Filling in the gaps between the pages of our favorite comics and big screen blockbusters, we have animated “feature length" films. Sparse on aspects like character development and back-story, they rely heavily on long-term fans to know the ins-and-outs of these details, allowing the creators to jump right into a story meant to show what happens when the comic comes alive. Marvel’s Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell fits right into this formula. With plenty of characters, from the well-known Hulk to the lesser known Paranormal Containment Unit, the action begins with the first frame and lasts the entire 85 minutes of this newly released animated feature.
Set on the night of Halloween, we learn that Dr. Strange is battling four monsters and needs Hulk to help in the effort, not to destroy but to contain. As the fight unfolds, Nina Price (vampire), Agent Jasper Sitwell (zombie, and maybe a distant relative to the Sitwell real estate empire from Arrested Development?), War Wolf and Man Thing join in. They make up the Paranormal Containment Unit, the team’s name being a source of a running joke for Nina Price.
It turns out that Nightmare has schemes to destroy the barrier between the Dream World and the Real World. Using fear, he’s manipulated the four monsters who used to be innocent children Benito, Ana, Gayle and Eric to weaken the barrier. Now he only needs to capitalize on Hulk’s fears to finish the job.
I have never really enjoyed these animated features. What they lack in character development and plot is never fully compensated with the action. I suppose it may be fulfilling to see Hulk weakened by the world of Dreams, and certain match-ups and partnerships are possible in this format, but the overriding sense that these features are nothing more than an extended Saturday morning cartoons seldom delivers more than an extended watch session. I guess what I’m saying is that taken in small 20 minutes doses, these cartoons are fun, but when drawn out to 85 minutes, it becomes a bit much.
That said, with a PG rating, the intended audience is probably just fine with the format. Seeing Hulk and Banner team up in a dream was fun, especially as we see where Bruce would turn for a competitive advantage against Hulk. However, the violence seems a bit extreme for a PG audience—Hulk goes all Negan on Man-Thing…and it ain’t pretty.
If the idea of a Hulk/Doctor Strange or a Hulk/Banner match-up intrigues you, check out Marvel’s Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell tonight as you pass out candy to those little monsters that always pop up on October 31st.