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Hulk VS (2009)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/27/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/26/2009
I'm an old-school Marvel Comics fan. Hold on, let me re-phrase that. Saying that I'm an old-school Marvel Comics fan will lead some to think that I'm into Golden and Silver Age comics. So, please allow me to specify that my personal "golden age" was from 1982-1995 (which, I know is called the "Modern Age"), and it's that period which is my idea of "comics" and the characters from that time-span are the ones which I acknowledge. I have no knowledge or time for the "Ultimates" or re-boots or whatever marketing scam Marvel pulled in the late 90s. Therefore, I'm always wary of any Marvel animated project, as there's a chance that they may ignore the classic stories and bring in one of these "new" stories (seeThe Spectacular Spider-man). But, as I've always been a huge X-men fan, I was more than willing to give Hulk VS a try, as it offers two tales; Hulk vs. Wolverine and Hulk vs. Thor.
(Authors Note: The two titles on this disc each have their own menu, so they can be watched in any order. We'll be starting with...)
Hulk vs. Wolverine is a phrase which will be familiar to comic fans, as these two characters have squared off several times. In fact, Wolverine's first appearance in comics came in The Incredible Hulk series. This story opens in Canada, where Department H (the Canadian FBI?) has called in Wolverine (voiced by Steven Blum) for help. A small town has been destroyed and other than the devastation, there are few clues. Wolverine goes into the wilderness, where he comes across Dr. Bruce Banner (voiced by Bryce Johnson). As Banner matches scents that he detected in the ravaged town, Wolverine violently confronts the meek man, who instantly transforms into The Hulk (voiced by Fred Tatasciore). The two battle, until the fight is broken up by some old enemies of Woverine's who take both he and The Hulk hostage. It seems that these evildoers plan to kill Wolverine and turn The Hulk into a weapon.
Something like Hulk vs. Wolverine has to be graded on two levels. As far as being faithful to the comics, it gets pretty high marks. In fact, the piece (which runs about 37 minutes) plays like a greatest hits of Wolverine stories. The battle between The Hulk and Wolverine in the Canadian wilderness feels as if it were taken directly from the pages of The Incredible Hulk #181. The Weapon X storyline (which describes how Wolverine got his adamantium bones and claws) is touched upon and the group which wants to use The Hulk is made up of colorful characters from Wolverine's past, including Sabretooth (voiced by Mark Acheson) and Deadpool (voiced by Nolan North). These elements should satisfy those like me who come in ready to nitpick. However, as a movie, Hulk vs. Wolverine has some problems. The pacing is very slack at times, and the fights drag on. Maybe some are excited by animated fight scenes, but they do nothing for me. The character design is a bit suspect and Sabretooth looks less like his comic book counterpart and more like Coach Penopolis from Home Movies. (The end credits show famous comic panels which further show how weird some of the character design is.) Also, I don't know why they even bothered putting The Hulk in the title, or in the movie, as he's barely in it and this is undoubtedly Wolverine's show.
Hulk vs. Wolverine has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 15 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material and no grain. The colors look very good, and Wolverine's yellow and blue costume contrast nicely with The Hulk's green skin. The HD transfer does show off some of the limitations of the animation and there is some stuttering at times. The Disc houses a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, and the battle scenes are littered with minute audio details coming from the front channels. The subwoofer effects are nice as well, especially when The Hulk crashes to the ground. However, the surround effects aren't very distinct and rarely separate themselves from the audio coming from the front channels.
Hulk vs. Wolverine contains a few extras. We get two AUDIO COMMENTARIES here, the first with Supervising Producer/Co-writer Craig Kyle and Co-writer Chris Yost, and the second with Supervising Director/Producer Frank Paur,and Storyboard Artists Kevin Altieri, and Butch Lukic. "This is Gonna Hurt: The Making of Hulk vs. Wolverine" (20 minutes) contains comments from the makers of the feature. They discuss the comics which influenced the feature and we see some covers and panels from the Marvel comics. They talk about the characters and how they approached the project with the mindset of wanting to be true to the comics and not tone things down. The character designed is discussed and we see a great deal of concept art. The piece then looks at the voice actors. (Oddly, there's very little talk about The Hulk here.) "Fan Frenzy: Hulk vs. Wolverine - 2008 Comic-Con" (8 minutes) shows a panel Q & A from San Diego where the feature was shown to an audience. "First Look: Wolverine and The X-Men" (6 minutes) gives us a preview of a show which premiered 5 days before this Blu-ray was released.
While Hulk vs. Wolverine seems like a natural idea given their history, Hulk vs. Thor doesn't have the same ring to it. I know that the two have worked together in the past, but have they fought? This odd tale takes place in Asgard, the city of the gods. Once a year, Odin (voiced by French Tickner), the king of the gods, must rest. During this "Odinsleep", the city is at its weakest and evil hordes attempt to sack it. But, they are turned away from the city's protectors, who are led by Thor (voiced by Matthew Wolf), the god of thunder. Thor's step-brother, Loki (voiced by Graham McTavish) has a new plan. He has summoned The Hulk to Asgard and plans to use him to defeat Odin. However, Loki soon learns that The Hulk can't be controlled and the beast runs amok in Asgard.
I would love to be able to grade Hulk vs. Thor on its faithfulness to the comics, but I simply don't know enough about Thor (and what I do know comes from the cartoons from the 1960s!). What I can confirm is that, like Hulk vs. Wolverine, The Hulk really takes a backseat here. He is simply a marauding beast who is tearing through Asgard -- a role which could have been played by any monster. In Hulk vs. Thor's favor, there are some interesting ideas of how to control The Hulk and how much control Bruce Banner has over the creature. But, for the most part, this movie (which runs 45 minutes) focuses on Thor, Loki and the other gods of Asgard. And, as with Hulk vs. Wolverine, there are fight scenes which simply go on too long. Hulk vs. Thor seems to drag even worse than Hulk vs. Wolverine, and at times, it's simply boring. This one is for die-hard fans of Thor only. (And the whole thing seems to be an attempt to put Thor in a spotlight for his upcoming TV show.)
Hulk vs. Thor has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the lighting effects look great. We can, however, see some shots which aren't as detailed as others. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The subwoofer effects are actually deeper here than on Hulk vs. Wolverine, so the battle scenes really pack a punch. The stereo effects are good and show nice separation. Yet, we still have that same problem with the lackadaisical surround sound which is present, but never does anything to stand out.
As with the other segment, Hulk vs. Thor contains a number of bonuses. Again, there are two commentaries, the first with Supervising Producer/Co-writer Craig Kyle and Co-writer Chris Yost, and the second with Supervising Director/Producer Frank Paur, Director Sam Liu, and Color Key Designer James Peters. "Of Gods and Monsters: The Making of Hulk vs. Thor" (18 minutes) explores the feature's production. This one starts with comments from the voice actors and footage of them recording. We then get a look at the story and the character and production design. Unlike the vs. Wolverine featurette, we don't see as many comic images here. This isn't true with "Jack Kirby + Thor" (5 minutes), which explores how the art of the legedary artist really set the tone for how drawing Thor and Asgard are approached. "First Look - Thor: Tales of Asgard" (5 minutes) previews a new TV show.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long