Hulk Vs. (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Widescreen) (2009)

Actors: Steve Blum, Nolan North, Bryce Johnson, Tom Kane, Graham McTavish
Frank Paur
Writers: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Producers: Craig Kyle
Format: AC-3, Animated, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Number of discs: 2
Lions Gate
DVD Release Date:
January 27, 2009
Format: (1.78:1) Widescreen
Feature Run Time: 82 Minutes
DVD Audio Status: English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Blu-Ray Audio Status: 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio

Hulk Vs. Wolverine:
Hulk Vs. Thor:


The 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 anemic Avengers 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 entries.

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.

Though the 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.

That 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



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