Hulk, his essence being that of always having a mad on, has had repeated run-ins with several of the other Marvel characters. There's his classic battles with the Thing, but Ben Grimm's not in here so let's put that aside. While I don't really recall the Hulk having much of a rivalry with Thor, Wolverine is another matter. Wolverine made his debut in the Hulk's comic book (issue #181) and these two have had a history since then, most of it not lovey-dovey. HULK VS. WOLVERINE and HULK VS. THOR are companion pieces - two short animated direct-to-dvd films, respectively 37 minutes and 45 minutes long - and are showcases not for intricate plotting and exposition but for meaty, hard-hitting, down-and-dirty fighty fights.
So Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and here what Wolverine does best is get the Canuck pounded out of him. As HULK VS. WOLVERINE takes place, Logan is still a ways away from his stint with the X-Men. Here, he's still under orders from Department H, which sends him to investigate a creature which has crossed into Canada and annihilated a tiny town. And this sets up the first meet between Wolverine and the Hulk, as they face off in the Canadian wilds. The tussle follows its logical course, with the Hulk mostly getting the better licks in. I'd never seen Wolverine go painfully airborne so many times, at the behest of the Hulk's mighty haymakers. But then their fun bag of hurt is interrupted by Logan's old pals from the Weapon X program...
There is some serious violence featured in both HULK VS. WOLVERINE and HULK VS. THOR, and both films are most definitely NOT recommended for the young kids. In VS. WOLVERINE, with its free-for-all monster vs. monsters theme (even Logan doesn't come off as so noble) and with just about every character endowed with a healing factor, the storytellers are able to cut loose with the extremely brutal action sequences. Arms get ripped off or sliced off. People get gutted. And Logan calls everyone "Bub," except for Bruce Banner, whom he calls "Weepy." But it's cool that ferocious, remorseless fighters like Wolverine and the Hulk aren't restrained to PG-rated patty cake stuff.
Happy fun time for Wolverine fans as he's featured heavily in this one, his origins getting a good once over and with particular focus on his involvement with Weapon X. This story is set not too far removed from those days, and so what we get is a Logan who's even more hardcore than he is with the X-Men. Check out the way he induces Banner's transformation into the Hulk.
It's pretty neat seeing the other messed-up characters from Weapon X. Lady Deathstrike is as formidable as I remember her, while the merrily insane, scene-stealing Deadpool absolutely brings down the house with his hilarious one-liners. The levity he injects into this very grim movie is most welcome. And, by the way, do yourself a favor and stick around for a brief but funny post-end credits sequence.
Segueing now to Norse mythology. Apparently, it's all about Odin the All-Father. Odin's power is what safeguards Asgard, the Realm Eternal and home to the Norse gods. Except that once a winter the All-Father must rest, must spend a cycle of time in Odinsleep. At this time Asgard is at its most vulnerable, a most inauspicious time for its warriors, most especially when a rampaging Hulk shows up. It's all a plan of Loki's, of course, the god of mischief and the Thor-scorned Enchantress working dark enchantments to separate Bruce Banner from his always cheesed off alter ego. This division renders the Hulk at his most mindless and savage, become pure rage incarnate, and he makes short work of the pantheon of Norse gods.
Here's one example of these two films working in harmony, balancing each other. While VS. WOLVERINE feels gritty and dark, VS. THOR, even at only 45 minutes, has an epic tone. Gods are featured here, and frost giants, valkyries, the Warriors Three, the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, and the rainbow bridge, so immediately the story feels larger than life, but then factor in too the widescreen scenery and the bright colors. And, above all else, Thor, the god of thunder, who is so noble I feel like I should hate on him on principle. The Hulk goes thru Asgard's protectors as violently and easily as chimichangas go thru my dyspeptic grandmother. And, yes, the Hulk also batters Thor into pancake, in fact punches him thru a mountain. Thor is clearly worried about the Hulk ("This is no immortal evil that we face now. The Hulk has come to Asgard."). It's pretty intense, seeing the god of thunder being pummeled this badly, and I reiterate what's said in the audio commentary: "It says something, when a god... is afraid of you."
The resolution, of course, is easy to figure out, but I like that Bruce Banner wants no part of it. While I dig the Hulk, I'm not a fan of Bruce Banner. Note that in these two short films, he doesn't come away in a flattering light, presented as this tormented dude all weepy and sniveling. Anyway, if you've ever enjoyed Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson's takes on Thor and Asgard, then HULK VS. THOR'll put a grin on your mug.
This is a two disc package. Disc one has the HULK VS. WOLVERINE short animated film and the following special features: two audio commentaries (one by producer/co-writer Craig Kyle & co-writer Chris Yost, the other by supervising director/producer Frank Paur and storyboard artists Kevin Altieri & story Butch Lukic); "This Is Gonna Hurt" - the 20-minute-long Making Of HULK VS. WOLVERINE; Fan Frenzy: 2008 Comic Con - a Q & A panel with cast & crew (8 minutes long); and a first look at the television animated series WOLVERINE & X-MEN.
Disc two has the HULK VS. THOR short animated film and the following special features: two audio commentaries (one by Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, the other by Frank Paur, director Sam Lui & colorist James Peters); "Of Gods And Monsters" - the 18-minute-long Making Of HULK VS. THOR; Jack Kirby + Thor - various folks talk about artist Jack Kirby's influence on the look and feel of Thor; and a first look at the upcoming THOR: TALES OF ASGARD (about Thor when he was a youth).
I actually think that having these short running times was a good thing. HULK VS. WOLVERINE and VS. THOR are more impactful, get their plots rapidly moving, and benefits from a lack of dead spots. The voice acting is really good and the animation is terrific and fitting for each respective film: the rough-and-tumble grit of HULK VS. WOLVERINE, the archaic majesty and might versus might of HULK VS. THOR. In any case, both moods succeed in drawing you in. And, if you're like me, you'll end up in Blissville as the Hulk resentfully smashes about him like the world is one huge Whack-a-Mole, Wolverine unleashes his claws to do some serious damage, and Thor keeps on talking funny. I say to thee, awesomeness!!