Planet Hulk (Review)

Planet Hulk

Directed by Sam Liu
Written by Greg Johnson (screenplay) and Greg Pak (comic)

Planet Hulk is a storyline from the Incredible Hulk series where our favorite giant green monster gets rocketed to another planet, where he becomes a slave, a gladiator, a rebel, and finally a king, smashing things all the while. It was very popular, for good reason, because it was freaking awesome! It spawned sequels, spin-offs, and this DTV animated film. The storyline was mainly written by Greg Pak, or Robot Stories fame. Planet Hulk brings about memories of stories such as the John Carter of Mars series, Gladiator, and Conan the Barbarian. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading the story, collected in graphic novel form. It helped get me back into reading comics for a while, which was pretty difficult to do thanks to Marvel ruining things with stupid Spider-clones and crap.

The DTV film which is the subject of this review differs from the original story in several ways. One of the main differences is the fact the Silver Surfer is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by Beta Ray Bill (which is pretty random, sort of like the Silver Surfer’s original appearance in the story!) Surfer’s non-appearance is apparently due to licensing reasons. The story is also missing the Warbound Brood character No-Name, so I guess all those Brood fans will be disappointed. As the film is not so long, the story is sped up and most of the last act is hurriedly paced, even if I hadn’t of read the original story it would have felt rushed. Along with that, many subplots die by the wayside. Finally, the tragic ending of the original storyline does not occur, probably due to them wanting to end the story on a positive note and leaving the rest for a possible sequel. Hulk may be green, but Marvel wants the other green, money!

So since I loved the original story so much, that probably means I hate this version? Not quite. Despite over-simplifying it to the point where much of the flavor is removed, the same basic story is there, and there is plenty of fighting action. There are numerous scenes with the Spikes, which show someone involved in the DTV production really liked zombie movies. Parts of it are actually creepy/scary in a way they fail to be in the comic. I didn’t hate this version, I actually liked it, but I’ll be keeping the graphic novel instead of the DVD on my bookshelf.

There are numerous cameos in the audience, including Pip the Troll, Gamora, Adam Warlock, a Skrull, Star-Lord, and some guy hiding behind the Red King who might be Grandmaster. So if you are that guy who loves Grandmaster, this is the film for you.

Hulk (Rick D. Wasserman) – Hulk smash!
Caiera (Lisa Ann Beley) – Caiera is the super-powered bodyguard of the Red King who will eventually become the Hulk’s wife. She has “Shadow Strength”, which means she can make her skin rock hard and she’s very strong.
Miek (Sam Vincent) – Miek is an unhived native with black skin so you can tell him apart from the generic insect natives there as well who will die. A loner who finally finds friends and a hive in the battle arena. Most of his story arcs in the comics are excised here, Miek doesn’t even mutate into King mode.
Korg (Kevin Michael Richardson) – A rock guy from Thor a long time ago that shows up here in Sakaar, because, rocks gotta go somewhere! By the way, my high school team was the Rocks, though no one from my high school was sucked into a vortex in space and crashed on an alien planet where they were forced to fight as gladiators. When it happened to me I had to work at Hot Dog On a Stick instead.
Hiroim (Liam O’Brien) – A castout priest who believes in the Sakaarsan so much he’s very happy when the Hulk arrives to be the Sakaarsan. Good thing for Hiroim that this movie has a different ending from the comics. And I think they killed him off later in the comics so enough of this guy.
Elloe Kaifi (Advah Soudack) – Crazy revolutionary girl who is far to revolutionary for her own good and keeps getting the team into trouble. Simmer down, girl! The way to revolt is to do it in a way where you don’t get caught.
Red King (Mark Hildreth) – The evil king of Sakaar who is evil, though the movie only shows him doing a little evil stuff and not lots and lots of evil stuff.

In the original story, a group of Earth superheroes including Tony Stark (Iron Man), Mr. Fantastic, some guy who lives on the Moon, and some other dudes I don’t remember trick the Hulk into a spaceship and blast him towards a world where he can live in peace. The ship goes off course due to it being sucked into the Great Portal and crashes on the planet Sakaar. Pretty much the same thing happens here in the opening, except the ship goes off course because of the Hulk’s rage, and the scenes of him trashing the ship are intercut with a grey-skinned priest on Sakaar named Hiroim.

After the crashy crashy, Hulk wakes up dazed and weakened on Sakaar, set upon by the insect natives who swarm him. But their claim on the salvage from the Great Portal is foiled by troops from the evil Red King, who claim the Hulk as their slave. The weakened Hulk is easily defeated, a slave disk is implanted on him, and he’s taken for gladiatorial combat.

That’s what we find out when he awakens on a transport and we meet the rest of the main cast. Korg the rock guy, Miek the unhived native, three random hived natives, Elloe Kaifi the female rebel, an android, grey priest Hiroim, and Commander Lavin Skee, the self-appointed leader trying to do the Gladiator thing and get everyone working together. The film skips the whole gladiator school section and just dumps them into fighting.

Of course, the Hulk just wanders over to punch door, ignoring the plan. Korg also is disturbed because the opponents are his fellow rock men, except they are all crazed killers now and not the friends he remembers, and they begin smashing stuff up and are immune to the swords given the gladiators. Rock people are jerks. The bug natives die, including one with an eye-exploding death (tasty!) Lavin gets offed as well, because he dies in the comic. At this point Hulk still does nothing because he’s still The Jerk and not The Hulk yet, and continues to pound the door. Korg must fight his brothers. It’s rock vs rock to see who has the biggest stones. Just be glad The Rock wasn’t there, because, that would be terrible and ruin the movie. Like it ruined that Star Trek voyager Episode where he showed up and fought Seven of Nine on that one planet. Actually, that was the best part of that episode, because Voyager sucks. Smashy smashy, and the rockmen are all deadified. They’ve been pummeled. Or pebbled. Dustified.

Hulk learns the Red King is in the audience, so he goes to smash him, but is interrupted when a Lava Monster is brought in to fight everyone. I can’t tell you the amount of time stupid Lava Monsters interrupt me! Hulk kills it in one punch, impressing the Red King who is doing the whole “I’m a bored dictator watching boring fights” thing evil dictators all do in these movies. Stop being so predictable, evil dictators!

Hulk jumps up to smash the Red King, but is stopped by a grey lady named Caiera who is the Red King’s bodyguard and has the power of the Old Ones. You know what that means so I don’t have to explain it. Okay, she has rock hard skin. Red King gets in his battlesuit to try to smash the Hulk, but we all know how that will go. Hulk cuts his face, so the Red King blasts him with lasers and declares he will let the Hulk continue to fight (by setting him up with tough opponents so he will die) because the audience likes him.

The contestants become warbound and tell their stories: Hiroim was a priest cast out for heresy. Korg tells his story of the rockmen going to earth and making the mistake of attacking Thor as their first human (ripped from the comics!) Then Beta Ray Bill shows up (not ripped from the comics!) and two Gods of Thunders fight the rock dudes and their robot (ripped from the comics!) Beta Ray bill chases them into space and they crash on Sakaar. Elloe is a resistance girl, but anything else you want to know you can’t because we switch scenes. Which is good, because her angry dissident story is boring, but at least she is on another planet so she isn’t wearing a Che t-shirt like she would have been had she been human.

Next day its fighting time, and the crowd thinks the Hulk is the Sakaarsan (the planet savior). The warbound gladiators must fight a bunch of wildebots (giant feral robots that will be like giant monsters except you can kill them and not feel guilty about animal abuse – take that, Lucas!) Yes, wildebots are from the comics. They beat them all, and Hulk even kills the Super Eggcracker Wildebot just like in the comics, except that fight happened out in the wild and not in the arena.

Caiera visits Hulk, tells her story of the spike attack and the Red King saving the village after everyone dead. Spikes are like space zombieism, and as that is all the movie bothers to reveal about them, that’s all we’ll mention. The power of the old strong protects her, which basically means she has rock hard skin and super strength. She wants to have Hulk live off in the mountains, but Hulk won’t. Then rebels come to rescue the prisoners, but Hulk knows it is a trap, though Elloe goes anyway because she’s revolutionary as frak.

The next day, they must fight…Beta Ray Bill! Subbing for the Silver Surfer who won’t be showing up in the movie like in the comics. He and Hulk fight for a while, and during the battle the control disk on Beta Ray Bill is destroyed, but Hulk keeps fighting and smashing that space horse Thor a while longer until stopped.

It is time to be freed, but Red King wants them to execute Elloe in order to be free. The warbound refuse, so the Red King says he will kill them. Just then, Beta Ray Bill destroys the slave disks on all the slaves. Everyone is free and all the slaves revolt (there is probably a cameo or two in the other freed gladiators, but I didn’t recognize anyone) and they fight their way out (though the fight out is not as long or as cool as I would have liked.)

Hulk wanders off wanting to be alone while the rest of the warbound go to hide at the town of a resistance sympathizer. Of course, he’s really a traitor and going to turn them in, but the film cuts out the really horrible stuff the guy was doing. I don’t remember his name, so we shall call him Chad. Caiera is sent after Hulk while Miek loses an arm fighting Chad the traitor resistance guy. Bad Chad. Chad bites it. The Hulk/Caiera fight goes on, but then the spikes crash in the village the resistance gladiators are at.

Caiera leaves the Hulk to go fight the spikes as the War Bound try to protect who is left of the civilians. Caiera gets her own drama situation as she’s protecting a child that reminds her of her own dead baby sister. Hulk finally shows up to smash some spikes, and he gets infected himself. D’oh! Luckily, he’s the Hulk, so this is only a minor annoyance for him.

The hologram of the Red King tells Caiera that he sent the spikes and also sent the spikes at her village just to find someone with the Old Strong. And now the city is gonna get nuked! The kid Caiera was protecting disintegrates in her arms. This happens a lot on Planet Hulk, by the way. Caiera tells Red King the Hulk is dead, and he wants body brought back and paraded in the street, along with the rest of the prisoners who are alive but now captured.

Hey, way to end the movie very quickly! But on such a downer, Hulk dead, everyone captured. That’s unusual for a Marvel film- Oh, wait, it isn’t over yet…

So they are all paraded back through the capital. This parade sucks, where is the free candy? And why isn’t Santa Claus at the end? We all know Hulk ain’t dead, because no one in Marvel ever dies. Even the Red King returns later in Son of Hulk, but I just spoiled that the Red King dies here…whoops! But he does die…later…

A big fight as the prisoners escape and fight all the castle guards. Because they weren’t really captured, it was all a scam! The Red King is in his super suit (which looks like it was ganked from Tony Stark or something but he wears it in the comics so just go with it.)

Hulk smashes, and Red King gets some spikes dumped on him by Caiera. Sucks for him as the Death’s Head guards just showed up and are programmed to kill spikes. And Red King is now detected as on. Red King is the Dead King, baby.

Now Hulk is king, even though he’s not sure about being king. Since we don’t end the way the comic does with the planet getting bombed and Caiera dead (SPOILERS), everything is happy. So be happy! Or Hulk will smash you!

Well, it was pretty good, but the comics are way better, as usual. If I hadn’t read the comics, I probably would have enjoyed this more (and been slightly more confused at times.) The random cameos are neat, Beta Ray Bill amazingly doesn’t ruin the story, and it is a fun adventure yarn. But it could use some more smashing!

I guess if they can’t have Sivler Surfer hear because of licensing issues, World War Hulk is probably also not going to be able to be done right as I bet half of the cast was sold off. But we’ll see…maybe…

Rated 8/10 (Gamora, Star-Lord, a Skrull, Pip the Troll, Thor, Adam Warlock, Beta Ray Bill, Robot)

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