by Mel Valentin
"Hulk Vs.," Marvel Animation’s latest addition to their rapidly growing catalogue of straight-to-video (DTV) animated titles (e.g., "Next Avengers," "Dr. Strange," "The Invincible Iron Man," "Ultimate Avengers I and II"), is actually two shorts or mini-films in one, "Hulk vs. Wolverine," a throwback to the Hulk’s first encounter with Wolverine, and "Hulk vs. Thor," where, contrary to the title, the Hulk takes on not just Thor, but Thor’s fellow gods and goddesses in a bloody battle instigated by Thor’s duplicitous stepbrother, the trickster god Loki. Similar in tone and style and strong on action (as "Hulk"-centered tales tend to be), but weak story wise, "Hulk Vs." is, at best, fan service and, at worst (for non-fans), dully executed, repetitive fight scenes, and a flat, cheap-looking visual style that’s undermined Marvel Animation’s previous efforts.Hulk vs. Wolverine takes its cue from Wolverine’s first comic book appearance, The Incredible Hulk #180 (1974). As Hulk vs. Wolverine opens, Department H, Canada’s super-secret government agency, sends Wolverine on an urgent mission to stop the Hulk, presumably responsible for destroying several villages, from continuing his rampage. Wolverine quickly discovers, however, that the Hulk isn’t on a rampage: he’s fleeing super-powered mercenaries Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Omega Red (Colin Murdock), Lady Deathstrike (Jamyle Jared), and Deadpool (Nolan North). The mercenaries work for the super-secret Weapon X program that long ago kidnapped Wolverine/Logan, erased his memories, and bonded adamantium to his skeleton, and giving him retractable adamantium claws. Captured by the Weapon X team and their leader, Abraham Cornelius (Tom Kane), Wolverine has to escape, find Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson), and reawaken Banner’s inner rage machine before he meets the Weapon X team in combat again.
"The ultimate in fan-service by Marvel Animation."
In Hulk vs. Thor, the ever-scheming Loki (Graham McTavish) convinces Amora (Kari Wahlgren), an enchantress and Thor’s (Matthew Wolf) ex-lover, to bring Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson again) to Asgard, the mythical home of the Norse Gods. Using Amora’s powers to amplify his own, Loki separates Banner and the Hulk and takes over the Hulk’s mind. Loki sends the Hulk against Asgard’s defenders, Volstagg (Jay Brazeau), Fandral (Jonathan Holmes), Hogun (Paul Dobson), and Balder (Michael Adamthwaite). Armed with Mjolnar (Thor’s hammer), he arrives too late to save his friends from the Hulk’s rage and, despite a valiant effort, loses the first battle against the Hulk. A triumphant Loki loses control over the Hulk, sending him scuttling for help from Thor. Thor’s lover, Sif (Grey DeLisle), stands between the Hulk and a sleeping Odin (French Tickner), Thor’s father and the leader of the Asgardians.
Despite the DVD title and the “vs.” titles of the mini-films, the Hulk is actually a secondary character in Hulk vs. Wolverine and Hulk vs. Thor. The Hulk doesn’t interact with any of supervillains from his self-titled, long-running comic book. Instead, the Hulk interacts with characters from Wolverine and Thor’s mini-worlds, respectively. In Hulk vs. Wolverine, he’s a misunderstood Frankenstein’s monster and pursued by super-powered mercenaries, blamed by the authorities for crimes against humanity he didn’t commit, and immediately attacked by Wolverine. In Hulk vs. Thor, the Hulk is merely a passive, reactive pawn in Loki’s plans to defeat Thor and the other Asgardians who, unsurprisingly, can’t be controlled. Outside of a dream sequence, Bruce Banner barely gets any screen time and when he does, he’s depicted as weak-willed and angst ridden.Misleading advertising and titles aside, the real problem with "Hulk Vs." lies in the bland, uninspired animation that’s beset Marvel Animation’s previous releases. Backgrounds lack texture or detail and character designs, and while clearly inspired by their comic book antecedents, also fail to rise above Saturday morning cartoon quality. In the case of "Hulk vs. Wolverine," it makes some sense since the Wolverine we meet here is meant to resemble the Wolverine in the recently debuted "Wolverine and the X-Men" animated series. A less violent, bloodier version of Wolverine’s first encounter with the Hulk will be shown in the television series (episode seven). Not surprisingly, "Hulk vs. Wolverine" is rated PG-13 for “intense bloody animated violence” (note the appropriate addition of the word “bloody” to the description). "Hulk vs. Thor" is also rated PG-13 for “animated action violence” (minus the “bloody”).
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originally posted: 01/27/09 12:00:00