So what was the point of that again? Marvel to not hire Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

By Scott Mendelson Two summers ago, Marvel rebooted a franchise that grossed $245 million on a $130 million budget (funded by Universal). Said reboot, intended to be a more audience-pleasing (ie – dumbed down) variation on a the Incredible Hulk, ended up grossing just $263 million worldwide on a $160 million budget (this time funded by Marvel itself). But that was ok, because now we had a Hulk cast that could seamlessly blend into the new Marvel movie universe and could fit right in with the eventual Avengers film, right? Right? Oh… right.

Drew McWeeny of HitFlix broke the story yesterday, and Marvel confirmed it today. Edward Norton will not be reprising his role as Bruce Banner/The Hulk in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

The official statement denied that it was a money issue for the notoriously cheap Marvel Studios, but rather a creative one. The key passage below:

“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. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts.”

Ouch. So basically Marvel has refused to allow Edward Norton to come aboard because he’s not a ‘team player’. I’m sure this has much to do with the public fight that took place in summer 2008, when director Louis Leterrier and star Edward Norton battled the Marvel suits over the final cut of The Incredible Hulk. Leterrier and Norton wanted a real movie with character development and drama, Marvel wanted 105 minutes of fight scenes with a bare minimum of connecting tissue and character work. What’s ironic is that this was the rare occasion when Edward Norton was not accused of taking over a film from the director, but rather fighting with the director for the preferred artistic vision.

Also ironic is that it pretty much negates the whole point of rebooting the Hulk franchise in the first place. Heck, the second picture climaxed with a Robert Downey Jr. cameo for goodness sake. With Norton out, the expensive and not particularly profitable redo will be rendered just a curiosity in the dustbin of comic book films. It’s not as ambitious or as artistically inspired as Ang Lee’s flawed but fascinating tone poem, and it’s no longer a key rest stop on the road to The Avengers either.

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