|Goddess of Love, Beauty, and War|
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Marvel Animation working with Lionsgate has released a new animation DVD pitting the Incredible Hulk separately against Thor and the heroes of Asgard, and against the mutant Wolverine. In a welcome change from their previous animated fare, these adventures are played out against the backdrop of the 'real' Marvel universe, populated with the heroes and villains we've grown to love (and hate) over the years.
As the opening narration provided by Loki explains to us, once each winter the virtually omnipotent Allfather Odin sleeps for seven days. During the ‘Odinsleep’, Asgard is vulnerable, and it's left to Thor to protect the Realm Eternal from an onslaught of evil: trolls, Frost Giants, and other nasty, evil folks. On the last day of the onslaught this particular year, Loki snatches Bruce Banner from Earth, tormenting him until he changes into the Incredible Hulk.
Loki has enlisted the services of the Enchantress – Marvel’s equivalent to Freya. The lovely lady portrayed here isn't really evil -- she's jealous and hurt because she's in love with Thor, and he's in love with the warrior maiden Sif. Amora the Enchantress helps Loki set in motion his evil plan. She mystically separates the Hulk from Bruce Banner, forging a mental link between Loki and the green behemoth.
Once in control of the savage Hulk, Loki uses the superpowered monster to attack Asgard. Specifically, he attacks and brutally beats his half brother Thor. In the course of the battle, Loki's hold over the Hulk is broken, freeing the beast from any civilizing influence -- even an evil one. We get to see what the Hulk would be like if he was mindless -- a horrible rage that is completely uncontrolled.
So powerful is the Hulk when freed from the moderating influence of Bruce Banner's mind that the creature is able to pummel his adversary into unconsciousness. Thor has a vision of Hela, the goddess of death standing over him. At the last moment, the Enchantress rescues our hero from the brink of death. Typical of Thor, he doesn't even bother to thank her, instead rushing off to attack Loki, leaving Sif to defend the sleeping Odin. In the meantime in a fit of pique, Loki kills Bruce Banner.
While Sif, the Enchantress, and the Valkyries of Asgard defend the Allfather, Thor confronts Loki. After the obligatory pummeling of Loki, the two set off for the afterlife, to rescue Bruce Banner's soul from Hela. If they can do that, and manage to restore Banner's spirit into the body of the Hulk, they can save Asgard and the Realm Eternal.
While Thor, Loki, and the Enchantress are the main Asgardians in the film, we get to see the Warriors Three, Sif, Hela, and some Valkyries. Bruce Banner is sufficiently fearful and small; while the Hulk is the massively powerful brute we want him to be. The animators couldn't decide how large the Hulk was -- sometimes drawing him to be the same size as Thor, and sometimes making him at least three times the size. Despite this, the Hulk manages to display the savagery we'd expect, without exceeding the limitations of cartoon violence. No one has their arms torn off, or is left with her head looking like a smashed pumpkin. Fortunately, the Asgardians are a hardy breed, able to take a punch.
The animation itself is beautiful. Marvel skipped the cheesy CGI this time around, providing us with well-drawn, well-shaded artwork. The colors in Asgard are vibrant, the buildings grand, the heroes larger-than-life. Even the Hulk's muscle upon muscle character design is well presented, and well shaded -- except for the occasional scale problem as mentioned above. Seeing the Hulk punch out gorgeously rendered, blue-scanned Frost Giants is a truly spectacular sight. Hela’s realm of the underworld had a bit more fire than I was expecting, but it did convey a sense of other-worldliness setting it apart from the glory of Asgard itself.
The Enchantress is drawn with all the curves any drooling fan boy could want. The obligatory headpiece detracts from her loveliness, but it's so ingrained in the Marvel universe that they couldn't leave it out. Fortunately, Amora is allowed to display a full range of emotions -- anger and jealousy as well as unrequited love and tenderness. She also gets to cast a plethora of magic spells, which look really neat when animated.
I was quite pleased with this film. There is a well-crafted storyline, which supports the colorful, over-the-top battles between the titular characters. The mythos of Marvel's Asgard was preserved and presented, but the viewer doesn't have to be a lifelong comic book reader to understand and enjoy the story. The explanation provided a sufficient, without being annoying to those of us who have read Thor for many years. The film's resolution relies less on brute force and more on intelligence, bravery, and self-sacrifice. That's not a bad message for an animated, comic book romp.
If you love Marvel's Thor comic books, you should buy and watch this film. If you've never read a comic book in your life, you should buy and watch this film. In short -- everyone should see this wonderful animated feature.
Oh -- and you can also watch Wolverine battle the Hulk and villains from the Weapon X program if you want too.
Rated PG-13 for animated action violence
|Directed by: Sam Liu|
|Bryce Johnson||Bruce Banner|
|Betty Ross||Nicole Oliver|
|Bruce Junior||Qayam Devsi|
|Additional Voices||Scott Mcneil|