Norton’s Pen Mightier Than… Erm… Penn’s One?

Published 8 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 9:41 pm,

HulkPen Nortons Pen Mightier Than... Erm... Penns One?Quickly moving on from that somewhat retarded attempt at a play on words, the news slipped out at the recent San Diego Comic-Con that actor Edward Norton had taken over scriptwriting duties on Marvel Studios’ upcoming The Incredible Hulk. The news came out of left-field for many who had believed the film was written entirely by Zak Penn, co-writer of X-Men: The Last Stand. With Penn’s role seemingly ignored at the panel, many film fans may have sensed a repeat of events surrounding Norton’s ‘hands-on’ approach to American History X in its later days. As a longtime fan of Norton’s and following the bad taste still left in my mouth over X3, I was intrigued by this turn of events and hoped to hear more. Thankfully, the LA Times has published a story to clarify it for us.

As expected, it turns out Penn’s script remains the basis for the film. However, as production drew near and the writer was needed for promotional duties on another film – The Grand – he had to leave the project where it was. Feeling the script required further work, Marvel and director Louis Leterrier brought Norton on board as both actor and writing talent.

Not to be controversial but, given Zak Penn’s past work, I’m kinda hoping Norton’s touch-ups are substantial.

As was proven by the brilliant American History X – on which Norton stirred controversy by taking over editing duties – the actor clearly has a special knack for what makes good storytelling. However, as the LA Times suggests, he has “acquired a reputation for stepping on writers’ toes when it came to script revisions.” Examples include uncredited work on then-partner Salma Hayek’s Frida and turning up on the set of Red Dragon with revised dialogue for both his own character and Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The jury remains out, so to speak, on whether director Brett Ratner fought with Norton over the issue or in fact requested the rewrites.

Thankfully, in regards to The Incredible Hulk, things seem a little more positive. The LA Times reports:

Norton had well-established (if underground) writing experience and strong ideas about how to separate the film from any confusion over its connection to the 2003 Ang Lee version by casting it in a more distinct, starting-over vein like Batman Begins or Casino Royale.

Regardless of the politics involved, I have to say this sounds great. While Zak Penn seems to write for the fans in such a way that every scene induces a geek-gasm – at the expense of a solid overall narrative – Norton appears more likely to produce a quality film.

In a year of The Dark Knight and Iron Man, perhaps 2008 will prove – once and for all – that comic book movies needn’t aim for the lowest common denominator to make money. Intelligent and dramatic stories, a good cast and major fanboy action may well be able to co-exist.

I’m looking at you, Tom Rothman.

Source: LA Times

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  1. I just want something awesome, because Spidey 3 wasn’t.


  2. I almost don’t want to get my hopes up too much. Dare I think that there will be multiple intelligent films of the super-hero and action variety that don’t underestimate the human capacity to engage our hearts AND our minds while stimulating our adrenal glands?!? Dare I dream the impossible dream?

    Expectations… Rising… Must… Lower… or face… potential heartbreaking disappointment…

  3. I’m with you on that…

    I can barely recall the last time I was totally impressed without question.

  4. I’m all for hoping that this film will be good, because the last Hulk movie was dismally awful. If Norton took the bull by the horns and decided to make it better, I’m all for it. If this film does well, I’m sure Norton will be seeking out projects of his own that further challenge him to create something we’ll all take notice of (in a good way).

  5. Norton is the main key to this Hulk become a very “respectable” film (fingers-crossed). Norton’s track record for good films is honestly pretty strong. Norton’s films always have a deeply dramatic gritty feel, perfect for the mood of “IH”; with Leterrier as the director to create havok, Hulk could give Ironman, Dark Knight, and Indian Jones a run for their money.

  6. I actually liked where the first Hulk was going… but the villain and that whole last half hour or so was so bad it kinda ruined the whole thing for me.

  7. Kane, I think you’ve really hit it with your comment about superhero movies in ’08. Looks like it’s going to be a banner year for comic book fans. :-)


  8. We’ll see, Norton at times seems a little too self-aware of his talent. I have enjoyed his films in the past but sometimes he isn’t fun to watch. I think he is very talented, don’t get me wrong. He just seems to lack energy at times. I guess it is a little hard to describe. I like The Illusionist, but he didn’t excite me with his performance. I honestly do like him, I think that maybe he takes himself too seriously which i think might hurt this film.

  9. A “banner” year, eh, Vic?

    Nice pun.

  10. All I’ll say is that I feel a bit better with an actor that cares enough to do this kind of thing, than one who’s just showing up to cash-in (which could very easily happen in this film genre). Hopefully he does well, because this is one of those rare instances where there really isn’t much direction to go but up.

  11. Doh! I really didn’t notice I’d done that, LOL. :-)


  12. Ya know the only movie that I’ve ever seen Ed Norton in is Death to Smoochy. It was just the other day that I caught his performance in American History X. I have to say I like the guy,and look forward to seeing him as Dr. Banner and am happy that this film will be the start of a new Hulk franchise,cuz Ang Lee’s was horrible.

    Can’t say that I’m upset that Zak Penn’s script is getting polished by Norton,cuz to be honest Zak’s last few comic book movies haven’t been the best. Isn’t he the guy who wrote such favorites as Elektra,the first Hulk,and X3 (that last one I did admittedly enjoy a little though)? Yeeash. Zak gains my trust so easily when I hear him talk,but when his movies come out it’s like a completely different person wrote it.

    I have complete faith that this film will be fantastic,a big improvement over Ang Lee’s film. Doc Samson,the Leader,and the Abomnition are in it,man! 2008 is gonna be one sweet year for comix fans!

  13. Totally agree! Zak Penn – in online discussions during production of X3 – would sound so enthusiastic of what was to come and had this way about him that oozed confidence. It made you feel as though the film was in the hands of people that truly cared about a great end product. In hindsight, he’s simply way too deep in his fanboy mentality to see the forest for the trees. He tries too hard, basically, and wants to put anything and everything into a film that he and the rest of us would love… but it’s at the expense of smart storytelling (ala X2 and Batman Begins). The sad thing is that – when talking about past flops – he seems to pass the buck and blame others for his vision not working out. I feel sorry for him a little, to be honest, but… then… don’t we all think we’re great at what we do? Finding out we kinda suck must be a hard pill to swallow. If we get this rumoured Young X-Men film with him at the helm, I fear it will be a Serenity or Mutant-X, telemovie-feel flick.

  14. Honestly, I don’t blame Zak Penn for the atrocious Elektra and the dull Hulk. Both film’s storylines were entertaining and posited zeal, but the directing was weak. I believe that it’s the director job to be the main storyteller and it’s their job to make the story visibly entertaining. A bad director can and usually will kill a good story (example: Van Helsing, X3) or give life to a poor story (example: Transformers, Ghostrider). So for me, Avengers will make or break my feeling on Zak Penn’s writing ability.