Reviewed by Nomad
Featuring the voices of Kevin Michael Richardson, Rick D. Wasserman, Mark Hildreth, Marc Worden
Directed by Sam Liu
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Yes, it’s true. Marvel loves the Hulk. Hulk has been a part of nearly every one of their direct-to-DVD releases for the last two years so when they presented us with Planet Hulk, my first thought was “WHYYYYY?!” However, avid comic readers know the Planet Hulk storyline is an epic one and worthy of a movie of any sort.
Hulk is jettisoned into outer space by Earth’s craftiest heroes who feel it’s time for the smashing to end so rather than kill what is essentially a hero, off to an uninhabited planet he goes. Unfortunately, well, Hulk Smash … and he sends his ship into a worm hole leading to the savage world of Sakaar. Here there are beings and weapons that can actually harm the Hulk so the landing seems fortuitous, as Hulk can really cut loose for the first time in his life, but the Red King has other plans. The story quickly goes Gladiator (with a “chosen one” angle), and Hulk steps up as the reluctant hero of a world ruled with a mechanized iron fist and occasionally overrun with a spiky alien zombie plague. Basically, it sucks to be on Sakaar.
The first bit of good news is, while this is a story we’ve seen before, we are talking about PG-13 animation. While the art is hardly cutting edge, they sure do pound the hell out of each other. You’ve got robot beasties, a tentacle monster, the unfortunate meeting of stone warrior and bug warrior (splat), and Hulk going sick house in the middle of it all. There is more bloodshed in this cartoon than in most PG-13 horror releases on the big screen! For the Marvel maniac I’m sure this is a must-buy either way, but I’m pleased to report plenty of cameos from your favorite space traveling characters among the crowds at the arena, a killer flashback from another character they use a little too often, and the first appearance of a fan favorite who is a stand-in for Silver Surfer, who couldn’t appear due to contractual obligations. Psshh. Rock stars.
The voice acting is excellent, the animation is fluid, and the content makes for a damn good time. Am I still waiting for the awesome levels of graphic art we’ve seen in modern anime and even in the trailers for the upcoming Iron Man and Wolverine anime?! Hells yes. Why they can’t put that level of awesome into these cartoons is beyond me, but the finished product is not disappointing … just merely missing something we know is possible. For what it is, Planet Hulk delivers all that a comic book fan could want and even some extra gaping jaw/laugh-out-loud moments for the horror fan who wasn’t expecting all that green blood and the previously mentioned zombie attacks! All that action wraps up with an immensely satisfying ending. In short, HULK SMASH PUNY BLU-RAY PLAYER!! Love every minute of it.
Marvel likes to dish out more bang for your buck, so the Blu release is packed to the gills. Commentary one with producer Joshua Fine and screenwriter Greg Johnson is loaded with information on the original comic for those of you that wanted to know how it really went down without reading the books. If you are the type who needs to know how a project like this came together and the rationale behind almost every decision, it’s all here. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the pair are fun to listen to and geek out at the same things you would, even though they’ve surely seen this film a half dozen times.
Commentary two with director Sam Liu, character designer Philip Bourassa, and key background painter Steve Nicodemus brings more technical aspects of the film like coloring, motivation, and execution. The main problem is the two main guys talking have extremely soft voices so you’ll feel like you’re listening to a self-help tape … about the Hulk of course. Unleash your inner Hulk? Could work.
World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk provides an exhaustive look into the creation process of this film. When I say process, I mean you are about to learn how every little thing came about from a complete overview of the meaning of the title sequence to what colors were used for each scene. For movie freaks these items are probably fantastic and a wish fulfilled that someone would include them. For me it was hard not to tune out through parts of it or resist hitting fast forward, but I suffer for my art and your entertainment. Sadists!! What is sorely missing is time with the voice actors … something I love to watch. Let the Smashing Commence: The Saga of Planet Hulk lets you hear from the creators of the original comic series and instantly identify with their love for the source material. This was a dream job for this crew, making the story that much more epic, and, so, the perfect material for a full-length animated release. Definitely worth watching for the comic fan in the room and those wondering how different the animation is from the books.
We’ve come to expect a sneak preview of the next DVD release, and it’s in there. Thor: Tales of Asgard centers around Thor, of course … again. I’m still not sure how I feel about another kid-itized tale of the Marvel Universe, even though I thought Next Avengers was fun. I suppose it comes down to this: We have the direct-to-DVD features to tell the hardcore stores of the Marvel Universe and the TV shows to tell the kiddie versions with almost complete revamps on all stories and character designs. When the DVD’s go into TV mode, it makes me wonder when we’ll get back on track. That said, Thor looks well and good, but I can’t say I’m very interested in the subject matter or in another Thor story so soon. If the two anime features are coming next, it’s going to be a LONG time before we get back into the good ol’ standard Marvel Universe. Here’s hoping the Avengers cartoon kicks as much ass as Joe Q. says it does. Then we won’t care one way or the other!
WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL!! You also get the “Wolverine vs. Hulk” episode of “Wolverine and the X-Men” (which is always a fun fight to watch), Issue One of the Spider-Woman and X-Men: Gifted motion comics (which are pretty amusing and artsy), and two completely horrible music videos for the motion comics with music that will make you want to slip the brain worms into your ear canal. Skip the music if you value your sanity.
4 out of 5
5 out of 5
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