“Hulk Vs.” Animated Movie Review

This week saw the release of Marvel’s latest direct to video project, Hulk Vs., a double feature aimed at older audiences (both rated PG-13). Wolverine and Thor each take a stand against the mighty green id with varying success in two ambitious outings which raise the bar for Marvel’s animated line. 

But can Craig Kyle and Chris Yost outdo my own independently funded short film Mini Smash?

Mini Smash from Paul Montgomery on Vimeo.


Hulk Vs. Wolverine

In the strongest of the two features, Wolverine pursues the Hulk through the Canadian wilderness. The big guy’s just leveled a nearby town and authorities are shuddering at the giant footprints. Logan smells toxin on the air and eagerly suits up and journeys out alone. This leads to his first encounter with the Hulk and a brutal skirmish laced with iconic moments from the characters’ storied comics history. But this isn’t simply a struggle between two titans. Soon enough, Wolverine’s past catches up with him and we are introduced to Weapon X, both the team and its history.

While Hulk plays a major role in this feature, some last minute additions turned this simple beat-em-up into the most sophisticated adaptation of Wolverine’s origins in any animated film to date. Wolverine has figured prominently in a number of animated series, but in this more mature outing the creative team was able to approach the bloody story from the comics with real abandon. My enthusiasm shouldn’t be misconstrued as blood lust. It’s a matter of gravity. The character is deeply complex, and justice can only be done without filter. He’s a death machine and all resonance is lost if he’s pulling his punches. Here, we’re treated to a painful and merciless origin befitting of the character. And as entertaining as the initial one-on-one pummeling is, the inclusion of the Weapon X team really rounds out the film. 

Deadpool fans are in for a treat as Nolan North’s performance on the character is, as suggested by Jeff Matsuda’s design concept, an hilariously sinister take on Spider-Man. Real gallows humor. I was pleasantly surprised by their lack of restraint with the character. Yost and Kyle, writers on X-Force also take an opportunity to include an X-23 cameo. The presence of such characters, as well as the comic book callbacks, whether visual or through dialogue, are a deftly handled brand of fanservice. I never groaned at a familiar image or phrase. Each note landed just right.

Back to Matsuda’s designs. There’s a nice balance between traditional American animation and a dynamic Japanese influence. We’re finally given an ornery runt of a Wolverine. He’s exaggerated, but he’s not quite super-deformed. Really, he’s a ball of kinetic energy, designed perfectly to take part in the big, bloody violence for which he’s known. And all of the characters move appropriately, whether as graceful human Swiss army knives or lumbering behemoths. This is an action film, and the team paid attention to the texture and physics of opposing objects. Of the two features, this one is the best choreographed and more energetic. The camera behaves like an action camera should, revolving around characters and adding dimension to the animation. This is the kind of animation you’d see in sophisticated anime, and I was glad to see Marvel pursue this nuanced and intricate style of fight movement more aggressively here. 

If I had any real complaints, I’d have to suggest that this feature would have benefited from a longer running time (it’s a brisk 37 minutes). It feels full, but I think they could have taken it even further and expanded the number of character moments and set pieces. I’d be thrilled to sit through more of this. 

 

Hulk Vs. Thor

Things take a theatrical turn with Hulk Vs. Thor, which focuses on yet another power play for control over the Hulk. Asgard is prone to attack from outside forces as Odin is just waking up from a week long cat nap. Loki prepares a siege. With the help of Thor’s scorned ex-lover Amora, he ousts Bruce Banner from Hulk’s form and directs the beast’s action’s as a kind of puppet master. Thor broods a bit before entering the fray.  

Hulk’s Vs. Thor is something of a soap opera, with the whole ensemble of Asgard and its divine inhabitants tussling both with the Hulk and the incestuous politics of the higher and lower plains. It’s a survey course of Thor’s world and continuity, and while it’s never too complicated, it’s several steps down on the excitement scale from the previous feature. The brawl takes a backseat to some world-building which I’d prefer to explore in a future project (say, this fall’s Thor: Tales of Asgard). Here, it feels slightly unbalanced. As with Hulk Vs. Wolverine, I saw this as a an unhealthy ratio of ambition to running time. Interesting world and characters but too small of a playing field to really flesh things out. 

Just as Deadpool stole the show previously, Loki is constantly upstaging his half brother. Graham McTavish offers a deliciously evil performance, and due to a decidedly wooden interpretation of Thor, I found myself rooting for Loki in his assault on Asgard. 

The film also features a subplot involving Bruce Banner’s fantasy life (I don’t want to give too much away here) which was really pretty compelling. I wish that they could have developed that section more, especially since Bruce takes a real back seat in both films. Even more so than usual. He does get the spotlight toward the end of the story, but more so in theory than in practice. Another fascinating subplot that could have been nurtured into something even stronger in a full length feature. 

For me, this half of the double feature serves as a proof of concept for the upcoming Thor: Tales of Asgard, a take on the character’s teen years. The preview included in the extra features of this release looks pretty promising.  

 


Paul Montgomery‘s next project involves recreating St. Elmos’ Fire with second-hand Playmobil figures and actual fire.  Contact him at paul@ifanboy.com to talk him out of it. You can also find him on Twitter.  

Comments

  1. I forsee an oscar in your future

  2. I don’t need to buy this after Paul’s video.  The quality can’t be topped.  I so want the Thor Might Mugg.

  3. I am humbled.

  4. I had no interest in this project until now. 

  5. Bald Mighty Mugg Thor hair is epic.

  6. ive seen hulk vs wolverine. Its really good. Still haven’t seen hulk vs thor though.

  7. That. Is. Hysterical.

    Nice work, Paul. 

    I actually picked up this DVD for me and my son to watch, but now I think I’ve got to show him YOUR video instead.

    (funny, I actually have Mini-Mugg Hulk and Wolverine sitting on my desk in my office — just realized that.)

  8. As a Hulk fanboy, I have issues with this DVD but I totally understand that I’m going to be in the minority. 

    Personally, calling it Hulk Vs is a bit of a misnomer.  The Hulk isn’t a character so much as a plot point in both videos.  Vs Hulk would’ve been more apropos.  My is a technical one.  I’ve noticed on several of the Marvel Animated films that the animation dips in this weird old-style that reminds me a lot of the old Campbell soup ads and it just doesn’t suit an action oriented style well.

    And none of this is to say that the films are bad, they aren’t.  They just personally don’t fit my tastes.

  9. Both were well done, is it possible that Marvel can take some of their classic stories and animate them in this style?  It would be great to see Secret Wars or the Korvac Saga with the proper tone done it the story.  Its good to see that with this project Marvel hasn’t done the "Animation is for little kids" mindset.  Well done Paul!

  10. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @k5blazer – I really want them to do Infinity Gauntlet.  If they don’t, do you know who’s gonna?!  

     

    THIS AUTEUR!   

  11. That totally took me back to playing Laser Tag in Junior High, they’d put that stupid mortal combat song on a loop all night.

  12. I liked both of these.  Each were pretty good with each having something different to offer instead of two movies of the same things.  Deadpool steals everyscene he was in.  I agree, the only way to tell the Wolverine story was with no filter and I’m glad they went that way with it. 

    I’m sure Thor: Tales of Asgard will be good, but I’d like to see some more team up kind of stuff like this.  Definetly glad I bought it

  13. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    In light of recent discussion and controversy, I’d appreciate it if everyone kept the shocking conclusion of Mini Smash: Episode One: "Battle For the Helm" a secret.  Allow new viewers to approach it with fresh eyes.  

    Thank you.   

  14. Paul, I just got a call from Ace McGinley, your stunt coordinator on the Playmobil St. Elmo’s Fire remake…? He, uh, he says that using "real fire" was kind of a bad idea.

    The Rob Lowe figure has been…uh… been… fused… together with the Ally Sheedy character.

    Is it OK if they both get top billing? Or… they’re willing to consider a "Rob Sheedy" credit for a few more points on the back end.

    Just thank god that denizens of Playmobil Land haven’t unionized yet or this whole project would be in the crapper right now.

  15. You mad genius. Just when I was thinking, "What would I do with one of those Zi6s, anyway?" Now I have to do Monday’s review of Cable as an interpretive dance.

    There’s always that added element of, "Ugh, now I have to up my game again." Damn you people keepingit real.

    Also, I’m renting this disc now.

  16. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @daccampo – Let’s just shelve it.  Let’s start production on my bottom drawer project.  You know. "What If Teddy Ruxpin and Yukon Cornelius Were at the Nativity?" 

  17. @Paul — I’ve got a Cabbage Patch Kid who just screams "Baby Jesus." Lemme make some calls.

  18. Loved Hulk Vs., ended up buying the deluxe edition the day of release.

    Of the two, the Wolverine story was better than the Thor story, in my humble opinion.

    I was also very impressed with Nolan North’s performance as Deadpool.  My biggest laugh came when Deadpool had just seen X-23 any many other babies in laboratory test tubes: he turns to Omega Red an starts singing "Rock a by ba…..BANG!".  Demented and comical, just like Deadpool.

    I’m also in agreement that Graham McTavish steals the show as Loki in the Thor story.  He was so well done, infact, that at times you could argue that this is actually a Loki story.

    Overall, I’m very impressed with the Hulk Vs. package.  For $16, you get alot of bang for your buck.  I wholeheartedly recommend this title to any fanboy.

  19. that made my morning! 

  20. Thanks for the review, now I really wanna check this dvd out. Hilarious mini movie!!!! That’s some "helmet hair" on Thor!

  21. Loved the Mighty Mugg movie…I might pick up this DVD, but I’m a little behind on watching this cartoons. I still haven’t watched my copies of Ultimate Avengers 2, Invincible Iron Man, or Superman Doomsday and I still haven’t picked up New Frontier or Dr. Strange.

  22. GAH!

     where’s the disclaimer for the explicit hammer violence?

     It’s like Gerry Anderson making an episode of The Sopranos.

    I like the idea of Marvel giving their animated projects the gravity found in the books.  There’s a place for the daytime TV friendly Marvel U, but I like the idea of direct-to-video taking more of the serious tone of the books.

  23. Hated the way Thor looked in the movie. Other than that, it was pretty ok.

  24. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The character designs in Hulk Vs. Wolverine were much stronger than the designs in Thor.  Thor’s design in particular was really flat.  Sharp edges and too aristocratic.  The vocal performance didn’t help.  

  25. Sounds good.

  26. my favorite was Hulk VS Thor.

  27. @Paul-Infinity Gauntlet would be execellent! It is self-contained and and features a TON of characters and I know that I would love to see something like that on screen.  And if we need to do one on our own or "unathorized"…then count me in!

  28. Hey, I’m going to put this on my Neflix!  I’ve hated all the other recent Marvel animated projects, including the new X-Men series, but I guess I’ll give this a shot too.

  29. Bravo, Sir! Bravo!
    I cannot wait for further films from this studio. Also awaiting the extended cut, HD release with director’s commentary.

  30. This is the situation for which the phrase "there are no words" was invented.

    There are no words.

  31. im watching this tomorrow and i cant wait!! i hagve mighty mugg Captain America and Spidy lol. but awesome article!!

  32. That vid’s awesome.

  33. Nice video there Paul.  It makes my desire for Mighty Muggs nearly unbearable.

  34. I liked the movie, but logans voice kept taking me out of it.  I couldnt stand the way they over did it.

  35. Yes – no "aboot" or "eh" to be found. The dubbing was too unbelievable.

  36. That video…was…awesome!  Both of the other Hulk vs. videos were good, but they were definitely lacking in Mighty Mugg action.

  37. I just hope Hasbro will make a toy line of this animated movie I’am looking forward in buying a Mighty Thor action figure and his arch-enemy Loki the God of Trickerry  and Evil from toy stores everywhere. But  a Wolverine action figure no way there are a lot of Wolverine toys to go around a lot of collectors I know are getting sick and tired of collecting his action figures they want a knew Marvel Superhero to collect.

  38. I liked both these movies. I am a lifelong Thor fan, but I think I enjoyed the Hulk vs Wolverine a little more specifically because of Deadpool. His one-liners made the movie.

  39. Deadpool was great. "Strike a Pose" lol

  40. One note the Thor: Tales of Asgard series won’t be approved for production until around May, after MIPCOM.  They’re certain it will go into production but they need to line up foreign buyers first.  So you won’t be seeing Thor in the Fall.

     But everything I’ve seen from it so far looks awesome.  Setting it in Asgard was a brilliant take. 

  41. Thanks, Tad.  I couldn’t find any information about it online and I was wondering why.  I was just going by the talk on the dvd.  Looks like a lot of fun, from what they presented.  I’m gonna keep an eye out for it.  

     

  42. Paul – That was AWESOME. Way better than the first Avengers animated.

    As for the DVD, it was ehhh. Better than the other Marvel stuff I’ve seen, but leagues away from anything DC has done so far. I’d love to see Marvel go with the DC model of doing classic stories – I’d buy an Infinity Gauntlet or Secret Wars DVD. The extras could have been better – how about a history of the character or highlighting seminal comic stories, again, a la the DC DVDs.

    I was wondering why there hasn’t been a Spider-Man feature yet – it seems to make sense, unless the animation rights are tied up somewhere else. A Kraven’s Last Hunt or Nothing Stops the Juggernaut animated feature would be cool. 

  43. I saw Hulk vs. Wolverine when they screened it in San Diego. I wasn’t all that impressed. It looked really nice and I had no real character complaints but there’s just nothing in 40 minutes of the two tough guys fighting for me. Thoroughly bored. Almost walked out a couple of times.

  44. I hope your video gets to be on the special edition reissue Paul.  

  45. Watched this tonight and really enjoyed it.  I actually prefered the THor story to the Wolverine.  I felt like there was more of a story there than with Wolverine which was, for the most part, one long fight scene.

    I liked the Wolverine part as an exercise in short form storytelling.  They managed to get a lot across in the short amount of time alloted.  It was a nice snapshot.

    The story in Thor was so engaging that I wanted more.  Although I kept wondering why they never refered to Enchantress as Enchantress.  Also, Hulk’s hair in this one was kinda silly.

    The animation was pretty good, although there were a few parts were short cuts were glaring.

    All-in-all I enjoyed it.  If they do more, I’ll pick them up.

  46. The most enjoyable thing for me was seeing Wolverine getting out of a Sea King.  HAHAHAH!  Nice to see the animators did their homework. 

  47. Thanks for the review. I would have missed this otherwise.

  48. I hadn’t planned on watching this but I’ll add it to netflix.  Its weird seeing a wolverine thats not from the animated series from the 90’s which is so firmly etched in my head

  49. Hey Paul, Thanks again for the review, I would have missed this if it weren’t for you.

    I watched the two movies, and surprised myself to find the Thor story more interesting and compeling.  There was more of a story to it, than that of the Wolverine story.  Also, Wolverine calling Bruce Banner a "Cry Baby" didn’t ring true to how I view the character. If Wolverine thinks this guy is a victim of the Hulk whose here to help, I just can’t see him calling a victum names.  He might get frustrated, and annoyed, but I don’t recall him doing such a thing before. He typically challenges those in/with power, and not those being victumized. 

    In the Thor story, I liked how the yearly battle in Asgard is just like another seasonal happening, like salmon swimming upstream, et cetera. Its just something the evil-ones and good-ones do. I enjoyed it.

    @Luthor, you’re right about Hulk really is less of a "character" and more a story point which the stories are built around. Not that its bad, its just that he’s just a big smashing machine. Kind of like "Insert-Hero-Here verses Force of Nature".

  50. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    What was I thinking? The Thor feature is TOTALLY better.  

  51. It was!