Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hulk Vs...

Hulk Vs. ~ This is the newest of Marvel Comics and Lionsgate’s direct-to-DVD features, this one a double feature with the Hulk fighting Thor and then Wolverine, two different stories, one great DVD. I watched the Thor half of this animated flick first so the thought didn’t occur to me right away, but after the Wolverine half it became clear what this reminded me of. Decades ago, after CBS' live-action "Incredible Hulk" series was canceled, they produced a couple made-for-TV movies with the same cast but using the Hulk character as a spin-off point for other Marvel heroes. We were ‘treated’ to albeit greatly-altered versions of Daredevil and Thor, hopefully for pilot purposes that thankfully never manifested.

That’s what this disc is, spin-off pilots for Thor and Wolverine, because like those telemovies, these featurettes really have little to do with the Hulk. The stories are firmly Thor and Wolverine stories, set firmly in their worlds and among their supporting characters and opposing villains. There’s really not that much Hulk honestly in this Hulk DVD. Really, any rampaging beast could have subbed easily in these Thor and Wolverine adventures.

On the plus side, the Thor adventure is a wonderful journey into the mythology of that character as it was designed and established by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the day. Watching this I was filled with nostalgia and an urge to go back and read those comics. This was magic. While Odin sleeps, Loki and the Enchantress possess the Hulk to destroy, who else, Thor. See the wonder of Asgard and the fanboy fantasy of an old-fashioned Thor/Hulk slugfest, complete with character development, originality and suspense. A solid story backed up with the crisp animation Lionsgate has become known for with these productions.

Whereas the Thor part seemed to be all about what was right about comics of the 1960s, the Wolverine segment equally reflected, in my opinion at least, everything that was wrong with comics of the 1990s. While I was happy it was not a simple rehash of the Hulk’s first encounter with Wolverine (that character’s first appearance by the way), I was disappointed that it turned into just an excuse for the Hulk to smash foes who could not die and characters who can cut and slash to cut and slash without killing. Honestly with all the regenerating I can’t help making a comparison to Frank Miller’s ridiculous take on The Spirit and the Octopus in his recent but horrible film.

While hardcore X-Men fans may delight at seeing Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red and especially Deadpool, someone who I have never been able to divine the popularity of, this was all just a horse and pony show to me. I would have rather seen the Wendigo. At least that story had a plot.

This DVD is well worth the rental, but not the purchase, and unless you’re a serious X-fan, just watch the Thor half.

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