Reviewed by Nomad
Starring the voices of Fred Tatasciore, Steve Blum, Bryce Johnson, Tom Kane, Grey Delisle
Directed by Frank Paur
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
For some time now, it seemed that DC understood what serious comic fans wanted to see in a direct to DVD title, while still keeping things light enough for kids to get on board. Meanwhile, Marvel titles rewrote history into a slick version of itself, void of any tension or real depth, ready for a Saturday morning viewing. Oddly, a giant step forward was made with the release of Next Avengers. What was perceived to be just the kiddified version of the mightiest heroes on Earth turned out to be a fairly emotional story of loss in a future where Ultron has destroyed almost all opposition. Not your typical kid’s story! Now comes Hulk VS … two tales of conflict seemingly ripped from the pages of Marvel comics. The question on everyone’s mind was, could they pull the trigger? I’m here to tell you, they’ve done that and more.
Things I thought I would not see in an animated Marvel project for a very long time …
1. Wolverine using his claws on something besides robots and inanimate objects
2. Hulk pummeling a super hero into a bloody mess
4. Enchantress with no shortage of cleavage
The list could go on and on. Hulk VS brings it all to the table. This may not be the EXACT retellings of key Marvel events, but that doesn’t mean anything is held back on action, intensity, quality writing and appearances from characters you never imagined you’d see on the screen, and be true to their nature.
Hulk VS Wolverine
This is the pre-X-Men tale of the Canadian Department H operative codenamed Wolverine, sent to track and stop the rampaging creature known as The Hulk, who has already torn through one helpless little town. It doesn’t take long for them to go head to head with ferocity unmatched in any Marvel or DC animated feature to date. Wolverine rakes, gouges and hacks away at the jade giant, sending the red stuff flying. Hulk grabs anything not nailed down to pummel the little man in yellow until he can introduce his giant fist to one adamantium coated skull. I could easily watch these two beat each other silly for 40 minutes, but the powers that be have other plans! It seems some old foes of Wolverine have been watching and waiting for an opportunity to take down both fighters and secure them for a little project called … Weapon X! This is a tale of two monsters, bred from anguish, both trying to suppress the rage that threatens to engulf their souls, but there are monsters in this world that have already given in and relish in that darkness. When the unbreakable claw meets unrivaled power … and the tendril … and the bullet … who knows who may prevail?
In one fell swoop, we get the smack down of the century paired with an unflinching retelling of the most torturous moments from Wolverine’s past, leaving the door open to bring Deadpool, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Omega Red into the story, allowing all those “what if” battle questions to be answered! Geek overload!! This is seriously a Marvel fan’s dream come true. Wolverine is particularly vicious and anyone who gets in his way meets the wrong end of a claw. Decapitations GALORE!! His mean streak is captured with utter perfection. He’s the good guy, but he’s the baddest good guy there is. Hulk on the other hand is just a force of nature. He’d blow right past you unless you give him a reason to stop…and you don’t want to give him that reason! He may be simple minded but he has a steel focus and will remember anyone who does him harm for years to come. Once you are in his sights, it is his mission to destroy. Stealing every scene he appears in is Deadpool, who is so damn funny you’ll have to rewind spots to hear what he’s said next after you and your friends drowned him out in laughter. He brings sick and twisted to a whole other level and doesn’t mind putting a bullet in your head to punctuate his punch line.
The animation in Hulk Vs Wolverine is based on the designs of Jeff Matsuda who brings a look reminiscent of Ramos and Joe Madureira with a little Bruce Timm tossed in for good measure. Madhouse fills in the blanks with super tight movement and a level of shadow I, personally, have been dying to see for a very long time. Perfection. If I could marry this DVD, I’d do it in a heartbeat. This is one fast, unrelenting film that stands strong as a MOVIE, much less a 40 minute animated feature. Seriously, I’m in love. Watch it once and have your jaw dropped. Watch it 5 times to spot all the fantastic imagery held within. Also, watch past the credits for a little extra bit!
Extras include audio commentary from writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost who are such big fans of the source material, you can hear the pride in their latest creation busting out of them. They are also keen on letting us know that certain cast members are not just knocked out, but killed horribly. Thanks for the tip! They are full of odd information like this, so you’ll want to give it a listen. A second commentary track has Frank Paur, Kevin Altieri and Butch Lukic who are responsible for much of the look of the film. They banter back and forth like brothers who are likely to wrestle at any moment for control of the remote, so this is also enjoyable. This is Gonna Hurt: The Making of Wolverine gives you time with all the key players from design to script writing to voice actors and all the good times between friends that went along with a labor of love like this film. Think making a Hulk voice for a cartoon is easy? Think again! Fan Frenzy: Hulk VS Wolverine at 2008 San Diego Comic Con shows the panel before and after the world premiere screening last summer. You also get a featurette on the new Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, (playing now on Nicktoons) and a trailer gallery.
Hulk VS Thor
The scene opens on Asgard, home of the Norse Gods (as depicted in the Marvel Universe, of course.) Once a year, their king Odin must sleep, leaving their realm open to attack from all manner of monstrosity…and a parade of cameos from Asgard’s most wanted! We discover that Loki has kidnapped the infamous Doctor David Banner and, with the help if the Enchantress (sexiest cartoon character EVERRR!), hopes to harness the power of the Hulk to crush Thor under his heel. Naturally, nothing is ever so clear cut when dealing with the limitless rage of the green goliath and before long, all of Asgard is in peril.
Get ready to watch Hulk go head to head with a being so powerful he can grind him into the ground and he’ll come back for more. You’ll also see Thor unleash the full fury of his hammer, bringing down the lightning in an astounding display which just seems to piss the big green guy off. It becomes clear that Thor knows Hulk is a two man party and when they first go toe to toe, he holds back. Bad move. It’s refreshing to watch a cartoon that throws in copious amounts of characters for fan boys like me and doesn’t feel the need to tell everyone’s life story upon their meeting, including back story on characters we know have met before in the pages of our favorite comics. Not everything needs to be an origin story!
The design style is slightly less graphic than Wolverine. The cold, shadowy pallet is replaced by earthen tones and bright landscapes. This is an epic tale with epic scale and the canvas upon which it is told is breathtaking. Where Wolverine kept a tight focus on blood and rage, Thor strikes an almost Shakespearean tone with themes of blind, unwarranted retribution, heaven and hell and the sacrifices a true hero must make. The cost of failure to stop the Hulk is the end of a civilization and the voice actors step up to the task of conveying unwavering heroism, deep set loyalty and, in the case of Loki, an evil thirst that can not be quenched. There are moments of this film that will tear your heart out, which says a lot for the animation as well. This could have just been a slow march through Asgard with any number of known Thor characters thrown at you for the sake of geek cred. A blind rampage. Fantastic writing spares us those doldrums, delivering numerous levels of storytelling worthy of those classic Marvel tales we treasure and share with new comic fans. It’s fairly inspiring and should be seen as a benchmark in animated story telling.
Once again we get a nice pile of extras, beginning with a second commentary featuring the comedy stylings of Kyle and Yost who seem to feed off each other and have no end of hysterical comments to make, including a brand new tally of dead folks and a chuckle for any moments of astounding brutality. The second commentary stars Frank Paur, Sam Liu and James Peters who delve into the extreme details of every scene. Very informative and enjoyable. Of Gods and Monsters: The Making of Hulk VS Thor featurette is another ride through the minds of the creators behind this project. I swear I could sit and watch voice actors perform next to the scenes they are mixed into all day long. There is just something about the process that peaks my interest. I’m glad the crew putting this DVD together acknowledged that excitement as well! We also get an early look at Thor: Tales of Asgard, a new animated feature film that explores the youth of Thor, how his long rivalry with Loki came to be and events that sparked a war that would continue throughout the ages. More trailers here as well.
Not since the finale of Avatar have I seen animation that made me grin from ear to ear and hang on every moment, hoping that at least 10 more minutes lay ahead. Finally we have the direct to DVD Marvel geekstraviganza we always dreamed we’d see one day. This one isn’t for little kids or first time film fans curious about a new super hero smack down. This one is for you … and me.
Special Features: Standard Edition DVD
Special Features: Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray
Hulk Vs. Wolverine:
Hulk Vs. Thor:
*Note: Blu-ray special features are hi-def.
5 out of 5
4 out of 5
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