The Hulk is banished from Earth for being a dangerous monster and ends up on a planet that desperately needs a hero.
Animated Comic Book DTVs have come a long way. I am more used to seeing DTV movies from Marvel playing more like the trailer for the upcoming Thor: Tales of Asgard, a movie that introduces a character nothing like the one they represent from the comics. Another example is Invincible Iron Man, which took great liberties with the character’s origin. I’m not as picky with live action movies but, with an animated movie promoted by Marvel, I wish they would stay closer to the direction of the character from the source material.
That is the first thing that makes Planet Hulk so great. This might be one of the first Marvel animated movies that adapts a storyline directly from the comic series (or at least that is what writer Greg Johnson says in the commentary track). With the monstrous size of the Planet Hulk story, a lot had to be omitted to fit into a feature length film. Those changes were handled well and the movie flows great, resulting in an above average Marvel presentation.
We start with The Hulk already in the space craft, being launched to an uninhabited planet where he can’t hurt anyone else. The back story to this is not delved into during this film but The Illuminati, a group of heroes who have made themselves the “be-all” of the Marvel Universe, are the men who banished The Hulk. Some changes were made, specifically with Iron Man giving the voice over explaining to The Hulk why they are doing this to him. It was supposed to be Mr. Fantastic giving the explanation but because The Fantastic Four is a FOX property, they had to make the change.
This distinction is even more noticeable when The Silver Surfer (also FOX), is replaced in a scene by Beta Ray Bill, a change I loved. Where the film really splits from the comic is by moving Hulk straight from the crash landing on a very much inhabited planet and making him a slave right off the bat. In the comics, this came after he was on the planet for awhile but the most interesting part is the gladiator scenes and the formation of the Warbound. One of the people they were supposed to face in this fight to the death was the Surfer but making it Bill was brilliant.
There were a number of changes made to Marvel continuity here and the back story to Bill was embellished by putting him into Thor’s first ever appearance, despite him not appearing until many, many years later. Bill is a cult figure, someone who long time fans know, and putting him in this movie was a nice touch. Writer Greg Johnson really knows what he is doing in this adaptation and pulls off a surprising victory.
The Hulk starts the movie, betrayed by his friends, and banished to live alone till his death. He transforms from a monster, feared by those close to him, to a savior and ultimately the hero he was always meant to be. I have to add credit to the fact that Bruce Banner is not seen in this movie and, even when calm, it is all Hulk all the time. By the end, Planet Hulk stands as one of the most entertaining Marvel animated DTVs I have ever seen.
This DVD is loaded. First up, we get a feature called “A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk” (21:42). This is a really good look at the film, including a fantastic look at the creation of the title sequence and a detailed explanation of why they replaced The Silver Surfer with Beta Ray Bill. Next up is “Let the Smashing Commence! The Saga of Planet Hulk” (11:27), a look at the creation of the comic series from the writer and artist.
“Opening Sequence – Thor: Tales of Asgard” (06:12) presents the trailer and opening sequence from the next Thor animated movie, coming in 2011. The fact that it features a teenage Thor and Loki makes me less interested than I normally would be. The opening sequence did little to change my lowered expectations.
An episode from Wolverine and the X-Men called “Wolverine vs. Hulk” (21:49) is included in its entirety. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. blackmails Wolverine into putting The Hulk out of commission for good after a couple of towns were destroyed, allegedly by The Hulk.
“Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Motion Comic” (10:18) is written by Brian Michael Bendis. It is apparently a storyline that begins Jessica Drew’s integration into S.W.O.R.D. and her assignment to find and eliminate Skrulls. Looking up information on this, it is available in both motion comic and print comic (2009-2010), making it the first original motion picture comic released by a major publisher. It was decent.
“Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Motion Comic” (14:10) is written by Joss Whedon based on his run on The Astonishing X-Men comic series. I remember reading the comics when they were released in 2005 and this was well done, although I still hate The Beast looking like a cat. More Motion Comics can be found at www.marvel.com/motion_comics.
There are also two music videos, “‘Watch Your Step’ – Spider-Woman Music Video” (3:08) by Dan Phillips and Anna Abbey and “‘Rise Up’ – Astonishing X-Men Music Video” (2:32) featuring Bronz Style Bob and Christian Altman. Both songs are dance beat styled songs, Spider-Woman more techno and X-Men more alt-rock. They feature images from the Motion Comics and I have no desire to ever watch either video again. There is also a Hulk online game trailer (0:32) and it looks a lot like an old Nintendo game. I also want to mention that the Digital Copy that comes with this movie works on iTunes, always a plus.
Finally, there are two commentary tracks for the feature presentation. The first track is with producer Joshua Fine and writer Greg Johnson. The second is with director Sam Liu, character designer Philip Bourassa and background painter Steve Nicodemus. The first commentary is all about the story. They talk about the differences between this and the comic and what they added or subtracted and why. It is a nice, comfortable talk track and is easy to listen to. The second track deals with more of the technical aspects of the movie and is nowhere near as good as the first track. There is too much blank space (especially with three commentators involved) and what they say is rarely as interesting as the writer’s track.