Hey Marvel, Don't Hate Ed Norton

I know there are bloggers, journos and readers who will be on the other

side of the fence on this one but I can't help but agree with

target="_blank">Nikki Finke's Ed Norton-versus-Marvel piece. Ed

Norton may have a big ego. Norton may be a little too full of himself.

But the guy has a solid track record when it comes to picking projects (Death to

Smoochy aside ... hey, do I get a prize for being the 10

millionth customer of Death to Smoochy jokes?) and Marvel

doesn't make movies. They release projects for Hollywood to make and in

turn they bring in the green by the boatloads.

Apparently, there's a mini-war brewing between Norton and Marvel on how

the movie should be cut. I'm not sure what the philosophical

differences are so it's hard to say who's right. But I will say this at

least ... Norton is an actor, a writer and a director. I'm going to

trust his opinion over some Marvel or studio suit any day of the week.

But something tells me the Fight Club actor is going to get

his share of beatings in the press.

People will say Norton has a track record for being difficult. They

will bring up the The Italian Job.

Norton was under contract for Paramount for a three-picture deal. He

kept rejecting scripts until the suits stepped in and said, "Uh, you

have to do something." So The Italian Job became numero tres

and the result was mostly something numero dos. Stale movie, stale

role, stale performance. He got paid, yeah. But it reminds me of a

great player stuck on a bad team. Like when Kevin Garnett was in

Minnesota for all those years, doing his best to pretend his 28-12-4

even mattered. Norton wasn't terrible in the movie, just uninspired and

I don't blame him for that, sorry (how's that for rationalizing?).

People will say Norton backstabbed American

History X director Tony Kaye. Kaye was fired. Norton took over

in the editing room. Kaye said Norton destroyed the movie by making his

part in the film bigger. I don't know that this is true. But who cares?

Wasn't American History X pretty damn good?

Finally, people will say Norton is overstepping his bounds and trying

to play the role of director (you may notice Incredible

Hulk director Louis Leterrier's name isn't even mentioned in

the article). Now it has always been clear to me -- since Norton was at

Comic-Con last year and it was revealed that he re-wrote the script --

that Norton, who rarely goes after the commercial big buck, only signed

onto this mega-project because he was going to have a significant

amount of creative control. This reminds me of what happened on The

Patriot.

The Patriot is a decent (if silly) Revolutionary War movie

starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. Unexceptional. Entertaining.

Looking back at that movie, it's astonishing that 10,000 B.C.

director Roland Emmerich had the reigns. It's his best scripted film,

his best acted film and his most overall accomplished film. Emmerich

mainly makes bad movies: Independence

Day, Godzilla,

The

Day After Tomorrow, etc.

One of these things is not like the other....

The Patriot doesn't fit into the Emmerich resume and that's

because Mel Gibson was the guy really calling the shots on that film.

His fingerprints are all over the movie and the result is the least

Emmerichy movie of the lot. I'm not saying The Patriot was Braveheart.

I'm just saying it was on a whole other level artistically than

Emmerich's other turds. And I'm praying to the Almighty that The

Incredible Hulk doesn't fit into Leterrier's filmography because I

want the Hulkster to be more than forgettable entertainment.

Make no mistake, Norton signed onto this film with a small potatoes

director like Leterrier so he could flex his muscles a bit. He was

always going to be the man behind the curtain. The studio, Marvel and

Leterrier all knew this. Come on, could they really have thought he was

just there for writing and acting duties? The fact that he decided to

rewrite the film showed he had passion for the material. Did they

really think he wouldn't want a say on final cut? They know Norton.

They saw the passion. They knew the score.

Look, both sides (Marvel and Norton) should discuss and argue their way

to the best possible movie, by all means. But don't hate on Norton

because he's in the mix. He might be fighting to bring you one of the

better summer movies of 2008.

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Dre writes three times a week for Film.com. Email him!