What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a violent cartoon double-feature of long short subjects (or short features) featuring Marvel comics characters, not a live-action epic. It presumes the viewer has in-depth knowledge of the Marvel Universe; newcomers to Hulk and X-Men stories will be especially puzzled. The combat, especially in "Hulk Vs. Wolverine," is unusually vicious for a "mere" cartoon. Red blood pours (even from the green-skinned Hulk, strangely), and arms are torn or amputated off. Wolverine and a few other characters are depicted as heavy drinkers. Deeply religious families may be put off by the pantheon of pagan gods and magic of "Hulk Vs. Thor" (even though it's clearly set in another world).
What's the story?
This is actually a DVD double-feature of two 50-minute cartoons -- not connected to each other by any narrative thread -- that show the bare-chested Marvel Comics behemoth, the Hulk, in colossal fights with other Marvel-owned heroes and villains. In "Hulk Vs. Wolverine," the Hulk rampages across the forested border into Canada, whereupon a government defender called Wolverine, a tough guy with retractable claws, goes to stop him. Wolverine discovers -- in between fights -- that the havoc is primarily the work of Weapon X, a team of evil mutants from his own past, who want to harness the Hulk's powers. In "Hulk Vs. Thor," the Norse god of mischief, Loki, uses magic rather than technology to possess the Hulk and use the monster against his half-brother, the valiant warrior Thor, in a Viking-myth world. In the process Loki actually divides the Hulk from his tormented alter-ego, the human Dr. Bruce Banner, inadvertently giving Banner a chance at a peaceful repose away from the rampaging giant, but things aren't that simple with an uncontrollable Hulk loose in the Underworld.
Is it any good?
Though fans like to say that Marvel Comics brought real-world anxieties and problems to the superhero funny pages, this Hulk-ing double-header pretty much amounts to lots of Pro Wrestling-style (and Japanese-anime-looking) smackdowns -- and shockingly, an occasional dismemberment -- with very little time for drama. In fact, the bloody "Hulk Vs. Wolverine" (which does double-duty by investigating the origins of Wolverine a little bit) finishes in mid-fight, with no definitive ending.
Measurably better is "Hulk Vs. Thor," which mixes immortal combat with compelling conflict, not only in Bruce Banner's pain and sacrifice but Thor himself questioning the endless cycle of good-vs-evil violence that comprises his mythic existence. Arguably there's even too much side detail here, like a bit about how a love triangle in Thor's personal life somehow set all this in motion. Newcomers who don't know these characters and their long backstories (who is that Betty person?) will be confused; longstanding Marvel scholars will get more out of it.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the appeal of these Marvel Comics icons. Ask kids who their favorites are: Hulk, Wolverine, Thor, or others? You can talk about how the Hulk is like a Mr. Hyde on steroids, unleashed rage but with a human component provided by the timid Jekyll-like scientist, Bruce Banner. You might be able to introduce kids to the more literate (and occasionally ribald) League of Extraordinary Gentleman superhero comics, that remade Mr. Hyde as a Hulk-like figure. Parents can also use the Thor character to illuminate Norse mythology, and the real-life legends (Odin, Ragnarok, Loki, etc.) Stan Lee threw into the comics-cauldron to create the superhero.