REVIEW: ‘Planet Hulk’

Planet HulkFor quite some time we’ve been waiting for Marvel to step up to the plate to challenge DC in a medium that they have traditionally dominated: high quality animation. For years first rate superhero cartoons have been defined by producer Bruce Timm and his work at Warner Bros. producing cartoons featuring the characters of the DC Universe. Over the last decade, Marvel occasionally dipped their toe into the direct-to-DVD animation pool, often with mediocre results. The first sign that Marvel might be starting to figure things out was last year’s really fun Hulk vs. (why is it always the Hulk?).

In recent years, DC has focused their animation efforts on their DC Animated Universe line of direct-to-DVD films which focuses on adapting already existing comic book stories into animated film (it started that way, anyway). Many wondered when Marvel would explore similar territory. Well, now alongside Lionsgate (who also produced Hulk vs.) we have Planet Hulk, a direct-to-DVD animated film that adapts the Planet Hulk storyline that ran through the hulk comics in 2006-07.

I never read Planet Hulk in the comics. I came back to reading Hulk books when Ron made the premise of World War Hulk sound awesome and damn him for his uncanny ability to do that. Well, actually, now that I think about it, the premise was awesome, it was the execution that was lacking. But I digress. Whenever I mentioned not liking World War Hulk the good people in the iFanbase people would invariably say that if it was a good Hulk story I was looking for then I needed to look no further than Planet Hulk. The problem with that advice is, and remains, that an intergalactic gladiator Hulk story doesn’t necessarily appeal to me.

So I came into this movie totally fresh.

(For the spoiler wary, they begin here)

The film opens up with Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards and some other shadowy figure (Namor? No, he’s got no hair. Professor X? No, he’s standing. There’s no way to know who this shadowy person is, we only see their ears) sending The Hulk away from Earth via space ship. They are sending The Hulk to a planet with vegetation and game but no other intelligent lifeforms, because let’s face it: The Hulk is a danger to everyone around him. But The Hulk throws a tantrum and SMASHES the ship and the navigation system breaks and he ends up on a planet with a lot of people living on it, and it just so happens one of those people was praying to his god to bring him a warrior champion. So, you know, everyone wins.

 

Planet Hulk - Illuminati


Immediately after landing on the planet Sakaar, The Hulk is captured and forced into the local gladiatorial games. There he meets Maximu– er, Lavin Skee and a ragtag band of captured gladiator slaves who, like The Hulk, have been subdued by some kind of restraining disc on their chests. (The local King must have Jawas working for him.) In their first gladiatorial fight Lavin is killed and so a new leader must emerge! Who will it be?! The funniest thing about the first fight is that The Hulk basically can’t be bothered and stays out of the whole thing until the very end when he identifies The King and tries to SMASH HIM. Unfortunately, The King and The King’s bodyguard kick his ass.

After the fight we start to get to know The Hulk’s fellow gladiators a bit more and there is a badass flashback featuring Thor and BETA RAY BILL! Some time in the past, one of the gladiators went to Earth with his brothers to capture a native creature to study in advance of their coming to Earth to plunder. They chose Thor. They chose poorly.

After hearing the stories of his fellow gladiators, The Hulk decides to strap on a metal arm guard (unnecessary?) and actually take part in the fights, though not in his fellow gladiators' attempted military formations, THE HULK WILL SMASH ON HIS OWN TERMS! With The Hulk leading the way, the gladiators win again.

At this point the film began to sag a bit as the focus shifted to a lot to the other characters’ backstories. But the action quickly picked up when, in the next gladiatorial fight, Beta Ray Bill reappears as The King’s ultimate gladiator. WHAT?! (It would seem that after the inept brother plunderers escaped Earth, Beta Ray Bill followed them into space and everyone was captured on Sakaar.) Honestly, who doesn’t love Beta Ray Bill? During the fight The Hulk accidentally destroys Beta Ray Bill’s restraining disc but he doesn’t realize it because he’s too busy being ANGRY and SMASHING. The Hulk ends up beating Beta Ray Bill quite bloody and nearly to death. It’s a shockingly brutal moment.

When Beta Ray Bill comes to, he frees all of the other slaves with his hammer and offers to bring The Hulk back to Earth, but Hulk refuses because now that all the slaves are free there’s a riot in the coliseum and there is SMASHING to be done.

After the riot, The Hulk stays on Sakaar to… wander? He always ends up wandering. At this point in the film it started to seem strange to me that he never turned back to Bruce Banner at any point in the story. There are certainly extended moments of calm and quiet that usually cause the transformation to Banner. Perhaps this was explained in the comic but it wasn’t here. During quiet moments in the film when I was supposed to be paying attention to one of the gladiator’s tragic stories I instead found myself trying to figure out why he stayed in his Hulk form. I think I settled on some kind of “Sakaar’s atmosphere is hostile to Hulk’s body and therefore he stays Hulk as a defense mechanism” excuse.

From the sky comes a rain storm of red goop that turns people into angry, spikey creatures when it touches their skin. The Hulk must band together with those he might have previously SMASHED to fight these angry, spike creatures. The spike creatures were thought to be off alien origin but were really a weapon of dastardly King.

This all leads to a big final battle with The King and his minions and the film ends with The Hulk installed as the new ruler of Sakarr. And all set, I would imagine, for a possible sequel.

(End spoilers)

Planet Hulk


Not having read the comic book story I can’t tell you how faithful the story was in the film. It certainly seems in line with things I have heard about the story but I don’t know the details.

What I do know is that Planet Hulk had some good parts and some bad parts and on the whole I enjoyed it.

What did I like? First and foremost the quality of the animation is pretty strong. The visual look and feel is quite similar to the style used in Hulk vs. and I like it. I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, but it seemed like the design for Thor was the same here as it was in Hulk vs. (I didn’t really try to compare Hulk designs because The Hulk had a different design in both stories in Hulk vs.) The action sequences in Planet Hulk were a lot of fun and quite well done. And there’s a whole lot of blood and death in these battles.

What didn’t I like? When I’ve talked about the DC Animated Universe films in the past I’ve often complained that they were just a little too short. I might have to reevaluate that theory because at about ten minutes longer than the DC films there was a lot of room for the story to sag in Planet Hulk. Just about every time we started to get the (non-Thor starring) backstories of the other characters I would find myself hoping that The Hulk would SMASH them, or anything, really. There was also a lot of time spent on mumbo jumbo about the prophecies of the Sakaarson and the World Breaker (I assume both are The Hulk?). This kind of thing is not what I generally look for in a Hulk story. The last thing that I didn’t like is just a personal taste thing, but here The Hulk is totally articulate which I’m not a big fan of, unless he’s grey and living in Las Vegas.

The problems I have with this movie are the reasons why I don’t care to read the comic that everyone keeps recommending. While the action is a lot of fun, I don’t really care about these other characters, their world, or their politics. Ultimately, the novelty of The Hulk being trapped in gladiatorial combat wears of fairly quickly.

If you liked the comic book storyline you’ll probably love Planet Hulk. If you want to see a fun, Hulk story that is unlike most other hulk stories you’ll see you’ll probably like this too. If you like high quality superhero animation Planet Hulk is worth a look to judge for yourself. Ultimately, I enjoyed Planet Hulk but I didn’t love it, but again, that's mostly because of the story being told not being my kind of thing. I do hope, however, that there are more movies like this in the pipeline featuring stories from Marvel Comics.



 

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Comments

  1. "For quite some time we’ve been waiting for Marvel to step up to the plate to challenge DC in a medium that they have traditionally dominated: high quality animation."

    This already happened with Spectacular Spider-Man.

  2. I enjoyed the heck outta the Planet Hulk comics, but this looks like a Netflix instead of a buy. Actually, now that I think about it, the only comics related animation I’ve bought is the New Frontier blu-ray. Everything else has been Netflixed.

  3. I enjoyed Planet Hulk but it fell flat for me.  Rent.

  4. There’s no way a 400-page story could be adapted to 80 minutes. Its not possible.

  5. Virtually all of Marvel’s recent direct-to-DVD features have been pretty fantastic, Doctor Strange being my favorite of the batch. Even Next Avengers was enjoyable, and that was geared towards a much younger audience. To me, Planet Hulk is just another in a long line of fun Marvel animated features. I can’t really speak for those anime versions of Wolvie and Iron Man though.

    Regarding how faithful this was to the book, the comic featured the Silver Surfer in place of Beta Ray Bill, but I think that Beta Ray Bill actually worked a little bit better for the story. Although his costume was a little out of place in the context of Sakaar.

  6. I was waiting to see a review for this one before going out and picking it up. And I will be picking it up for all the reasons Conor states above, except the exact opposite – I’m a huge Hulk fan, I loved this storyline, and can’t wait to see this. As long as the animation holds up (and from what Conor wrote, it should) and the voice acting isn’t too off-base, this should be something I’ll enjoy.

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Netflix should have this tucked in my mailbox any minute now!

  8. I thought the previous animated venture, ‘Hulk Vs’, was the step in the right direction for Marvel animation.

    I did enjoy the comic Planet Hulk quite a lot. Shame World War Hulk just made it less fun in the end with that direction. I am interested in watching this DVD, hopefully I can snag a copy in a coming weeks.

  9. Hopefully Netflix will send this soon!

    On a related note, Conor, it makes me sick to my stomach that you haven’t watched Justice League Unlimited yet. I look forward to that review someday.

  10. I second BornIn1132, Spectacular Spider-man is one of the best animated comic book adaptions out there and my personal favorite of all time.  Granted, Marvel has not come close to DC in the amount of good animated media, but I think Spectacular Spider-man blows away all of DC’s cartoons. 

  11. Read the book, loved it. I want to like this, but I think I went from buy to borrow from what I have read here and around the net. Plus, I just saw a new clip today of the JL Crisis on Two Earths. Now that looks awesome!

  12. Marvel has definitely fallen behind DC with the animated movies.  Ultimate Avengers, Doctor Strange, and the Thor half of Hulk Vs. have been their best offerings; everything else was lackluster to me.  On the flipside, Superman: Doomsday has been DC’s worst offering (Wonder Woman is their best), and even that had great fight scenes.

    I read the Planet Hulk series and thought it was good, but it’s not one that I want to revisit.  Like Conner, I really don’t care about the other characters or their world.  The only one that interested me was the tyrannical Red King, and he was destined to fall from the beginning.  I think I’ll save my rental money (or freebie coupons) for DC’s Crisis on Two Earths at the end of the month.

    Now, if Marvel wants to follow up with an animated World War Hulk, I might give that a look.  Not sure what everyone else’s problem with it is, but I thought that mini-series rocked.

    PS, Spectacular Spider-Man is great, but Justice League is still king.

  13. I just picked it up. I’m looking forward to reading your review and sharing my opinions after. I’m one of the few Hulk fans (or so it seems) in the iFanbase. 

  14. @ Conor – forgive me if this was written in the review, I’ll read it after I watch the movie, but will there be an audio podcast review as well? I enjoy/respect iFanboy’s opinions. Either way, thanks for the lengthy review. Looking forward to reading it shortly. Now, off to the move. 🙂

  15. @iDan: No podcast review, unless you want to hear me monologue for 15 minutes.

  16. @Conor: No thanks. I wasn’t sure if others from iFanboy were going to share their opinion as well in an audio podcast as you did with other movies. Keep up the great work. Thanks for the quick response. 

  17. So… it wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed it. I agree with your review. The animation was fairly strong and I thought the voice acting was done well too. The action sequence were done well, Spaniard, I mean Hulk really made  short work of everyone. I thought they could’ve extended those scenes a little more. But in the end, I did enjoy the movie. I think Marvel’s animated movies are coming along, personally, the DC Animated Universe still has the edge but that’s not to say i do not enjoy Marvel’s work. Planet Hulk and Hulk Vs are two movies I know I’ll be watching over again. The preview to Marvel’s next animated movie, Thor, shows potential and imo continues to show Marvel moving in the right direction… although 2011 seems like a looong time from now. 

    Nice review, Conor.

    Now, bring on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths! 

    I

  18. One way or another I’ll end up getting this.

  19. i think the monologue would be hilarious. also, isn’t the shadowy dude Blackagon Boltogon?

  20. @Tio: Could be him.

  21. I thought it was an interesting choice to insert the cameos throughout the story – Star Lord and Adam Warlock both show up in random crowd scenes, and the Grandmaster was hanging out in the shadows behind the Red King.  There may have been more, but I was watching it tonight while doing an assignment for work and wasn’t actively watching every scene.  I’ll have to watch it again to see if I missed anyone else.  In the bonus features they have an extended preview of a new animated feature "Thor: Tales of Asgard," but that isn’t due out until 2011!

  22. Ah yes, Gamora is sitting with Pip the Troll in another crowd scene…  The guest appearances are all very obvious for anyone who knows the characters (only the Grandmaster is at all hidden, and even then he’s pretty obvious).  So I’m sure there’s more "guest stars" for anyone who cares to look!  Sadly, they don’t actually do anything in the movie.

  23. @cubaman

    No it isn’t! Batman Beyond did the teenage superhero schtick way better. It did got better towars the end of the second season. Too bad it might not go forward.

  24. I think the shadowy figure in the beginning actually is Xavier. At that point in the continuity, he had gotten back his legs, hadn’t he?

  25. Could the bald guy be Ultimate/film version Nick Fury?

  26. Looks like the storyline is pretty close, but I hate the Hulk’s voice.  I should be something close to the live action film…the good one.

  27. I imagine it’s gotta be the Professor, and the animators couldn’t be bothered to try to figure out how to fit a seated guy alongside the standing ones in that shot.

  28. @Conor-I would love to hear you yammer on about this in a podcast. Go for it.

  29. The shadowy figure’s supposed to be Black Bolt.

    The reason Banner was supressed is because this was the strongest Hulk’s ever been, aside from during WWH. There are two scenes within the arc that feature Banner.  One has Hulk and Banner arguing over who it was Jarella fell in love with and what Hulk’s true desires are in what is seemingly a dream. The other scene comes toward the end when Hulk allows Caiera to see who he really is.

    I enjoyed this, but found it lacking and filled with holes. Like most books translated to film, the book is far superior. I wish you were interested enough to read it through, conor. But if it ain’t yo thang, well.. it ain’t yo thang.  

  30. I agree that the shadowy figure in the beginning is Blackbolt – you can see the blue patterns on his costume (chest)…

  31. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Just watched. Beta Ray Bill is the big draw here. His are the best scenes, and it even looks as if he had the best designers/animators. I really hope they consider adapting some of his origin when the Thor live action film comes out. 

  32. @PaulMontgomery

    I wasn’t going to watch this, but you said "Beta Ray Bill" and I am now forced to sit through it. DAMN YOU!!!  

  33. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’d say worth the rental, but not a purchase. Unless you’re a total Hulkamaniac. Probably a step down from Hulk Vs., as much as I loved the Beta Ray Bill scenes. Ultimately this left me searching my shelves for the Planet Hulk paperback (which I’ve yet to read) as well as the first volume of Walt Simonson’s Thor. 

  34. This sounds more interesting than I would have guessed. I wonder if the mystery man is Professor X, but he is enshrouded in the shadows because the X-Men animation rights belong to someone else. I am now wildly speculating.

  35. Is this worth buying if you enjoyed the comic book?

     

  36. @jedimasterrob2001

    It’s worth renting if you enjoyed the comic. If you enjoy it after your rental, then buy it. 

  37. I believe the Shadowy figure is suppose to be Black Bolt of the Inhumans.  The movie was okay, the animation was very nice, and I thought the story was not too bad, but only if I forgot about the comic itself.  I understand its going to be hard to take a year long storyline and put it into an 81 minute movie, but if you liked the essence of the movie, definitely check out the Planet Hulk storyline, it is more than just a Romanesque Gladiator in Space storyline, it delves into the actual Hulk(not Banner) persona, and if He truly is just a Monster as all of the Heroes of Earth mostly claim.  I think this was also why everyone who read the Planet Hulk storyline was so thrilled at the idea of World War Hulk, and where we only got wisps of the character development of the last year and then disappointed by the final result.  

  38. It felt draggy to me. 10, maybe 20, minutes too long. Like Connor I was also put off by the articulate Hulk. Maybe that was the case in the comic as well, but I never read it.

  39. I’m the opposite of many.  The reason I don’t collect Jeph Loeb’s Hulk is because of how fucking stupid the character is when I read it.  I prefer an articulate and intelligible Hulk.  The only Hulk materials that I own are the Planet Hulk arcs and World War Hulk.  Anything else I’ve read was pure drivel.