I haven't even started and already I feel like this will be an unfairly biased review. See, I like comics well enough, but I don't really read them much. And I'd never even heard of the "Planet Hulk" storyline before receiving this DVD. Planet Hulk as an animated feature recalls superhero cartoons of the '70s and '80s in that the plot has an absolute lack of realism and post-modernism, relying on well-rendered action and melodrama. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but without the background and surrounding details of the comics themselves, this story doesn't make the largest amount of sense. Hulk smash learning curve!
Our story begins with Hulk, too dangerous for Earth, being exiled to a lifeless planet. This changes when Hulk goes berserk and the ship's trajectory changes, sending it into a wormhole that exits on Sakaar, a planet that resembles the plot to Gladiator. It is ruled by the Red King, a power-monger whose former governmental body was replaced by robots. He's kind of a jerk that way. Hulk is taken prisoner by guards and an obedience disc is attached to his upper chest. This disc helps him understand the native language and keeps him under control. Here on Sakaar, he's not as strong as usual; at least not yet. Hulk slams vitamins!
After being knocked unconscious, he wakes to find he's being transported to a coliseum with a group of mostly native ragtags, headed for one of many battle scenes. There's Korg, member of a race of rock-bodied creatures who also arrived by wormhole; Hiroim, an idealist once held in high regard by Sakaar natives; Lavin Skee, ex-imperial officer and bodyguard/lover of Elloe Kaifi, member of a formerly prestigious family on Sakaar. Lastly, there is Miek, a native whose life and family were ruined by the Red King. The group, minus Hulk and Miek, takes on a gang of Korg's brainwashed brothers. It's the kind of fight where each punch thrown has catastrophic, but non-residual, results. The animation here is quite good, even if it's a tad too slow. Then a bizarre creature contends his title. Soon, Hulk and the Red King (in a giant robot suit) have their own one-off before R.K.'s bodyguard, Caiera, steps in and disrupts the fight. Bell saves Hulk!
The group bonds together and shares stories from their past, which add more to the "take it with a grain of salt" free-floating plot. At this point, it's mentioned Hulk is considered the planet's "chosen one," or "Sakaarson," a title R.K. has already taken for himself. It's unclear why the Hulk would be the chosen one without long hair and a beard, but I guess Sakaar isn't a Christian fundamentalist planet. In any case, Hulk tags in for the next big battle, one that involves a huge robot called "The Eggbreaker." Then there's some more backstory from Caiera, informing of why and where her loyalty lies. All this gears up for a final coliseum fight, which leads the way to more massive battles outside the coliseum. Thankfully, when the fighting starts, I only have to think about what side anybody's on, rather than their connections to everyone else involved. It sounds like I've described the entire thing, but it's a deep story that works on more layers than just Mortal Kombat bash-fests, and those are the kinds of things I can't ruin for you. I just like to ruin the bad parts of things. Nick spoils with reproach!
I know I'm being prissy, and that it really wasn't a hard story to step back and understand; I just don't see why this was the story that needed to be retold. The commentaries mention many moments that were switched around or removed in order to up the action in the time allotted, which was far too short, but I know that wasn't the fault of those creating it. They also remark on how good this story is, because it's the first truly dramatic tale about Hulk without the aid of Bruce Banner, who doesn't appear at all. Fine for others, but the only thing I really like about the Hulk is the antithesis between his inner peace and outer violence. I dig psychological underpinnings with asskicking thrown in. It's my own fault that I don't relate to anything here, but I think it's because it's in an animated format in the first place. Maybe because nothing made me smile. Hulk tugs heartstrings!
If I could stop sounding holier-than-thou for a moment, there are many things I liked about Planet Hulk, such as the look and sounds, and that it's PG-13, which means death can occur. While Rick D. Wasserman's portrayal of the Hulk isn't going to win any Oscars, it is quite a ways beyond monotonous groans and grunts. Everyone else is fairly impressive as well, considering some of the dialogue given to them. And again, Planet Hulk is a good-looking piece of animation. Stark central characters move against gorgeous backgrounds during most of the action. Some of the dialogue is average, but the colors are quite vibrant, avoiding many shades of green so that Hulk is ever vibrant. The best-looking thing about it, though, is the opening sequence, which is worth a second look after first viewing, because it foreshadows a bunch. In closing: Fans watch Planet Hulk!
If you liked the film, this will be a special edition for you indeed. It's padded, though half of it is for other Marvel material. At 20+ minutes, "A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk" is the best kind of all-in-one feature. It covers all the ground from story to animation, though it talks about the credit sequence a bit too much. "Let the Smashing Commence!: The Saga of Planet Hulk" gives a good bit of information about the comic series, as told by all involved. The two commentaries (one with screenwriter Greg Johnson and supervising producer Joshua Fine, the other with director Sam Liu, character designer Philip Bourassa, and background painter Steve Nicodemus) are both worth a listen for the details given. There's a lot of love for this comic and movie, and I'll blindly agree with half of that.
For the only other Hulk-related feature, there's the "Wolverine Vs. Hulk" episode of the Wolverine and the X-Men animated series. Those guys are always fighting. It's a good episode, certainly, and it made me want to watch the series from the early '90s. There are two motion comics: Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted. Really good stuff there, too, because of the excellent artwork and storylines that frustrate when they cut off. Motion comics should be sold in more places. The two motion-comic music videos, a dance-pop Spider-Woman promo, and a rock-hop X-Men promo, could have both been avoided completely. Songs that have to unironically refer to superheroes are pretty stupid. Wesley Willis will show you how it's done. The blah opening sequence to Thor: Tales of Asgard, which is a story about him as a teen, apparently, is on here, as well as a trailer for a Hulk game, and some other trailers, and a digital-copy disc. Quality packaging for something obviously meant for someone else. A target is on my head for all who wish to aim.