Hulk Vs. Wolverine:
Hulk Vs. Thor:
Hulk Vs. DVD goes a long way towards making up for the ground Marvel has
lost in the direct-to-DVD department.
Archrival DC has pulled some real gems
out of its hat lately, including last year's Batman -
Gotham Knight and Justice
League - The New Frontier. Marvel, on the other hand, produced several
movies and a milquetoast version of Iron Man that won't exactly make
anyone forget Robert Downey, Jr. The humiliating deficit is made all the
more acute by Hulk Vs.'s obvious superiority over previous Marvel
It may be guilty of a bit of false advertising, however.
Though it constitutes two distinct films, neither of them could be called
"feature length" by any stretch of the imagination. The first, Hulk Vs.
Wolverine, fills a scant 38 minutes, while Hulk Vs. Thor barely
tops it at 45. The two-disc DVD set pads things out with a number of
superfluous bonus features that almost outpace the core films themselves in
running time. Fault probably lies more with market expectations than ill
intent (self-contained movies of such length are rare), but potential buyers
should be warned that this "double feature" won't fill up the evening nearly
as well as they might think.
Good films, however, are always the length they should be,
and adding more content probably would have been a mistake in this case. As
it stands, they make for a fast-paced slice of pure unadulterated cool,
bristling with buoyant energy and an uncanny grasp of the characters at
their heart. While the various Marvel live-action features - some great,
some dreadful - always involved a little reinterpretation for a wider
audience, neither of these two are interested in such filtration. Every
frame feels straight from the comics themselves, amalgamating a number of
classic storylines into one compromise-free package. The characters
themselves are spot on, courtesy of some terrific voice casting and a script
which illuminates personality rather than obscuring it.
Of the two, Hulk Vs. Wolverine accomplishes
slightly more. Forced to work in the shadow of Hugh Jackman's increasingly
definitive performances, it responds with a take on the character that is at
once familiar and unique. The plotline loosely follows his original
appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181, with the Hulk (Fred
Tatasciore) running amok in the wilds of the Great White North and Logan
(Steve Blum) sent in by the Canadian government to deal with him.
focus remains largely on their epic tangle, it surrounds the simple bashing
with a larger and extremely functional plot . . . allowing it to cover both
Logan's origins as Weapon X and a number of beloved villains from the old Canucklehead's rogues gallery. (One of them steals the show out from under
everyone's nose. I won't say who exactly, but he talks. A lot.)
Hulk Vs. Thor is marginally gentler, but similarly
reveals a corner of the Marvel universe rarely seen before now. The mythic
realm of Asgard - culled from Norse mythology and given unique new life in
the pages of Thor comics - sees the Hulk arrive courtesy of Loki, the god of
mischief (Graham McTavish). As the one creature capable of matching the
mighty Thor (Matthew Wolf) blow for blow, the Hulk offers an opportunity not
only to slay the Thunder God, but to seize the whole of Asgard while Odin
(the father of the gods) slumbers. In addition to Thor and Loki, the episode
features such figures as Hela (Janyse Jaud), the Enchantress (Kari Wahlgren),
and Thor's swashbuckling second bananas the Warriors Three.
alone should be enough to get most Marvel fans into the Best Buy bright and
early Tuesday morning. Director Frank Paur enhances the appeal by generating
an unusual amount of edginess in both entries. The violence is fairly
explicit - full of copious blood in the Wolverine disc and blunter but no
less traumatic brutality in Thor's go ?round.
Each film has a well-deserved
PG-13 rating, which would have been even harsher in a live action scenario.
Beyond its intensity, however, the violence helps illustrate some of the
subtle differences between each film. Both center on extended fights, after
all, and while the narrative grants them a workable structure, they still
live or die on how we view their signature mayhem. Faced with a threat to
his father's kingdom, Thor tries to match the Hulk in ferocity, a task that
seems stacked against him from the beginning. Wolverine - physically smaller
and unable to compete with the Hulk's strength - aims for faster, quicker
blows while staying away from those big green fists. That may sound a little
obsessive, but it gives the Wolverine entry a shade more depth, while
permitting the Weapon X material to flow naturally into the mayhem.
Which isn't to take anything away from the Thor material,
which brims with affection for the Thunder God and does an admirable job of
bringing his supporting cast to life. A few snippets of clunky dialogue and
the unspoken assumption that the audience is familiar with these characters
mark the only real difficulties on display, and the short running time keeps
the energy at a crackling pace throughout. For long-suffering Marvel fans,
Hulk Vs. is the DVD they've been waiting for, resolutely holding the
line until Jackman straps his claws on again this summer. Indeed, it
probably ranks higher than either of the live-action
Hulk movies: at once humbler in its
aims and keener in its understanding of the character. Direct-to-DVD no
longer means worthless pabulum, a fact which this first-rate collection
proves beyond a doubt.
THE DISC: Two versions of Hulk Vs. are being
released. The single DVD version contains just the movies themselves and a
pair of audio commentaries from the creators, along with some brief trailers
of upcoming Marvel cartoons. The 2-DVD set (and the Blu-Ray version)
includes a quartet of additional featurettes - two for each film. The plum
of the lot discusses legendary artist Jack Kirby's development of Thor and
Asgard, but the remaining three are only marginally enlightening at best .
All things being equal, the single-disc version is more than sufficient for
most fans' needs.
WORTH IT? Unquestionably. Marvel comic lovers will
go ape, and non-fans interested in fast-paced animated entertainment should
be more than satisfied with the goods on display.
RECOMMENDATION: Ideal for fanboys, action lovers
and anyone with even a marginal interest in the characters. Parents with
small children should pay close heed to the PG-13 rating, however, and
probably skip it in favor of milder pleasures.
- Rob Vaux