Edward Norton Created An MCU Rule For Marvel Moving Forward

By Douglas Helm | Published

edward norton feature

Iron Man and Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk may have both come out the same year, but Iron Man will forever be associated with kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe as you know it and The Incredible Hulk will forever be remembered as inconsequential to the MCU storyline as a whole, despite being a fairly solid movie. Another thing that the film is remembered for is creating Marvel’s supposed “no a**hole” policy after Norton fought for creative control of the film.

The No A**hole Policy

According to excerpts from the book MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Edward Norton was so insistent on following through with his vision for The Incredible Hulk that Marvel declared a so-called “no a**hole policy” for every film after.

While Norton may have allegedly been difficult to work with, this would be far from the last time that someone involved with the film had creative differences from the studio execs at Marvel. This has allowed the MCU to create a highly tailored and meticulous cinematic universe. However, this desire for homogenization has gradually led to MCU films all modeled after Iron Man.

Edward Norton Wanted To Take The Incredible Hulk In A Different Direction

Edward Norton apparently wanted to make Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk more of a character study and contemplative film, with his final version of the movie being over 135 minutes. Quite a bit of material was cut, as the film was eventually cut down to 112 minutes for its theatrical release. Norton has been known to make his creative preferences known in the past, so it’s not surprising that he wanted to have some influence. What is surprising is that this led to a company-wide policy behind the scenes for such a major cinematic universe.

It would be interesting to see how Edward Norton’s version of the film would have panned out, but the fans spoke loudly regardless. Iron Man was a massive financial and critical success while The Incredible Hulk’s performance was middling in both those areas. It makes sense that Marvel would ultimately decide the Iron Man style was the way to go.

The Edward Norton Policy Meant Little To No Creative Freedom

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It’s possible that Marvel’s hard line after parting ways with Edward Norton may have led to the studio becoming overly risk-averse. Very few directors in the MCU are allowed to truly get weird and wild with the material, with James Gunn’s Guardians films and some of the Disney+ shows being notable exceptions. After all, this is the company that prevented Edgar Wright from giving us an Ant-Man movie.

It Worked Right Up Until It Didn’t

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Obviously, the strategy to go without Edward Norton-types worked for Marvel for quite a while, as the company released some of the biggest money-making blockbusters of all time. But the formula is beginning to get stale, and fans are ready for the studio to take bigger chances. The recent X-Men ‘97 and the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine seem to be putting things on the right track, but that remains to be seen.

Will The MCU Walk Back Its Norton Rule?

In any case, Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk is an interesting part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s history. The MCU has also brought back elements of the film years later, including a return of Tim Blake Nelson’s The Leader in the upcoming Captain America film. Who knows, maybe the MCU will even let Norton do a multiverse Hulk cameo at some point.