The Incredible Hulk was the second movie that came out in the MCU, but it wasn’t as big as its processor was. Iron Man began the MCU with a bang, and following the Incredible Hulk, every movie turned out to be profitable for the studios producing the films. In fact, the only Hulk movie in the MCU turned out to be the least grossing film at the Box Office amongst the 20 movies that have come out till now. But that doesn’t make it a bad movie.
This was a movie that got cheated by its marketing campaign as apparently, someone from the marketing team decided to put the entire movie in the first trailer of the film. So when the movie actually came out, the audience passed on simply because they had seen the entirety of it in the trailer itself. But if you watch the movie today after so many years, you’d see that it is just like a typical MCU movie that has plenty of Easter Eggs and MCU connections here and there.
Moreover, Edward Norton’s portrayal of the Hulk is actually great. Mark Ruffalo has got more movies to give us his version of the Hulk and that is why people love him so much, but Norton did nothing wrong. So what exactly caused his replacement in the MCU? Well, the answer to this question lies behind the scenes as things weren’t as good as anyone would expect.
Edward Norton was expected to return for the Avengers when the shooting was going to begin in 2010, but Marvel issued a statement which revealed that the decision to replace Norton with Ruffalo was “based on monetary factors” and they were looking for “an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.” So this made it seem that Marvel cast a new actor to get an actor on a more reasonable price and enter Mark Ruffalo.
Ruffalo has since played the Hulk 4 times, including Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. He also had a cameo in Iron Man 3. Now he will return in Avengers: Endgame, but his future beyond that is uncertain since we don’t know whether Hulk will continue to appear in the future movies or be killed off in Endgame. One thing is for sure that Marvel isn’t planning to make any solo Hulk movies since the rights of the character are solely owned by Universal.
If you thought that this Norton-Ruffalo case closed after Marvel’s statement, then you are wrong as Norton’s representatives had something totally opposite to say for it. They denied all the claims from Marvel and called out Kevin Feige for his offensive comments to Norton.
They even claimed that Norton was actually excited by the idea of a crossover event that would bring him in with the other cast members of the Avengers, but “after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions… a representative from Marvel called to say they had decided to go in another direction with the part.” This was acceptable to them, but Feige’s “mean spirited, accusatory comments” to Norton weren’t.
4 years after the casting in 2014, Norton told a totally different story which neither matched with his representatives’ verdict nor Marvel’s. He revealed that it was largely his own decision to leave. He said:
“Maybe on some unconscious level, I didn’t want to have an association with one thing in any way degrade my effectiveness as an actor, in characters. I think you can sort of do anything once, but if you do it too many times, it can become a suit that’s hard to take off, in other peoples’ eyes.”
While all this is true, there is also truth to the fact that Norton himself did some rewrites to the script of the film he starred in, and didn’t like the original script at all. That also became one of the reasons to replace him. All’s well that ends well. All this chaos was indeed an opportunity in disguise, and no disrespect to Norton, but we are glad that Ruffalo has been the Hulk in the MCU.