Supervising producer and co-writer Craig Kyle makes the point that as far as live-action super movies have come in recent years, there’s still things they can do in animation that you just can’t do, or not do as well in live action. Hulk Vs. features two short films, Hulk Vs. Wolverine runs 37 minutes and Hulk Vs. Thor runs 45 minutes. These are NOT your Saturday morning or Kids WB animated shows. Network Standards and Practices made sure you could never use words like “kill” in cartoons. Not only is the “K” word mentioned numerous times but it’s attempted even more often.
Hulk Vs. Wolverine is an homage not only to Wolverine’s first appearance in Hulk #181, but also to numerous other comic stories and images. This story retells that first meeting between the two as Department H calls in Wolverine to halt the Hulk’s deadly rampage along the U.S./Canadian border. However, Wolverine will discover that it was Weapon X Agents Sabretooth, Lady Death Stryke, Omega Red, and Deadpool that are responsible for the Hulk’s rage. The battles are as bloody as we’ve ever seen in an animated superhero cartoon and include numerous dismemberments.
Nolan North as Deadpool threatens to steal the show with his wise-cracking and delivers the film’s best line when he asks Wolverine if he “still has that unbreakable skill?” and proceeds to shoot him in the head.
In Hulk Vs. Thor, Loki has brought Bruce Banner to Asgard to use the Hulk as a weapon against the Norse God’s realm while Odin is in the midst of his ritual “Odinsleep”. He and the Enchantress use sorcery to free Banner from the Hulk as Loki Usurps the Hulk’s mind to control him. Loki will find that controlling the Hulk is no easy task and soon the Hulk is freed from Loki and is let loose on Asgard in a mindless fury. This plot somewhat mirrors a story arc from the Hulk comics in the 1980s when Doc Samson separated Banner from the Hulk resulting in a similar path of destruction.
Hulk Vs. Thor features just about every major Asgardian character there is including The Warriors Three, Lady Sif, Odin, Amora the Enchantress, Hela, not to mention Thor and Loki. This story had a very strong Stan Lee/Jack Kirby feel to it which was not by accident. Kyle and director Frank Paure mention the Kirby influence as well as John Buscema and Walt Simonson’s nuances as well and it does show up in the film quite a bit. You do feel like you are seeing a comic story come to life. With only 45 minutes, it’s not densely plotted but it is entertaining.
Thor has always been my favorite Marvel Comics character and while it was tough seeing the Thunder God suffer a beat down, it did make sense as a Hulk free from Banner’s control is at his strongest.
The voice acting in both films is superb. I mentioned Nolan North already and plaudits must also be given to Steve Blum who nailed Wolverine and to Fred Tatasciore as the Hulk. Tatasciore is one of the busiest voice actors working today and while 90% of the Hulk’s lines are growls and screams you have to admire that ability which has got to be tough on the vocal cords. Matthew Wolf as Thor was the one weak link. His voice simply did not have that command and regal tone that you imagine Thor as having.
Animation wise the films were right on par with similar Marvel Animation releases, with its very fluid and tight, although not overly detailed, 2D animation. Above all it’s clear that the people behind these films have a strong reverence for the characters and they care about what the fans think. That’s a refreshing change from many of the live-action superhero films where Hollywood types could care less about the fans. This is quite evident when you watch the featurettes.
The two films have different tones but both succeed in their own way and Hulk Vs. is a great way to spend an hour and a half.
Both DVDs come with two commentary tracks. Hulk Vs. Wolverine features commentary by Supervising Producer/co-writer Craig Kyle and co-writer Chris Yost; and the second track has commentary by Supervising Director Frank Paur and storyboard artists Kevin Altieri and Butch Lukic.
Hulk Vs. Thor has one commentary by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost; and the second track has commentary by Frank Paur, James Daniels, and Sam Liu.
This is Gonna Hurt: The Making of Hulk Vs Wolverine (20:00) This featurette details the evolution of the film and features interviews with cast, director, and writers. You’ll see how various comic story arcs influenced the film.
Fan Frenzy: Hulk Vs Wolverine at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con (8:00) Watch as the film is unveiled for the first time at the San Diego con. After the film, Kyle, Yost, Frank Paur, and Fred Tatasciore take questions from fans
First Look – Wolverine and the X-Men (5:00) A preview of the latest X-Men animated show set to debut on January 23 at 8:00 PM on the Nicktoons Network
Of Gods and Monsters: The Making of Hulk Vs Thor (18:20) This looks at the making of the Hulk Vs. Thor film and its influence by Kirby, Walt Simonson, and John Buscema.
Jack Kirby and Thor (4:45) This short featurette examines the original Thor artist, Jack “King” Kirby and how Kirby’s designs were incorporated into the film.
First Look – Thor Tales of Asgard (5:00) A preview of the next Marvel Animation film featuring a look at a young and developing Thor.