Director: Sam Liu, Frank Paur
Cast: Fred Tatasciore, Matt Wolf, Steve Blum, Graham McTavish, Grey Griffin, Kari Wahlgren, Bryce Johnson
Watch Hulk Vs. (2009) online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through animated superhero cartoons on Amazon Prime Video UK. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Hulk Vs. is the sixth of the eight direct-to-video animated features produced by Marvel Studios and Lionsgate. Released in 2009, it was the first film in the series to feature the Hulk and was followed by the more ambitious Planet Hulk the following year. Co-directed by Sam Liu and Frank Paur, the film is actually a double feature, combining a 45-minute Hulk vs. Thor adventure and a 37-minute Hulk vs. Wolverine story.
Hulk vs. Thor is an original story created for the film. When Loki (Graham McTavish) magically summons the Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) to Asgard, he persuades Amora, aka. the Enchantress (Kari Wahlgren) to cast a spell that separates the Hulk and “puny” Banner (Bryce Johnson) and allows him to take control of Hulk’s body in a battle against his half-brother, Thor (Matt Wolf). This also means that the Hulk speaks with Loki’s voice, which is a fun, weird moment. With Loki controlling the now-savage Hulk’s punches, Hulk defeats Thor and pummels his best friends, the Warriors Three (Jay Brazeau, Jonathan Holmes and Michael Adamthwaite as Volstagg, Fandral and Balder). However, in a shock twist, Loki kills Banner and Hela (Janyse Jaud) claims his soul, meaning the savage Hulk is trapped on Asgard unless Thor and Loki travel to Hela’s realm to retrieve Banner’s soul.
Aside from the main event of Hulk vs. Thor, an oddly long-haired Hulk also takes on a Frost Giant and Valkyrie (Nicole Oliver). As such, there are plenty of fun Hulk moments, such as Ol’ Greenskin getting repeatedly smashed in the face with Mjolnir, or Hulk trying and failing to lift the hammer.
The voice work is excellent, although it’s decidedly odd to have a pre-Chris Hemsworth Thor, as the character was always quite boring and serious until Hemsworth came along (subsequent animated Thor appearances – such as in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – all took their cues from Hemsworth’s more comedic take on the character). McTavish, for his part, makes a decent pre-Hiddleston Loki, while Wahlgren (a voice work regular) and Jaud are good value as Amora and Hela. The costumes are comics-accurate too, which results in a decidedly risque look for the Enchantress, whose low-cut top would surely have given the Comics Code a palpitation or two.
Admittedly, there are a couple of issues in the action scenes, the most annoying of which is a blatant disregard for the laws of physics when it comes to Thor’s hammer-flying technique. However, there are ample compensations, such as a nice little nod to the Incredible Hulk TV show. It’s just a shame they couldn’t get the rights to use the Hulk theme.
The second story, Hulk vs. Wolverine, is loosely based on Wolverine’s first comics appearance in The Incredible Hulk, issues #180 and #181 (1974). Judging by how young Banner looks here and how the Hulk’s name isn’t yet common currency – “The Americans are calling him The Hulk”, says a Canadian general – the story occurs early in the Hulk’s history. When the Canadian government assign adamantium-clawed Logan, aka. Wolverine (Steve Blum, excellent) to capture or kill the Hulk, the stage is set for a brutal and bloody battle. However, midway through the fight, Wolverine and Hulk are both shot with tranquilliser darts and captured by Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Omega Red (Colin Murdock), Lady Deathstrike (Janyse Jaud) and – wait for it – Deadpool (Nolan North). They’re working for the Weapon X program, headed by the sinister Professor (Tom Kane), who plans to turn the Hulk into the ultimate weapon, just as he’d done with Wolverine.
The main battle occurs early on and is extremely brutal, with Wolverine frequently slicing bloody chunks out of the Hulk, even if he seems to heal quickly from scene to scene. Again, there are plenty of nice nods to the comics, such as the Hulk getting off one of his signature catch-phrases (“Hulk is strongest there is!”) and also referring to Wolverine as “Little Man”, as in “Hulk smash Little Man!”, a direct lift from Incredible Hulk #181.
However, despite being primarily drawn from a Hulk comic, the main body of the story is much more about Wolverine, as flashbacks reveal how the Weapon X program bonded his skeleton with adamantium. (There are plenty of comics nods for Wolverine fans here too, such as a close-up of a jar containing a baby “X-23”, a Wolverine clone in the comics.)
To that end, the story sidelines Hulk for a bit, while it has fun with Wolverine fighting the likes of Sabretooth and Deadpool. As voiced by Nolan North, the latter, in particular, is a lot of fun, getting in multiple wisecracks and reacting in a hilariously casual manner when Wolverine slices his arm off. Similarly, Mark Acheson does an excellent job with Sabretooth, most notably in his delivery of the line: “Gotta love our healing factors. I’m going to enjoy killing you for days. And then, I think we’ll drop the Hulk on an orphanage or something, just for fun.”
Happily for Hulk fans, the Jade Giant gets in on the action again towards the end, with Wolverine taking some rather extreme measures to trigger Banner’s adrenaline response. Once again, the sequence is packed with great Hulk moments, whether it’s Hulk shouting “HULK SMASH CLAW PEOPLE!” (meaning basically everyone), Hulk tearing Deathstrike’s arms off, Hulk referring to Deadpool as “Talking Man” or Hulk pulling another of his signature comics moves, the powerful hand-clap (which, again, it has to be said, the animators have a little too much fun with than strictly necessary in a children’s film, with relation to the shockwave’s effect on Lady Deathstrike’s costume).
All in all, Hulk vs. Wolverine is definitely the more satisfying of the two stories (perhaps because the Hulk is in control of his own actions this time round), and it ends on a great last line. There are some nice touches in the closing credits, too, including cool comic artist renditions of each of the characters, as well as some comics pages and cover illustrations. There’s even a very funny post-credits sting, featuring Deadpool.
Hulk Vs. is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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