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SYFY WIRE The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton envisioned his further Incredible Hulk story as two 'long, dark and serious' films

By Josh Weiss
Edward Norton Incredible Hulk

A little over a decade ago, Kevin Feige's comic book experiment was at risk of crumbling with the release of its second-ever installment: The Incredible Hulk. "Lukewarm" is perhaps the best description for its performance with critics and at the box office. Perhaps like Thor: The Dark World, fans consider it to be just fine.

Directed by Louis Leterrier (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) and starring Edward Norton as the Gamma-powered Bruce Banner, the film remains the black sheep of the Marvel Studios canon, especially since Norton was eventually recast with Mark Ruffalo when it came time for 2012's The Avengers. During a recent interview with The New York Times, Norton discussed his one-time superhero effort, revealing that in a perfect world, his Hulk story would've spanned more than one movie.

"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," said the actor who did uncredited rewrites on Hulk and is about to make his directorial debut with the debut of Motherless Brooklyn next month. "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."

It's sort of unclear what Norton is saying, but we think he's talking about the cut-and-dry origin story and then a follow-up in which Banner has more control over his Hulk-out episodes. That's somewhat confirmed in the last scene of the movie where his eyes go green and he smiles. In future films, however, that was basically ignored as Bruce would have a much more complicated relationship with the monster inside of him — a character arc that culminated with his transformation into Professor Hulk for Avengers: Endgame.

When Feige announced that the role of Banner had been recast for 2012's The Avengers, his statement seemed to allude to Norton's alleged creative hijacking on Incredible Hulk, saying: "Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members."

"[That was cheap. It was brand defensiveness or something," Norton also told the Times. "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."

Since 2008, Bruce Banner hasn't received a solo feature, and no Incredible Hulk supporting character — aside from William Hurt's General "Thunderbolt" Ross — has appeared in an MCU flick.

Disney and Marvel Studios did not immediately respond to SYFY WIRE's request for comment