DVD Review: Hulk Vs. (2009) -- 2-Disc Special Edition

Hulk Vs. Wolverine & Thor:
Smashing onto DVD & Blu-ray

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Aptly described by the filmmakers as "a fanboy dream come true," Marvel Comic's iconic "Green Goliath" brings classic Hulk Vs. comics of the past to life in this faithful adaptation derived from its earliest roots as a two-part all-new animated DVD.

Despite its original source material, there's nothing comical or overly kid-friendly in these exceedingly harsh and violent yet awe-inspiring dynamic duo of mature tales that richly earn their PG-13 ratings within moments, as first Hulk takes on Wolverine in the superior and compelling opener that's succeeded by the visually extraordinary Hulk Vs. Thor.

Following up Marvel's banner year in 2008 with the launch of its first two astronomically successful titles-- Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk-- this straight-to-DVD and Blu-ray Marvel offering uses the most recent live action version of the story of meek scientist turned unstoppable Hulk, Bruce Banner in a nice segue that leads into their two upcoming live-action works which will incidentally feature Wolverine and Thor respectively.

In the thirty-seven minute running time of Hulk Vs. Wolverine, we're first presented with the point of view of the clawed tough man as he explains in his voice-over, "I'm the best at what I do but what I do isn't very nice."

Sent into Elkford-- a U.S. and Canadian border town that's been ravaged by the out-of-control giant-- supervising producers and writers Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and supervising director Frank Paur go above and beyond in the research department, bringing in old villains from the Wolverine comic books like Deadpool and others. And in doing so, they correctly argue that because each superhero has a distinctly different personality, they needed to be different in their design which is high-caliber all the way.

Pulling memorably classic imagery directly out of the comics such as that great visual of Wolverine and a wolf near water-- the goal of storyboard artists Kevin Altieri and Butch Lukic was to remain faithful to the original work yet offer a great primer for those just becoming introduced to Wolverine by inserting his back-story.

Rightfully joking that the finished result-- which contains "tremendous suffering"-- couldn't be played on a Saturday morning cartoon for the kiddies at breakfast in the fascinating making-of featurette "This is Gonna Hurt," the filmmakers also provide a "Fan Frenzy" featurette of the film at 2008's San Diego Comic-Con where some caught their first glimpse at this new film. Adding to the bonus offerings, two different audio commentaries are dished up by those involved in various aspects with one focusing on the writing and production and the other on the direction and art as well as a trailer gallery and first look featurette entitled "Wolverine and the X-Men."

While the opening film was a slam bang actioner with the right blend of humor, chaos, and a breakneck pace to keep you riveted, I must admit to being a bit disappointed by its follow-up Hulk Vs. Thor, despite its artistic superiority and spectacular visuals in the tradition of Marvel animator Jack Kirby--who originally brought Thor to life in the comics-- by the painstaking devotion of animation director Sam Liu and color key designer James Peters.

Employing the same key players in terms of production, writing and overall direction as the first one, Hulk Vs. Thor brings us to the more mythic and classically hero's journey laced aura of Thor who is incessantly tricked by his stepbrother Loki, intent on bringing Thor down.

Still a beat weary from fighting endlessly in nine realms-- the story starts when the weakest forces are at work left guarding Asgard when Odin, their king of the Gods is "deep in a regenerative sleep." Exploiting this for his benefit, Loki decides to use Hulk to take on Thor since he's the one foe that's proved to be nearly fatal to his stepbrother in the past.

With an extraordinarily rich color palette and attention to detail that rivals the old classic Disney animated hand-painted classic works (if-- you know-- Disney traded wishing upon stars for kicking ass), Hulk Vs. Thor is a feast for the eyes. Yet, unfortunately, its slower pace--told as though it were nearly a Shakespearean inspired fairy tale complete with old-fashioned speech rhythms-- is initially jarring from the tone of the wry Wolverine and didn't quite manage to involve me in its forty-five minute running time the way the first film did.

Similar to Wolverine, Thor is loaded with several characters devotees will recall from the comic books and there's a great deal of back-story involved in establishing the film's complicated setting-- so much so in fact that-- (as revealed in this disc's making-of-featurette), the script was sent back for reworking.

While I feel as though it possibly should've been sent back another time and tightened up in another rewrite to match-- not only the heightened level of the first one-- but also to be worthier of the superlative animation, it does succeed very well in showing us a heartbreaking wistful look at Banner's suffering adding a great deal of drama in the fact that he's unable to be with the woman he loves and raise a family.

With another "First Look-- Thor Tales of Asgard" featurette, as well as two commentary tracks and a making-of journey that echoes recycles some of the same sentiments and interview footage as the first one, Hulk Vs. Thor also boasts additional trailers as well as a featurette on the legendary Jack Kirby himself.

Quality fare from Marvel which continues to set an impressively high bar for its superhero comic tales, Hulk Vs. is a must-own for dedicated followers of the classic Hulk, Wolverine, Thor and Hulk Vs. line of comics who will greatly appreciate the filmmaker's determined reverence for the vintage work that came before them. So get ready and keep valuables out of way as Hulk smashes onto DVD and Blu-ray in various editions (including a standard one minus extra features) on Tuesday, January 27.