I don’t have a lot of cred in movie critic circles (see: Knights of the Dinner Table, Getting Shitcanned By), and it didn’t help my case any when I went on record saying I thought that Ang Lee’s film HULK was a surprisingly thoughtful and insightful character study of a man’s deep-seated anger toward his negligent father, and precisely not the sort of thing a movie about the Hulk should be about. It was pretentious, slow, and worst of all, boring.
By comparison, the almost immediate remake called The Incredible Hulk was a witless smashfest that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a movie debate fans get really riled up about, and I guess my point is that the Hulk isn’t the kind of character you really need to overthink. That’s not to say he doesn’t have depth, just that he doesn’t need daddy issues and angsty interludes. He’s a guy who’s on the run from authorities who want to exploit him, and who’s exiled himself from everyone he knows and loves for fear he might accidentally hurt them. We like him because he’s the little guy who can fight back against bullies, and everyone can identify with that kind of feeling. We want to see him smash because it’s something we can’t do.
So, yeah, I liked The Incredible Hulk. You’ve got a great cast with Hurt and Norton, and you can’t go wrong with Tim Roth as your big bad. Hulk fights the army, and in the end there’s a clobberin’ match with the Abomination. This ain’t Shakespeare. We just want to see the green dude wrestle.
The animated featurettes that comprise Hulk VS. are little more than brawling matches between the Hulk and the heroes du jour: Thor and Wolverine. They’re each about 40 minutes long with paper-thin plots wherein Hulk goes on a rampage and people try to stop him. Again, that’s basically all I’m asking for in a Hulk story.
In Hulk VS. Wolverine, Logan is sent into Canada to stem Big Green’s path of destruction at any cost. In mid-brawl, they’re both captured by agents of Weapon X and scheduled for immediate brainwashing. This part was actually pretty clever since Wolverine is out of his league against the Hulk, and it helps to diversify the action a lot, pitting Hulk & Logan against such villains as Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red, and of course, a heelish Deadpool.
Naturally, if you have no idea who I’m talking about, this movie’s not for you. If you’re a Deadpool fan, the Merc With a Mouth is going to steal the show for you. Otherwise, he comes off as bizarrely out of place given the grim company of Weapon X (but then, he always did). In truth, they probably tried a bit too hard with Wade’s constant chin-wagging, but it’s hard not to smile when he’s jamming an incendiary grenade in the Hulk’s mouth singing “Who wants snacks? You do! You do!”
Hulk VS. Thor is the better of the two (alas, no Deadpool), involving the seasonal warfare that rampages across Asgard when Odin takes a prolonged slumber, leaving Asgard vulnerable to its enemies. Luckily, Asgard is rarely under any serious threat under the watchful eye (and smiting hammer) of Thor, and Loki (he of the longish golden horns) decides to throw a big green monkey wrench into the works by taking control of the Hulk’s mind and teleporting him to Asgard to raise some Hel.
This one’s a lot of fun, watching Hulk take on some more upper-class opponents and wreaking a lot more guilt-free destruction than we’re accustomed to seeing. I enjoyed it, especially seeing characters like the Warriors Three, and the sense of history between the various gods referencing old but unseen rivalries. If there’s a major complaint about this one, it’s that the entire Norse pantheon gets absolutely bitch-slapped from pillar to post. Even if you’re a fan of the Hulk, that might be a little excessive.
It’s a tough review to make, though, because you’re likely to be sold or repulsed by the concept alone. If Hulk dribbling Deadpool like a basketball sounds funny to you, then by all means, give it a rent. If the idea of watching a green giant being whacked in the head by a hammer-wielding thunder god screaming “FOR ODIN! FOR ASGARD!” sounds stupid, I doubt I could change your mind.