Short Version: I really enjoy the Marvel Studios/Lionsgate animated films, and the latest is fun, but it begs the question: can there be too much Hulk vs. action?
The latest animated offering from Marvel and Lionsgate is actually a “two-fer,” Hulk vs. Wolverine and Hulk vs. Thor. The films clocks in at 37 minutes (Wolverine) and 45 minutes (Thor), and they’re enjoyable for the most part. But after a while, I got sick of Hulk just smashing everything.
The “Hulk smashfest” lasted for the first few minutes of Hulk vs. Wolverine, but thankfully, eventually a story began to take shape. In the film, Logan is brought in to hunt down the Hulk, who is on a rampage in Canada. Pretty soon, Wolverine learns there’s more going on when the Weapon X folks show up hunting Hulk, too. They include Deadpool (they did a great job here), Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red, Sabretooth and the mysterious Professor, all in costume and very faithful to their comic book roots. Wolverine is captured again, as is Bruce Banner, and insidious plots are exposed. I don’t want to ruin too much here. Clearly, part of the plot was inspired by the Hulk comic book, number 181 which was Wolverine’s first appearance.
The animation style is different here than it is in the vs. Thor mini-movie – it’s closer to anime. There are some cool flashbacks of Logan being kidnapped and turned into Weapon X (with shades of Barry Windsor-Smith’s iconic comic book), which I really liked. There are also plenty of “Easter Eggs” to look for, including some cloned Wolverine embryos, such as X-23. There’s even a moment when Wolverine is slashing at Hulk, and you see the green guy’s reflection, which is reminiscent of Hulk comic book, number 340 with an outstanding cover by Todd McFarlane.
I have to say the fight scenes are incredible but as I said earlier, it’s really just a lot of fighting, and it can get old after a while. I’m really glad it’s only 37 minutes long. It’s fun for a little while to watch the action, but right when I was dreading yet another fight scene, the movie ended. Enjoyable, but not as good as Thor.
For Hulk vs. Thor, the animation style is more traditional, and the plot is revealed early on. When Odin sleeps for the winter, the bad guys attack Asgard, the mythical realm of the Norse Gods. Thor and his team must protect the land, and always win.
Because of the bad guys’ constant failure when Odin’s napping, Loki (Thor’s stepbrother and the God of Mischief) devises a new, nefarious plot: he’ll kidnap Banner and separate him from the Hulk. Amora, Thor’s jilted ex-lover, then helps Loki take over Hulk’s mind, and it’s time for a lot of destruction. But when Loki’s enchantment is broken, everyone must team up to take on the Hulk. Bruce somewhat manages to keep the Hulk at bay at a subconscious level. By the way, in one or two shots, Bruce looked like Edward Norton, which I thought was cool.
The fight scenes are cool here and there’s a lot more emotion involved, especially when we see what Bruce wants most in life (not just to stop turning into the Hulk). There’s a great moment early on with Thor and Hulk – very cool “Thor action and dialogue.” I don’t want to ruin it, but it made me smile and I watched it again.
The story is more refined than Wolverine, and I enjoyed it much more. But like Wolverine, the fight scenes start to get old, Hulk can’t be stopped, etc. Fortunately, it’s not that long (45 minutes), and ends well. You ultimately get a sense that Bruce is a great man, but is ultimately alone in this world (and other worlds, too).
Special features include audio commentary for both films, documentaries (making of Hulk vs. Wolverine and … Thor) which I enjoyed, but it’s the usual “making of” stuff you come to expect on DVDs; a really fun look at the Wolverine film at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con; a preview of the new animated show Wolverine and the X-Men, a “Jack Kirby and Thor” documentary that was terrific, lots of great stuff there; and a preview of the next movie, Thor: Tales of Asgard. The special features are good, and when compared to other DVDs, they match up well. I especially liked the Kirby/Thor documentary.
I watched the film in Blu-ray, and it looks great. I haven’t seen too many animated films on Blu-ray yet, but these movies looked and sounded great. If you haven’t bought a Blu-ray player, do yourself a favor and get one. Nothing like watching Hulk, Wolverine and Thor in 1080p animation.