Those of us who grew up in the early fifties and late sixties know that there were two main types of comic books. One type was the traditional DC comics that contained ‘Superman’, ‘Batman’ and ‘The Flash’. Then there was the alternative; Marvel. There were different from the super heroes portrayed in DC. A Marvel character may have possessed superhuman abilities but they still had all the same faults and foibles as the rest of us. They were relatable to the people who faithfully read each issue. Spider Man’s alter ergo Peter Parker had a pimple on the night of a big date. Sue Storm and Reed Richards always bickered and argued. Underneath it all these were realistically portrayed people. This also did something else that was amazing; it permitted a moral ambiguity. In the DC Universe back then the heroes and villains were polarized. Superman could only save the day just as Lex Luther was incapable of any act of kindness. This wasn’t the case with Marvel. In one story line someone may be a good guy only to shift allegiances later on. Many Marvel characters underwent such changes but know went through more shifts between hero and villain as ‘The incredible Hulk’. He was inherently a tortured personality; torn between the kind and gentle Dr. Bruce Banner and the Hulk, a beast of incomprehensible power and rage. Over the decades there have been many incarnations of the Hulk character. They have ranged from a fairly long running TV series to an animated series and two feature length live action movies. The latest of this franchise takes the form of two short films. Each one has the Hulk squaring off in combat against a powerful Marvel universe hero; Thor and Wolverine. They are a lot like slightly extended episodes of the animated series but there is a bit more presented. They are fast paced, full of action and have better than average stories. Lion’s Gate is handling this new installment of the franchise and has several ways to get both of the shorts. The target audience is not restricted to kids. Adults you grew up with these characters will get a lot of entertainment from this set. You should try watching it with your kids; you might even look cool to them.
The stories were written by two men who are well versed in creating stories of this sort; Christopher Yost and Craig Kyle. Both have extensive experience in animated superhero television series and worked on many of the same shows including ‘Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles’, ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘X Men Evolution’. What these shows had in common were interesting and even complex story lines rich in character development and back stories. These are not the kind of cartoons most of us grew up with; they had more depth than you might think. I know a lot of comic book fans who can quote chapter and verse of each of these shows as if they were reciting the details of a well known myth. These writers were able to capture what made Marvel comics different from their competitors. They give you a classic battle royal but never neglect the humanity of the characters. This adds a level of conflict that goes beyond the good guy versus bad guy tale. One format that has become popular in the comic and graphic novel fan base is battles between a pair of super human powerhouses. Each one has been proven to be unbeatable and the fans want to see what would happen if they had to face each other. In this case the common factor is the incredible Hulk. His strength is virtually unlimited. The angrier he becomes the stronger he gets. He is a big green fighting machine. In the first story he fights Wolverine from the X Men. He can heal from any injury almost instantly, possesses heighten senses, superhuman speed and agility as well as unbreakable adamantium claws that can cut through anything. This is a fight between the proverbial immovable object and the irresistible force. The second fight on the card is with Thor. He is the Norse god of thunder and one of the mightiest and valiant opponents you could possible face. He is typically armed with his Uru war hammer named Mjolnir that can pull him through the air and smash a mountain should the need arise.
Directing both movies was Frank Paur. He also has a lot of experience in animated superheroes and has worked in the art department of several more. His direction was used in such TV animated series as ‘Men in Black’, ‘Spawn’ and ‘X Men Evolution’. What is important with this kind of background is it forces the director to be as efficient as possible with telling the story. You have to get right into things; set up the plot and move into the action. There is only thirty to forty minutes to let the story unfold and that doesn’t give a director much to work with. Any director of an animated film has to be incredibly visual in his orientation. He has to be able to take a few rough drawings and sketches and create a realistically flowing animation from it.
Hulk vs. Wolverine
We hear the voice of Wolverine telling us that he is the best at what he does. He is a mutant who cannot be injured but is capable of inflicting untold damage on his foes. He is used to the dirty jobs that no one else would or could take on. The Wolverine shown here is the old school comic version with the yellow and black outfit and the mask that sweeps back into long pointed ears. The first shot of him is in a remote location healing several broken bones. Suddenly the Hulk comes crashing down on him. The Hulk has been on the run for awhile now and has been seen in the northern wilderness of Canada. Tracking him is Department H, a covert government organization that uses powerful mutants to keep the world safe from unusual and powerful dangers. Wolverine has been freelancing for then and receives the assignment to track down the Hulk and stop his rampage.
Hulk vs. Thor
The first shot is of Biforst, the rainbow bridge that connects Midgard (earth) to Asgard, the home of the Norse gods. The king of the gods and goddess is Odin. His life’s blood flows through Asgard and he sustains it. At the present time he is in a deep, regenerative slumber. This necessary sleep leaves Asgard venerable and this fact is well known to Loki, the god of mischief. For thousands of years he has been trying to defeat his step brother, the Mighty Thor. Now, with Odin out of the way an opportunity has presented itself. On earth there is a raging creature of such might and power that he might be able to defeat and kill the god of thunder. This creature is the Hulk. Loki captures Bruce Banner and forces him to transform into the Hulk to fight Thor leaving the way open for Loki to take control of Asgard.
The animation is about on par with what was used in the seventies television series. It flows smoothly enough but doesn’t have the sophistication of modern animated feature films. The stories are interesting enough and will hold the attention of kids and grown ups alike. The set is available on a one disc DVD, a two disc DVD set or Blu-ray. All have feature commentaries and a sneak peak at up coming Marvel films but the one disc lacks a couple of other extras. This is enjoyable and a must have for the die hard fan.