I think I’m probably in a very small minority when I say that one of, if not my favorite Marvel comic to screen adaptation happens to be 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The reboot put out by Marvel Studios and staring Edward Norton as scientist/fugitive Bruce Banner just hit all the right notes for me and I was eager to see if Norton would wind up bringing the character to The Avengers film due out in 2012. However, if you’ve been following the news over the last few days we now know that it isn’t going to happen.
I wasn’t totally surprised to hear Norton wouldn’t be joining Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury) et all in the movie, due to be directed Jose Whedon (isn’t it time to just announce it, Marvel?). Though both Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Norton himself didn’t duke it out in the media, it was no secret that Norton was not happy with the final cut of The Incredible Hulk. If you weren’t aware, Norton did an uncredited rewrite on the film’s script and was disappointed that much of the character moments he’d written wound up on the cutting room floor so that the movie would flow at a quicker pace than Ang Lee’s 2003 more cerebral take on the character. Unlike Robert Downey Jr, who was all over the media when Iron Man hit theaters just weeks before the return of the Green Goliath to the big screen, Norton did virtually no promotion for the film, apart from a brief pretaped appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Not exactly the actions of a team player, wouldn’t you say?
So while I wasn’t surprised to see Norton wouldn’t be returning, I was disappointed with the vitriol that Kevin Feige seemed to display when confirming the rumours, telling Hitfix that Norton didn’t embody the “creativity and collaborative spirit” of his fellow actors. It just seemed like a bit of a cheap shot, and one that doesn’t make Feige or the studio look particularly good. I, like most Marvel Zombies, would have preferred going the high road, even if the two parties couldn’t come to any sort of agreement. Kudos to Norton for keeping his cool and thanking Marvel for the opportunity of being part of the Hulk’s legacy.
So what happens next? There’s talk that Joaquin Phoenix has been offered the role, which could be interesting. But personally I’d love to see one of two options happen:
1) Bring Eric Banna back to play Banner again. He did a fine job in 2003. Whatever problems there were with that particular film, he wasn’t one of them and by bringing him back you avoid a total recast. Not to mention that after his fantastic performance as the villain Nero in last summers Star Trek Banna has some serious geek cred, and I think he would be welcomed back to the role.
2) This is probably a long shot but I think it would be fantastic to see Steve Buscemi take over the character. Granted he’s a little older than either Banna or Norton, but If Marvel is following along the lines of The Ultimates version of The Avengers, Buscemi would be the perfect embodiment of the whiny, sleazy Banner that causes the team to group together in the first place. Buscemi has also proved he’s a brilliant ensemble actor and, seeing as he’s not a huge box office draw, would probably fall in the price range the studio is willing to spend for the role.
At the end of the day, regardless of the controversy, I do think that Marvel has done great work in casting their films and whoever winds up filling the Hulk’s purple pants in The Avengerswill no doubt do a smashing job.