Released: 27 January 2009
Director: Frank Paur
Stars: Steven Blum, Fred Tatasciore, Tom Kane, Janyse Jaud, Colin Murdock, Mark Acheson, Nolan North, Bryce Johnson, and Tom Kane
After Doctor Bruce Banner’s (Johnson) rampaging alter-ego, the Hulk (Tatasciore), is suspected of destroying a town, Department H send Logan/Wolverine (Blum) in to confront the creature. However, their brutal brawl is interrupted by soldiers from Weapon X, who want the Hulk for their own reasons, forcing the two into a fragile alliance to keep the Jade Giant from being turned into a living weapon.
Marvel Comics have had a long history with animated ventures; some of these, like the X-Men animated series (1992 to 1997), largely defined a generation of fans. In 2004, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still about four years away from it genesis, Marvel licensed many of their characters out for live-action films, many of which were massive critical and financial successes. To capitalise on this wave of mainstream popularity, Marvel made a deal with Lions Gate Entertainment to produce a series of direct-to-video animated movies based on their characters. Sales were initially very strong and, while the releases soon dropped from two per year to one, 2009 saw a dual feature release that pitted the Hulk against Wolverine and Thor Odinson in separate adventures. Hulk vs. would go on to make the second-highest gross out of all of these animated films and Hulk vs. Wolverine was met with generally positive reviews, potentially because of Wolverine’s inclusion and growing popularity at the time and the inclusion of fan favourite character Deadpool. Wade W. Wilson (also known as “Deadpool”) was created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld and first appeared in The New Mutants #98 in February 1991. Though originally little more than a cold-blooded mercenary, the wise-cracking “Merc With a Mouth” went on to become one of the few comic book characters to be aware that they are comic book characters, leading to a warped, violent sense of humour, a tendency to break the fourth wall, and one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters.
Hulk vs. Wolverine begins with a narration by Wolverine, who awakens beaten and bloodied in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. Momentarily disorientated, he painfully shoves his arm back into his socket and his memory is jogged by the dramatic arrival of the enraged Hulk. From there, the feature flashes back to four hours earlier in the day; Logan was transported into Canada by Department H after a town was destroyed by a creature believed to be the Hulk. Wolverine’s senses give him the general sense of what happened and, excited at the prospect of hunting down the Hulk, is given carte blanche to stop the Green Goliath by any means necessary before he can hurt anyone else. Free-falling to the snow-encrusted wilderness, Wolverine follows his enhanced sense of smell deep into the forests and mountains in search of the Hulk (a search made all the easier by the gigantic impact craters the Hulk has left behind as he leaps across the mountains) but finds only the distraught Bruce Banner.
Although Banner begs him to leave and laments his condition, his transformation into the rampaging Hulk s triggered when Wolverine catches the Hulk’s scent on Banner and threatens him. After being knocked clear across the valley from a single punch from the Hulk, Wolverine recovers as in the opening and an all-out slugfest between the two ensues. Rather than engage the Hulk in head-to-head combat, Wolverine initially tries to use his wiles to attack the Hulk from behind, stabbing him repeatedly in the back, but the Hulk’s unquenchably rage and strength quickly overpower Wolverine and leave him a beaten, bloody pulp. As tenacious as his namesake, Wolverine gives in to his bloodlust and continues the fight, gouging deep, bloody wounds into the Hulk using his Adamantium claws but their fight is soon interrupted by a barrage of tranquilizer darts fired by Deadpool (North) and the arrival of Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Acheson), Arkady Rossovich/Omega Red (Murdock), and Yuriko Oyama/Lady Deathstrike (Jaud). Succumbing to the dart, Logan recalls how, while drinking himself into a stupor, he was abducted by the mysterious Professor (Kane) and subjected to the Adamantium bonding process against his will.
In the aftermath, he became the brainwashed soldier code-named Weapon X and was forced into a series of combat scenarios alongside the other Weapon X “graduates”; in time, Sabretooth’s unheeded warnings regarding Logan’s stability came to pass and he violently escaped from the facility and fled into the Canadian wilderness. Wolverine is brought back to the present by a vicious beating from his former teammate; as Sabretooth beats on him, Deadpool chatters incessantly, but the Professor (now sporting a robotic claw hand) interrupts to proceedings to reveal that Weapon X has been pursuing the Hulk and causing the destruction attributed to the beast in their efforts to capture him. The Professor plans to wipe the Hulk’s memories and brainwash him using the same procedures they subjected Logan to back in the day and place Wolverine back into the containment capsule in order to subdue him once more. As each of the Weapon X members wants Wolverine dead, Sabretooth kills the Professor so that he and Deathstrike can torture Logan and rip him to shreds; however, Wolverine is able to goad Deathstrike into skewering him in such a way that frees him from Sabretooth’s grip and, after slicing off her arm, attempts to escape the facility, slaughtering a whole bunch of armed guards in the process.
Although Deadpool isn’t convinced by Sabretooth’s story that Wolverine attacked the Professor, he agrees to hunt down and kill Logan, who frees Banner in order to get the Hulk’s help. A frail, despondent figure, Banner is tired of his dual existence and yet also terrified at the prospect of being turned into a weapon. Although horrified by Omega Red and Deadpool, Banner refuses to let the Hulk out so Wolverine stabs him in the gut to help speed up the transformation before engaging his adversaries alone; thanks to their individual healing factors, the fight is bloody and brutal and effectively pointless and yet each of them do everything they can to try and kill the other. Despite his best efforts, Banner is unable to hold off the transformation and, as Omega Red as Wolverine tangled up in his electrified tentacles, the Hulk attacks in a blind rage. The Hulk easily shrugs off Deadpool’s bullets and Omega Red’s tentacles, unwittingly saving Wolverine from Deathstrike’s clutches in the process; remembering Wolverine as an enemy, the Hulk charges after him, swatting aside Deadpool when Wolverine hilariously uses him as a human shield and dispatching Deathstrike with his patented clap before ripping her cybernetic limbs off. Hulk then pounds Omega Red into submission before bringing the entire facility down around them in his desperate need to escape; Wolverine is launched clear by the resultant explosion and the film ends with the two once again leaping to engage each other amidst the Canadian snow.
Unlike the other Marvel animated efforts, Hulk vs. Wolverine isn’t exactly what you would call a feature-length presentation; this is mainly because it was released alongside Hulk vs. Thor (Liu, 2009) and, together, the two are supposed to form a kind of double feature. While they’re not exactly directly related to each other, this does help explain the brevity of Hulk vs. Wolverine, which is more like a bite-size version of a much greater story.
You might think that this means the feature is a simple extended fight scene between the two characters but that isn’t actually the case; yes, Wolverine and the Hulk engage in bloody, brutal combat for a few minutes but their fight is quickly interrupted by the Weapon X members. The primary selling point of the feature then takes an extended break to touch upon Wolverine’s back story with Weapon X, which makes this much more like a snapshot of his character rather than a battle for the ages.
Indeed, Wolverine (and the Hulk, for that matter) spend more of the feature fighting against Weapon X than they do each other. On the plus side, this means there’s still a lot of violence and action packed into the feature’s short runtime and loads of opportunities for Deadpool to steal the show with his wit and wacky nature but those looking to see Hulk fighting Wolverine, as the title promises, may be left disappointment at how little of the action is actually focused on this fight. It’s interesting seeing a brief glimpse into Wolverine’s animosity against Weapon X but it’s all very rushed and glossed over to get to the next violent scuffle; I would have liked to see a bit more time spent exploring Banner’s desperation and downtrodden character at the sacrifice of, say, Omega Red (who was largely inconsequential overall) and a bit more time spent exploring the dichotomy between Banner/Hulk and Wolverine (since both are characters who rage and animal nature often overcome their rational minds). Instead, the feature blasts through a “greatest hits” package of Wolverine’s life, hints at relationships to characters many audiences might not be immediately familiar with (the past between Wolverine and Sabretooth and Deathstrike is given the bare minimum of lip service), and seems to have little faith in the concept of Hulk fighting Wolverine since it would rather skew its run time towards the more popular Wolverine.
Hulk vs. Wolverine is a fun, if brief, way to spend about forty minutes of your life. Although it doesn’t quite deliver on its premise, the fight between the Hulk and Wolverine is brutal and exciting and there is a great deal of violence packed into its short run time. Hulk vs. Wolverine definitely doesn’t shy away from the ferocious nature of its title characters, or their adversaries, which is refreshing to see since these are violent characters and should be treated as such, but it definitely feels as though Wolverine’s presence overshadows that of the Hulk and the core concept of the feature. Although Deadpool’s role in the animated is small, he definitely stands out and it was exciting to see him included but, in the end, the insertion of Weapon X and the focus on Wolverine’s character definitely keeps Hulk vs. Wolverine from living up to its potential. I guess seeing the Hulk and Wolverine go at it for about half an hour straight wouldn’t have been that interesting but, as I said, there was a lot of potential in paralleling Logan’s animalistic character and nature with Banner’s condition that was imply abandoned to capitalise on Wolverine’s incredibly popularity and that’s a bit of a shame despite the feature being chock full of violent action and bloody violence.
Could Be Better
What did you think to Hulk vs. Wolverine? Do you feel like it wasted the potential of its premise or were you happy with what was presented? How do you feel it compares to Hulk vs. Thor and the other Marvel animated features? Which member of Weapon X was your favourite and how did you feel about the way Banner was portrayed here? What did you think to Deadpool’s inclusion and characterisation and would you like to see him featured in animation more often? How are you celebrating Deadpool’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the Deadpool, or Marvel’s animated features, feel free to leave a comment below.