only covers state school. “Well, bring back the cookie dough pie and we’ll talk Ivy League.” Amadeus is handed his food, and on his way out the cook says that he always knew Hulk was no hero- he’s a menace.
Cho wolfs down the food as he’s walking, walking faster and wolfing faster as he goes. Suddenly, we’re in his home, at his computer talking to his bratty little sister. He walks her through his snooping, that he found on the dark web posts from IPs that correspond to Ross’s office, enquiring about equipment related to the 2008 Hulk Incident, as well as the disposition of a black site prisoner called Sterns. He says the evidence seems to support the idea that Ross has done something to the Hulk. She yawns, and he launches into the next part of his plan.
She mocks him, for writing to superheroes like a baby. He tells her they aren’t fan letters, he’s staging a rescue. He wants to save the Hulk, and he needs muscle. He tells her he deduced the secret identities of half the heroes in New York, and sent them messages to their home addresses. They’ll have to respond. She tells him she thinks that’s just stalking, and super creepy if he did it to any of the heroines, to which he’s dumbstruck and says, “Uhhhh…”
Cut to a family style restaurant (think a T.G.I. Friday’s), with a banner over a section near the door declaring it reserved for “Friends of Hulk,” meeting at 4. Amadeus is alone in the section, with appetizers spread out, and a cake with a Hulk face applique on it. He checks the time, it’s almost 6. “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me, Hulk-cake,” he sighs, before collapsing face-first into the cake. Someone walks in and Cho sits upright, the Hulk applique and some frosting sticking to his face like a mask. He wears the applique for a moment before tearing it off, and introducing himself to Hercules. Now, before the latest Thor featured a cameo, I offered my suggestion for Hercules: Joe Manganiello. One, he’s one of the few actors built right for the role. Two, he’s one of the few actors who I think could pull off that combination of fun, fierce and fantastical that you need for the character (he needs to, in the same scene, be both the most and least human of the Olympians).
Cut to later, Hercules and Cho have demolished the spread, and Hercules has drunk his weight in beer. Hercules slaps him on the back and tells him for a mortal he can eat with true Olympians. Cho tells him that he burns a lot of calories being the 7th smartest man on the planet. He thanks Hercules for coming. He thought there’d be a better reception, that Hulk would have more friends. Hercules says that Banner has many, the Hulk but a lucky few. He launches into a fantastic tale (he’s a little inebriated at this point) of the Hulk aiding him in the defense of Olympus, against, “Was it trolls? Frost giants? Gorgons? Hell, all of them!” Amadeus watches as he weaves the myth in real-time. Hercules should feel larger than life, but also like a blow-hard, like we can’t know if he’s half the hero he thinks he is. Amadeus assumes he came only for the free food, but at the end of the night, Herc insists they carry out a plan, that “the Hulk is a true friend, and so, too, is Hercules.” Cho asks for pies to go, and clarifies he means whole pies, not slices, that he’ll need the calories to figure out where the Hulk is, and where Ross will be, to figure out where best to intervene.
We cut to Hulk, mid-rampage, fighting the military. He’s winning; even whatever anti-Hulk tech they’d prepped is just no match for what Ross has wrought. We get the biggest guest-star we can, Sentry would probably be best, but a Thor could work in a pinch. They subdue Hulk enough to try and calm him down. It fails. Then they get the snot kicked out of them. That’s when Ross approaches with the military, prepared to use a modified gamma bomb designed to overwhelm the Hulk’s cells while just burning away any other organics caught in the blast- including the small hamlet inside the radius.
That’s when Hercules shows up, causing a distraction, during which Amadeus Cho manages to get Bruce Banner, who finally de-Hulks after all the exertion, finally able to wrest control. He tells Amadeus they have to figure out a way to kill him. Amadeus tells him no, they’re going to find a way to save him. Bruce, groggy, asks Cho if he knows how to fly a helicopter, who says it seems straightforward enough.
Hercules and Cho meet back up. Banner gets back on his meds, which do help even him out, and he’s able to think calmly enough now to understand what’s been done to him, and he thinks he understands a way to undo it. But there’s a problem. There are radioactive isotopes Ross added to him when he dosed him. That was how they tracked him. The other problem is that the equipment he needs is ultra high end, not available commercially or even for sale in some instances. So he’s going to have to steal it. And it will be clear really quickly even to Ross and his team of dunces what he’s doing and where he’ll have to go next. That predictability means his mission is already doomed.
Herc and Amadeus have a better idea. Bruce will leach the isotopes and enough of the extraneous gamma radiation to be able to control himself. Ross shot him with a concentrated gamma bullet, one designed to fragment on penetration; day 1 it might have been solid enough to remove surgically, but it’s been broken down into pellets. It would take a surgical team a week to get them all out- only they’d be rapidly metabolizing during that frame, so they’d get halfway through before they’d be gone. So even if he’s dumping radiation, it will continue to ramp- so they still need a longer-term cure. But they can take the heavier tracking isotopes, and enough of the excess radiation to be able to throw Ross off the scent.
As they’re leading Ross on a goose chase, Herc asks why Amadeus is such a fan of the Hulk. “Bruce might not be as smart as me, but compare him to flighty intellectuals like Tony Stark and even to an extent Hank Pym, guys who just couldn’t stay in one lane and truly innovate- Bruce has done more for physics than either man in any other field- an Einstein level paradigm shifter. I haven’t found my gamma radiation, yet, but Bruce the intellectual is my hero, and Hulk the tragic inversion is sort of what all geniuses fear- that our work will be turned monstrous, used for purposes we never foresaw and couldn’t protect against, that we’ll hurt people, despite our good intentions. That Bruce is trapped within that roiling chaos machine just adds to the pathos.
“I’ve read literally everything he’s ever written, every paper published, every interview, and I even hacked the DoD just to get at his personal correspondence, letters, emails, voice mails, even a very lovely, sentimental Valentine he gave to his first grade teacher. She was a fox, so I totally understand what eight year old Bruce was thinking. I did a lot of this when I was little. I don’t know. I guess I’ve always felt like a Hulk inside, and a Bruce outside.”
We do a lot of montaging, and it becomes clear Ross is closing in on Bruce, so Cho and Herc put in a desperate, last-ditch trap, as likely to get them caught and arrested. The plan essentially hinges on Bruce regaining control and being able to save the day.
I think the climax comes to a head when Ross is about to bomb them. Hercules is pretty sure he can survive, and wants to eat the gamma vial. Amadeus is skeptical. “No offense, dude, but if you’re wrong, I’m not sure anyone could stop a rampaging Hulkules. But if I can’t handle it, I know you can stop me.” Hercules doesn’t feel comfortable letting a mortal take that risk, and grabs Cho by the jacket- but he’s already riggled out of it, leaving Hercules with nothing but a fistful of cloth. By the time he realizes he’s been duped, Amadeus has injected himself with it.
“I think Bruce knew it might come to this. I think that’s why he put it in a vial with a needle. In case we needed it.” He doubles over in agony. “Oh crap, that feels like heart-burn through my veins. I don’t think I’ve ever felt every vein and artery in my body all at once. Even for me that’s a lot of information to process.” Cho falls to the floor, and at first Herc protects him with his body, taking several falling rocks that could have hurt him, before Cho turns into the Totally Awesome Hulk.
Ross drops a few bombs, but ultimately, the thing they drop is the Red Hulk. This obviously takes place after Thunderbolts 1, just because it’s a mystery there, and here, two steps inside their cave, Cho figures out it’s Ross (because he’s a genius). They fight Ross to a standstill, at which point he tells them that in the military what you learn is if at first you don’t succeed, “Keep dropping bombs.” They realize he was talking into a radio. Bombing commences. But one very specific bomb is the one that truly means trouble: it’s the Abomination. Ross and the Abomination are more than they can handle, but Amadeus keeps them occupied in part by keeping Ross talking. “You created me, dickhead. And did that to yourself. You’ve created at least two more Hulks. You are walking hubris… with a really impressive moustache. I’m a little jealous of it, even though, moustache-envy aside, I’m totally awesome. So that’s three gamma bombs you’ve dropped on the world- no, four, I almost forgot about your daughter.” Ross punches him, and snarls that he’ll keep her name off his lips. “All in an attempt to compensate for the first you let off the chain. Oh, yeah, I know it was you who screwed up the test that irradiated Banner. What is this, twenty years you’ve been trying to cover up your own mistakes. That has to be some kind of record. Like an incompetent one, obviously.”
Banner arrives, again in charge as professor Hulk. He and Amadeus are able to rope-a-dope Ross and Abomination long enough for Hercules to pull a Sampson and knock the mountain down on them- holding the entrance to their cave long enough for the two Hulks to get free before letting the rest of it fall. I think Banner names them both honorary Hulks. Hercules considers it, and wonders “If I have to be green- because I’m open to it,” he says, holding one of them under each arm. We roll credits.
Mid-Credits: We visit Ross. I’m going to say he is, in addition to his Thunderbolts team, running the Raft prison as his own little personal Guantanamo. The base is on high alert, because there’s been an escape, specifically out of the green wing (this news agitates Ross especially- it’s where the gamma-powered creeps go). “Blonsky’s gone,” the guard leading the way says. There’s a big, Abomination-sized hole in the rear of his cell.
“Obviously,” Ross says, nonplussed.
“He took someone with him.” He tore through an empty cell into another, to pluck out its inhabitant.
“Sterns,” Ross says, and we zoom in on his eye as it turns red.
More credits. End-credits scene: “And you can fix me?” Abomination asks; it’s almost tragic, the pain in his voice.
“I said perfect,” the other man says. “Do you recognize this Emil?” he asks, twirling a glowing green bullet in his palm.
“From the size and shape, I’d say it’s a .50 caliber Raufoss, though it appears to have been altered.”
We pull back, enough to see green lips part from teeth in a distressing smile. “Very good. Ross used a similar bullet on Banner. My design, of course. Ross always lacked vision.”
“And who’s it for?”
“I blame two men equally for my sorry state- men who, ironically, must survive longer to conclude my research. Did you know you can tear a dozen pieces off a fly before it expires from the stress? I wonder if its replicable across species…” we pull back, and see the Leader in all his now-green glory.