Marvel fans don’t agree about much, but to a man and a woman they almost all agree that the worst film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date is The Incredible Hulk. The company hadn’t found its footing yet, it hadn’t figured out the technology to make the Hulk look really good, and audiences weren’t terribly enamored with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. The movie did only okay at the box office, spawned zero sequels, and when the Hulk reappeared in The Avengers four years later, he was played by Mark Ruffalo.

The origin and execution of Norton’s Hulk came up during an interview with the actor and filmmaker in The New York Times. He now says that his original conception of The Incredible Hulk looked very different than the one in theaters. (I mean, I would hope so.) He also said his original pitch was for two Hulk movies:

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.

The problems with Incredible Hulk went far beyond it not being long, dark, and serious enough. (Although the finished product was certainly none of those things.) I think the fact that Marvel hasn’t made a single Hulk film since Incredible Hulk speaks volumes; it’s the only Marvel franchise that didn’t actually become a franchise unto itself. It seems like the company realized the character works best as a team player; by himself a CGI character has to carry an entire movie on its back, and that can be pretty tricky.

In key supporting roles in things like Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok, he can work as comic relief, he can take part in action sequences, but he doesn’t have to carry the entire emotional arc of the story. Perhaps the upcoming She-Hulk TV series on Disney+ will help get momentum for the Hulk to get some kind of solo project of his own in the future.

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