OK, so here’s a theory. The Ed-Norton led The Incredible Hulk is officially in the MCU as it features William Hurt as General Ross and a post-credits cameo from Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, recruiting for the Avengers initiative.
It starts with Ed Norton’s Bruce Banner in Brazil. Which is exactly where Ang Lee’s Hulk leaves Eric Bana in 2003, so it’s a follow-up?
So… the first movie in the MCU was actually Ang Lee’s slightly confused 2003 take on the Hulk?
These are the kind of thoughts that occupy my mind. This is probably why I haven’t won a Nobel Prize or cured a disease or sit at one of the great seats of learning. Damn you brain!
When you think about it though, it easy to forget that the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t this guaranteed money-making machine that could just churn hit after hit. It needed a few pokes in the right direction first. And 2008’s The Incredible Hulk needed poking!
It starts really well, explaining how Banner is managing his condition, linking in super-soldier serum and a man-hunt. It just falls apart in the final third.
For various reasons, Ed Norton left the role after this to be replaced with Mark Ruffalo who is now cemented in the role.
In a new interview for The New York Times, Norton spoke about his departure. This confirms some of the rumors, that it was a creative decision:
“I loved the ‘Hulk’ comics. I believed they were very mythic. And what Chris Nolan had done with Batman was going down a path that I aligned with: long, dark and serious.
If there was ever a thing that I thought had that in it, it was the Hulk. It’s literally the Promethean myth.
I laid out a two-film thing: The origin and then the idea of Hulk as the conscious dreamer, the guy who can handle the trip. And they were like, ‘That’s what we want!’ As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted.
But I had a great time doing it. I got on great with Kevin Feige.”
When announcing Norton’s departure, in a rare moment of direct criticism from Feige, he essentially seemed to dismiss the actor saying the decision to recast was:
“…rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”
Asked about that statement, Norton said it was a cheap shot but suggests it was merely Feige engaging in some damage control:
“It was brand defensiveness or something. Ultimately they weren’t going for long, dark and serious. But it doesn’t matter. We had positive discussions about going on with the films, and we looked at the amount of time that would’ve taken, and I wasn’t going to do that. I honestly would’ve wanted more money than they’d have wanted to pay me.
But that’s not why I would’ve wanted to do another ‘Hulk’ movie anyway. I went and did all the other things I wanted to do, and what Kevin Feige has done is probably one of the best executions of a business plan in the history of the entertainment industry. As a Disney shareholder, you should be on your feet for what they pulled off.”
Norton added he won’t talk about the entire MCU in any critical terms because of the inevitable potential weaponising of any opinion:
“Kevin had an idea of a thing that you could do, and it was remarkable. Now it didn’t happen to be on a tonal, thematic level what I wanted to spend my time doing. Conflating that into a fight or a judgement is grotesque.”
The actor both stars in and directs Motherless Brooklyn which will hit cinemas on November 1st.