Unlike Spider-man or Batman, Hulk is one of the trickiest characters to get right in not only comics, but any medium. He’s incredibly popular and is no doubt a unique character, but writers never seem to know what to do with him. How does one deliver the pure destructive badassness that audiences want to see while also creating a complex and interesting plot? It seems to me that the biggest detriment to constructing a good hulk story, until recently, is his lack of intelligence. It’s hard to have good dialogue with a raging monster whose vocabulary solely includes “SMASH!” Bruce Banner is usually cruelly mishandled as well, but thats beside the point. It seems Hulk works best in groups where he can react to other characters and serve as the ultimate weapon. Looking at his movies, the first Hulk film was insufferably boring and the action scenes were just stupid, while The Incredible Hulk was better… if not still boring and stupid. Planet Hulk may indeed be the best Hulk film out there… for what it is and tries to be.
Planet Hulk, based of the comic storyline of the same name, is the rather unusual tale of how Hulk gets shipped off Earth by the other superheroes who are tired of fighting him. Hulk, of course, smashes the shit out of the spaceship he’s on and that causes it to veer off course and crash-land on the planet Sakaar. There Hulk is imprisoned and force to fight in a gladiator ring, along with other rebels, for the entertainment of the planet’s dictator and his subjects. They band together in order to not only survive, but to also right the wrongs of The Red King.
Yeah this is a weird one to adapt, considering it has nothing to do with what people usually think of when they think Hulk. Bruce Banner doesn’t even appear in this movie, but it’s unusual setting does prevent the continuity baggage that Hulk usually has to deal with. Thats not to say that there’s no continuity as other superheroes do appear, if only briefly. What made the Planet Hulk comics work and become extremely popular was that Hulk was slightly more intelligent then usual (for no explained reason), his healing ability which had been creeping into the comics was fully exploited in cool ways, and the setting/story was beyond anything that had been done before. The Planet Hulk storyline was a long one, spanning about 25 issues if I remember correctly and the film does a good job of covering the basic plot points, if in an extremely simplified way.
This movie as I said is fairly simple, with about the intelligence of the Young Justice cartoon series or really most of the other superhero animated movies out there. Despite it’s more childish story, there is a good amount of gore and death in this movie (albeit alien cartoon gore), so the distinction must once again be made between mature content and storytelling. This movie, just because it has a little gore is in no way mature like some people may claim it to be, rather it just has some (slightly) mature content. It’s storytelling is still geared to an audience of 10-15, so if you plan to watch this with your kids keep in mind that while they will enjoy it, they should be able to handle the rather dark scenes. Most kids can, but show a touch of caution. Thats not to say that adults can’t watch this, because let me emphasize that this is a FUN movie. It shows about the level of badassery we got from Hulk in The Avengers, which is impressive comparing it to the other Hulk entries.
The animation is not too bad, certainly not Madhouse level, but it gets the job done. I like the style it’s done in, as it sacrifices detail without losing the general look of the comic. The voice acting is good as most of the key players are veterans in the field. Hulk is slightly miscast in my opinion, but it won’t bother most people. Marvel’s animated movies have never been that great compared to DC’s animated movies, but this one certainly is on par with the likes of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern: First Flight. If you’re looking for a fun movie that doesn’t require much thought, or if you’re looking for a good time with your kids then Planet Hulk is just the thing for you. Hopefully future Hulk moviemakers will take a few lessons from this movie and “Keep it simple, stupid!” Planet Hulk is available on Netflix Instant.