I, for one, have never been much of a fan of the Hulk. Even when I was highly invested in Marvel Comics collecting them and rushing to newsstands every week with sheer excitement I always opted for something other than the green behemoth. Hell, I chose to buy Darkhawk and Super Pro over an Incredible Hulk comic. Apparently I’m in the minority again because Marvel seems to love the big guy. Ever since his introduction the Hulk has been included in practically every animated series, animated movie, live action movie, and comic series in some form. He’s even guest starred on series’ centered on the X-Men and Fantastic Four and somehow always manages to steal the spotlight. So it’s no surprise the Hulk is given yet another chance at the center stage with “Planet Hulk.” I never read the graphic novel, but as always Marvel squeezes in the entirety of the tale in to a movie that barely makes it past eighty minutes.
After being betrayed by Earth’s heroes (which include Iron Man and Dr. Strange), Hulk is sent against his will in to space to a planet that can sustain his monstrous appetite. Unknowingly he lands in a planet sorely in need of a savior and manages to rise to the ranks as a rebel who seeks to defy the Red King. One of the interesting bits of irony in the story is that this planet possesses the weaponry that can disable or hurt the Hulk so it’s quite surprising to see him brought to his knees the instant he decides to fight back. While much of the story is obviously missing the movie does manage to entertain with some rather epic fight scenes that involve a slew of characters who stand beside Hulk who must fight his way out of this planet or become another slave. The writers lean the film in the direction of the Russell Crowe film “Gladiator” where Hulk is left at the mercy of the cowardly Red King who uses his vulnerability to turn him in to a hero for the sake of entertainment.
I almost expected the Hulk to scream “Are you not entertained?!” at some point. The animation is utterly fantastic and the imagery is absolutely vivid and epic. Some of the landscapes presented are breathtaking and the hand drawn figures that are a hybrid of anime and Western style are rather sharp and unique. The sound blasts through the screen and really sucks you in to the combat. Though the storyline is reduced to a paper thin premise thankfully director Sam Liu more than makes up for it by creating some truly excellent sword and sandal warfare that brings new dimension to the Hulk even though much of the writing sidesteps the opportunity. Thanks to the PG-13 rating the movie never pulls any punches and features some often disturbing violence but also allows us to see the full force of the Hulk and his ability to use his rage for the benefit of others rather than succumb to blind rage.
Though I’m normally bias when it comes to animated movies by Marvel, the concept behind “Planet Hulk” offers some rather stellar entertainment that uses the Hulk to a great degree. It’s pretty clear that if you want a story you can read the graphic novel. This, however, is for folks more interested in seeing the Hulk bring down an evil king and rip the guts out of some menacing alien creepies. Halfway though the story does manage to pick up a bit and we’re given a greater insight not only in to The Hulk but in to his enemies who are not always as they seem on the surface. All in all strong voice work tops what is a truly entertaining installment from the Marvel animated film gallery. I enjoyed this. Sure the plot is largely condensed and the bits of story included are only there to move the action along, but the sharp animation, great voice work, and stunning battles make for some pleasing entertainment.