I had no idea the weekend would play out like that when I put up the first piece on Friday about Edward Norton not being asked back as The Hulk for "The Avengers."  The back and forth of the statements released to HitFix from Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige and Edward Norton's WME representation was feisty, to say the least, and the story seems to have spread everywhere.

This morning, though, it feels like this chapter came to a close with the release of a statement by Edward Norton on his Facebook page, and thankfully that statement is not an escalation of the already-existing tensions.  Instead, it's simply Norton gracefully saying that he enjoyed playing the part and he looks forward to seeing who is next to play the iconic role.

So despite all the sound and energy this weekend, nothing's really changed.  Well, Devin Faraci's running the rumor that Joaquin Phoenix might be up for the role, and it makes a certain kind of sense.  I've been told Phoenix was actually in the running for the part when they did the reboot with "The Incredible Hulk," and the art department actually worked up some Phoenix-as-Hulk art at the time.  So maybe Marvel's figuring they've already got the design part down if he comes onboard, right?

Look, whoever it is, I'm obviously still very interested in "The Avengers."  The real shame of it is that I thought they had the cast right.  Whoever you cast as Banner needs to be able to stand toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr. and look like he can actually hold his own in an intellectual back and forth with the guy.  I would love for the human scenes in the film to be as exciting as any of the superhero stuff, and I hope when Marvel does hire a new Banner, they end up with someone who brings real weight to the table.

I'm not surprised to see fandom so irate this weekend, but I hope they still walk into that Saturday evening panel on Saturday at Comic-Con ready to be dazzled, and I hope Marvel brings all the big guns they can muster.  "Thor" footage?  Please.  "Captain America" images?  I hope.  A full cast for "The Avengers" with Whedon onstage?  Pretty much confirmed by both sides of the equation this weekend, and that means they've probably already got their Banner picked.

Is it Phoenix?  Will it be someone geek-friendly like Sharlto Copely or (the best nomination I've heard so far) Walton Goggins?  No idea, but I hope whoever it is brings something fresh and exciting to the table.  Even now, what I want more than anything is for "Avengers... ASSEMBLE!" to become the battle cry for one of the most exciting blockbuster events of the decade.

Here's the full text of Edward Norton's statement:

 

 

"The Avengers" is set to open Friday, May 4, 2012.

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You can e-mail me at drew@hitfix.com or follow me on Twitter, where I'm DrewAtHitFix.