In my comic travels, I usually do not read the really popular heroes. Sure I have read Spider-Man, SuperMan or Batman but if you had to ask me my favorites, it would not be among these three. My favorites include the likes of Daredevil, Robin (any of them pretty much) along with Conan and others. It just so happens that this three pack before me today includes another couple of favorites of mine. The Incredible Hulk and Dr. Strange. That and it also includes yet another origin story on Iron Man. Let us see how it looks.
(*Note: some of this material is re-used from not only my Planet Hulk on Blu-Ray review but also the Avengers 3-pack I reviewed earlier this week. These are the same discs previously provided by Lionsgate just in an amazing value 3-disc package. Yes, Planet Hulk did lose its digital copy, you will live*)
Hulk is stronger than ever but as a result, he is too huge of a threat for the planet Earth to contain. The New Avengers (Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards and others) have decided to send him away to an abandoned planet. The Hulk wakes up and finds himself in a rocket while listening to words of Iron Man. The Avengers send Hulk into space into what they believe to be a planet devoid of life. Unfortunately, the rocket passes through a strange portal and lands up on the planet Sakaar.
Once Hulk finds himself on the planet, he is attacked by a native insectoid race and soon captured by Sakaar Imperial Guards. Soon, he finds himself in a coliseum where his only choice is to fight to the death. But there are people to help him including one member of the resistance called Lavin Skee. Teamed together with a shadow priest, insectoid and a rock monster among others, this motley crue must take on an ever challenging group of foes in a hope to eventually win their freedom.
Dr. Stephen Strange is regarded as one of the most gifted surgeons on the planet with an ego to match. Late one night, he sees a quite horrific display as Baron Mordo and fellow sorcerers take on a deadly monster of magic. The odd part is a member of the group named Wong is using spells that should shield ordinary humans from seeing the display. Stephen tosses it off as stress but finds the story take another turn when he visits a fellow doctor who is complaining about children falling into comas with very terrible nightmares.
Stephen Strange tells the doctor that he can’t help the children and drives back home. However, on the way home he sees a strange flaming symbol in front of him which causes him to crash. The worst part is that he loses the gifted function of his hands. He will never be able to be a surgeon ever again. A chance meeting with Wong leads him to the country of Tibet where he believes he will get his hands back. In reality, he has found the home of the Sorcerer Supreme. Now, there is more at stake than a surgeon’s hands, but the fate of the whole world.
Invincible Iron Man
Under the leadership of Tony Stark (from very far away), James “Rhodey” Rhodes and a team are attempting to raise an ancient Chinese City. However, after repeated attacks from the Jade Dragons, most of the men are killed and Rhodey is captured. But a visit from Tony to the excavation site only leads to his own capture. Actually, it more accurately leads Tony to near demise, only being saved by Rhodey and a Chinese Shaman. Stark’s heart and life lies in the balance.
We learn that the Dragons seek to prevent the return of the Mandarin, a ruler from three thousand years ago who ruled China. The excavation site just happens to be the Mandarin’s palace. He requires four rings which are held in four corners of the earth. Brought together, he will rise again. Tony is forced to create a weapon that will sink the city. But there is more to this story than meets the eye. A fellow member of the Dragons, Li Mei holds a very special purpose. As it turns out though, Tony might indeed be the “Iron Knight” that the prophecy is searching for.
Planet Hulk is a very unique Hulk strip to the rest of the movies whether live action or animated. For one, he never turns back into Bruce Banner, the Hulk is one being, working out of one personality. The second, this Hulk unlike many others actually shows a great degree of emotion. He starts out a solitary creature keeping his emotions inside and only showing that he wants to get off this planet by any means necessary. As the story develops, he becomes more developed and actually completes an emotional arc.
Doctor Strange is also another strong movie as we learn very early on why he is so cold, why he is such an arrogant jerk. It is through that fuel and desire that we start to empathize with the character. I am still calling shenanigans on how he gets to of a Tibetian mountain with near broken hands and no climbing gear but we will let that one slide because of the awesomeness of the other 90 minutes. The characters are strong, the action is just a little lacking until the end.
The last of the features is Invincible Iron Man. Perhaps I have seen too many origins of Iron Man from live action to animated but this one just felt wrong from beginning to end. I love the idea of the Mandarin and I look super forward to him to his rumored appearance in Iron Man 3. But here, he felt lifeless and the only thing going for this feature is Rhodey who is terribly mis-used as well. Every character felt pithy and what’s worse we get a way too convenient ending to boot.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen at 1080p. The animation in all three of these features is a mixture of mostly hand drawn 2-d animation for needed areas of emotion and then some cgi spots where we need a heavy dose of detail and visual spectacular. It really works for the most part and the color is excellent. Since there is so much going on in all of these films, it is nice to see that the animation keeps up and the scenes never stop giving.
The audio for all three of these movies is 7.1 DTS-HD English Master Audio in English (5.1 Spanish Track is also included for all features, and I think they threw in a basic 5.1 English track as well). I will say it once and I will say it again. Bless whoever does the sound for Marvel Comic Animated Features. Big, bombastic and sure to leave you a little deaf in the proceedings. Dialog is nice and crisp and the sound effects make you sometimes forget that you are in the middle of a cartoon. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided for all movies.
- Automatic Trailers: Hulk vs & Battle for Terra
- Audio Commentary by Supervisor Producer Joshua Fine & Screenwriter Greg Johnson: The first of two commentaries goes over the story of the movie and how they changed certain things from the comic. A very active commentary and a lot of good information are presented here.
- Audio Commentary by Director Sam Liu, Character Designer Philip Bourassa and Key Background Painter Steve Nicodemus: Unfortunately this commentary is not very active and there is a lot of dead air space during the movie. It touches more on the making of the film and the art work behind it than anything else. Apparently, the executive director Frank Paur was absent for this film. Judging from the commentary, they could have probably benefited from his participation.
- A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk 21:43: The behind the scenes featurette, goes into the making of the Planet Hulk and how the drew from the comic source material. Goes behind the impressive opening sequence & explains the reason they chose Beta Ray Bill over Silver Surfer (good ole legal rights). It finishes up with visits to the voice staff and how they made the choices they did.
- Let the Smashing Commence! – The Saga of Planet Hulk 11:27: This feature goes behind the comic book Planet Hulk and talks with the creators and artists. It also goes into detail about the two series that come after Planet Hulk: World War Hulk and Skaar: Son of Hulk. I wouldn’t mind seeing those made into direct to video features either since they follow the same storyline.
- Opening Sequence: Thor – Tales of Asgard 6:14: Coming in 2011, there will be a young Thor direct to video feature. This shows the trailer and opening sequence from the feature. Thor is a cocky teenager with a sword and lives in Asgard with Loki is his brother (and still on the side of good). I’m sure I’ll see it at some point (and maybe even review it) but honestly I wasn’t very impressed. Would it kill us to get a direct to video feature for Daredevil?
- Wolverine and the X-Men – “Wolverine vs Hulk 21:51: The 7th episode in series and is a follow up to the Hulk Vs storyline. Nick Fury asks Wolverine to fight against the Hulk in order to make sure the X-Men names don’t go to Senator Kelly. However, Wolverine and Hulk end up fighting side by side when they encounter the new Wendigo. This is homage to Incredible Hulk #181 which was Wolverine’s first major appearance in the comics.
- Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Motion Comic 10:19: First issue of the Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D series. Jessica Drew (her alter-ego) feels like the most screwed over person in the world. Even more than Wolverine. She is approached by Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. to join the cause of finding aliens on earth and disposing of them. In the first adventure, she fights against a Skrull who poses as Spider-Man. Good stuff.
- Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Motion Comic 14:11: This is the first issue of Astonishing X-Men Vol 3. The team is Cyclops, Emma Frost (and yes they are a couple), Beast (why does he look like a Cheshire cat?) Kitty Pryde & Wolverine. It’s pretty awesome and I would love to see more (on a retail disc) but I still struggle to understand why this is on the disc. Strictly promotional.
- ”Watch Your Step” – Spider-Woman Music Video 3:09: This video is done by Dan Phillips with Anne Abby. Continuing the tradition of “Why does this belong on the disc?”, this video is pretty bad but shows some of the art of the Spider Woman comic series.
- ”Rise Up” – Astonishing X-Men Music Video 2:40: This video is done by David Ari Leon & Guy Erez featuring Bronx Style Bob. Simply awful video music, but again shows some more comic book art, this time from the Astonishing X-Men series.
- Miscellaneous Trailers: Hulk Online Games & Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
- Marvel Video Game Cinematics : Kind of an unique (but welcome) feature. Takes two games, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-men Legends 2 and gives us cinematic packages for the both of them (about 6-7 clips a piece) as well as a 3 minute best of. Pretty cool, just wished more games to be represented.
- The Origin of Doctor Strange 14:02: The master of the mystic arts started out as a jerk. Stan Lee explains about the origin and what he was able to accomplish with Steve Ditko back in the 1960’s by forming the character. In the film, they really wanted to expand the 3 comic panels of how Stephen Strange got from losing the function of his hands to landing up in Tibet. The featurette also takes some time to explain Dormammu and how they wanted to use the four elementals. This really had a life or death feel to it and I think it catered nicely to all ages.
- A First Look at Avengers Reborn 5:44: Avengers Reborn is just an early name for what would end up being Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. There are lots of concept art and they go over how they wanted to bring us a story of the children of the Avengers. For more information check out my blu-ray review on the Avengers 3-pack.
- Doctor Strange Concept Art 2:17: Lots of early art is represented here from the film. There is a little bit of finished product, but it is all before animation. We also get some sound effects and epic sounding music to boot. Nice collection just needs to be longer.
- Trailer Gallery: Ultimate Avengers 2 and Invincible Iron Man.
Invincible Iron Man
- Automatic Trailers: Forbidden Kingdom, Hulk Vs (Wolverine/Thor), Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Ultimate Avengers 2, Dr. Strange and two game trailers: Iron Man and Incredible Hulk.
- First Look: Hulk vs Wolverine 3:52: This tells a little bit about the Hulk vs Wolverine part of Hulk VS dvd/blu-ray (now available on Amazon). It deals with the pre X-Men Wolverine which could be classified as assassin for hire. There also is an appearance of Deadpool which means a must watch for me.
- First Look: Hulk vs Thor 3:16 : The Thor side really deals more with the theory of Hulk vs Asgard. It is amazing what one man can do against an army of Asgardians. As with the other feature, they talk a lot about the voice talent that did such a great job on this feature. One of Marvel’s best animated features.
- Alternate Opening Sequence 3:10: This is not fully animated, but it is an interesting different take on the opening talking about the “Lost Age of China.” Narrated by Gwendoline Yeo (Li Mei).
- The Origin of Iron Man 11:58 : We get a comic gallery and some brief animation to start the proceedings. The explain that in the original comics, the origin was a mere page long (a continuing trend it seems), and they wanted to make it into something unique. They also explain the concept of the Iron Lung and how it was essential to give Iron Man a weakness. They also dive into the film and explain why they decided to go with the theme of Ancient China and tried to make it epic. It finishes up the feature with the reasoning on including Rhodey and the look they wanted to portray with Mandarin.
- Hall of Iron Man Armor : Gives us a brief history of armor pieces in Iron Man’s comic career. This gives us a picture and some text around each one. Too brief to be entertaining.
- Iron Man Concept Art 2:58 : Again, much like Dr. Strange, this is a collection of art and stills at various points of the color process.
If you have made to the end of this review, I congratulate you. Seriously. This took me a couple more days than I was hoping for because there is just so much to write between these three movies. This 3-pack is a tale of an amazing feature in Planet Hulk, an above average effort in Doctor Strange and a very poor Invincible Iron Man. Planet Hulk is so much done right that it honestly deserves a sequel which it has not seen the light of day. Let’s also hope that Doctor Strange gets more than random appearances in future animated Marvel cartoons.
The video and audio is perhaps the most significant and well developed piece of this pack. They both shine a ton and I just can not get enough of 7.1 tracks. They make gush with enjoyment. Too much information I know. The extras are indeed numerous, especially on Planet Hulk but relevancy can be seriously questioned on quite a few. I give this a solid recommendation, much like the Avengers 3-pack on the basis of value. This set goes only for $15 on Amazon and other fine retail outfits. At that price, any serious Marvel lover should jump on this in a hurry. Enjoy.