“The dweebs may not like the effects. The star, Edward Norton, may not like the cut. And the blogosphere is steeped in bad buzz. So here’s what Universal decided to do about it Sunday night: Throw a party, invite 5,000 folks to a screening and celebrate The Incredible Hulk as an instant hit. Maybe even Edward Norton will show (he showed for the red carpet, which was green, but disdained the party).”

You owe it to yourself to read the rest of Sir Growls-a-Lot aka Peter Bart’s I Was There, Not You, Me!” report from the premiere of The Incredible Hulk, in which the defender of embattled (i.e. profit flush) movie studios everywhere celebrates Universal’s “act of defiance” because… they threw a big party to fete their latest $100 million venture on a Sunday?

Since nearly every movie, no matter how big a stinker, gets a big ol’ premiere (yes, even Gigli), I don’t quite see the defiance here. Sure, Universal and Marvel Entertainment deserve kudos for sticking out the bad buzz (which assholes like, um, me helped disseminate) and delivering a movie that is apparently very satisfying in a conventional sense, but defiance? C’mon, Pete! It was a home-court, Gibson Amphitheater unveiling of the first Marvel superhero flick since Iron Man (closing in on $300 million domestic). That’s like cheering the moxie of the Tiananmen Square tank commander for refusing to roll tread over “The Unknown Protester”.

Bart also commends the defiance of the audience, who “roundly applauded the set-pieces of CGI mayhem, as if to tell Comic-Con-ish doubters, ‘Get a life.'” If this was the message being sent, it apparently didn’t sink in with AICN’s Drew “Moriarty” McWeeny, who sounded highly untraumatized when he called me upon returning from the March on Washington of studio premieres. If, however, this was intended specifically for folks like me, who were simply following up on Edward Norton’s editing room disagreements with Kevin Feige (which were 100% for real, by the way*), then I’m sorry I couldn’t hear their thunderous tut-tutting over the Lakers game. Please feel free to give me what for at the Arclight on Wednesday night – even though I expect to be enjoying the film too much to feel the full sting of your derisive enthusiasm.

I’m pleased that Bart enjoyed The Incredible Hulk, and I hope he derived great, therapeutic pleasure out of imagining the climactic Hulk/Abomination brawl as himself versus those internet-obsessed, pay-for-nothing geeks who hastened the demise of print (thus forcing him to blog on a daily goddamn basis just to stay relevant). But I’m afraid he’s going to have to get used to entertainment journalists not looking the other way when the talent clashes with the studio. Do I wish I’d done a better job of covering this particular disagreement? Yeah. And maybe one day, Norton will talk more openly about the nature of his “collaboration” with Leterrier and Marvel’s Kevin Feige. I expect that’ll be the same day George Lucas phones to discuss Howard the Duck from development to release. (“I was drinking. A lot. But, y’know, let’s give it another twenty years before we declare it a disaster.”)

Bart’s been extra-curmodgeonly for a while now, but blogging has amped up his crankiness to levels that would be unbearable if they weren’t so damned entertaining (his jihad against Steven Soderbergh’s independently financed Che was especially bizarre). For a guy who made his Hollywood bones at Paramount in the early 70s (where he helped oversee groundbreaking films like Harold and Maude, The Godfather and Rosemary’s Baby), he’s grown shockingly conventional in his thinking. I guess old age will do that to you. But when I was younger, even when he was aggressively throwing down for the studios, I used to at least glean insights on the inner workings of the industry from his columns; now, I read him for comic relief.


*And if there’s a good Norton interview out there where he addresses this subject in more than a terse manner, please pass it along. Until then, here’s Norton cheerfully doing press with Leterrier and the wonderful Liv Tyler.