Sunday, October 12, 2014

Planet Hulk

Planet Hulk came out in 2010, directed by Sam Liu and starring Rick D. Wasserman as the Hulk, Lisa Ann Beley as his girlfriend Caiera, and Mark Hildreth as the Red King. This movie is based off one of the few Hulk stories I've read, which shares the same name. Sadly, the balance of the story, World War Hulk, was not adapted into a sequel for this movie.

At first, I was skeptical with how good a Hulk story could be without Bruce Banner. But the comic managed to pull it off, giving me hope for the movie. I was also happy to see the animation was a step up from some of the earlier Marvel animated films. So let's see what my final verdict here. As a reminder, I start with a score of 5 out of 10 then add and subtract points throughout the movie.

I have to take a point off for the disappointing beginning. In the comic, the all-powerful team called the Illuminati decide to send Hulk to a different world after a particularly bad rampage. That pretty much happens here, except we don't get to see the whole Illuminati. Iron Man and Dr. Strange are clearly visible, but the other two — Mr. Fantastic and Professor Xavier — are reduced to ambiguous shadows that may or may not be those heroes. This isn't the movie's fault — it's Marvel's fault for splintering its properties and killing its strong sense of shared continuity for all movies. However, it is this movie's fault for not giving us a compelling reason to send Hulk into space in the first place. Iron Man (played again by the lackluster Marc Worden) gives a very dry monologue, briefly describing Hulk's powers in the broadest of terms but not fully explaining why the Hulk could not live on Earth anymore. I know this movie had a lot of story to get through in a short amount of time, but I think they could have used the opening credit sequence to show the Hulk destroying New York or something like that.

But I will bring the score back to a 5 for the strong sci-fi world this film portrays. I love the religion, the corrupt government, the gladiator arena, the variety of alien races and even simple things, like the talkbots. What a quick and simple way to explain why everyone is speaking English. This movie almost can stand alone as a great science fiction story without any connection to the Marvel universe. However, I wouldn't be reviewing it if it wasn't connected to Marvel.

I'll add another point for the great action scenes here. The fighting was captivating, the animation was stellar, and the violence took full advantage of the PG-13 rating. I particularly like the bug people being squished like bugs, and one of them had his eyeballs squeezed out of his head. It was a bit gruesome, but not as disturbing as it could have been. The violence and action enhanced the movie, giving it the gritty edge the story demanded.

Now it's time to bring the score back down to a 5 for the mistreatment of my favorite character from the comic, Miek. As his name implies, he is a meek, small bug man. But he undergoes the largest transformation in the story, literally growing into a larger insect toward the end. He also became the Hulk's most devoted follower, carrying that devotion to the point of fanaticism. And it was Miek who set up the events in World War Hulk because he felt the demands of justice had not been met. All this was taken out for time constraints (and most of it would have come in the nonexistent sequel, anyway). But the little we did get of Miek in this movie was quite frustrating to me. During the scene when each of the gladiators tells their story, Miek tries to tell his story three times, but constantly gets cut off. Why won't anyone let him tell his story?

I will give a point for the spikes. They are great. A little like deadly, parasitic aliens, and a little like zombies, they were a truly frightening threat. And it was quite traumatic watching a young Caiera have to kill her infected family, including her younger sister in her arms.

But now I have to take a point off for the biggest complaint of the film — replacing Silver Surfer with Beta Ray Bill. Again, this is a result of Marvel giving the rights of Silver Surfer to a different company, but in this case, they really needed to work out some kind of deal. Because Beta Ray Bill, the odd horse-Thor, is a poor substitute for one of Marvel's most powerful beings, the Silver Surfer. The scene didn't have near the impact it did in the comics.

Well, that's enough negativity. The score rises to a 6 for the Red King. He is a wonderful villain, maliciously ordering the gladiators to kill their friend and, even worse, engineering the threat of the spikes to set himself up as a hero. I loved his giant gold armor, his attitude, his voice, everything. And his death was satisfying. All in all, everything I want from a villain.

And I'll add one final point for the most tragic scene in the movie — a young girl disintegrating in Caiera's arms. That poor woman is just destined to have children die in her arms. But it was a captivating visual and an emotionally touching scene, lending this story more depth than one might normally expect from an Incredible Hulk story. Yeah, we sacrificed the classic conflict with Bruce Banner and his inner monster, but we got something entirely different and wonderful with this story.

All in all, Planet Hulk is a very good movie. With a few adjustments it could have been a truly great movie. And if Marvel would have made World War Hulk as a direct sequel, with the same animation and voices, that would have been a great movie as well.

Final score: 7

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