Planet Hulk (Lionsgate, NR)

Goodbye peaceful planet with abundant food and supplies, hello war-torn planet with gladiator-style fights to the death. Which planet would we rather see the Hulk on? Exactly.
 

 

Somewhere in the middle of the terrific new Marvel animated feature Planet Hulk, it dawned on me that the Hulkster’s human core, Bruce Banner, doesn’t make a single solitary appearance. Perhaps this aided and abetted my enjoyment of this very unique tale, because the Hulk has always been at his most fun when he’s not stuck as a boring old human. No duality issues, no desperate attempt at finding a cure for his genetic misfortune here. What we do have is big green stranger in a very violent land, occupied by a colorful assortment of alien beings looking for a muscle bound meathead of a savior.
 
Full disclosure: I have not read the Marvel Comics series this film was based on. The good thing about a fantastic adaptation, though, is that I’m very excited to seek out and devour the source material. Having seen most of the Marvel animated features, I have to say that the folks at the big M have taken what some might view as a one-note character and have given him a film that is the best of the bunch. Is it better than the Hulk live-action feature films? Well, yeah. But it would be pretty hard not to be, wouldn’t it?
 
The story begins with our favorite heroes of Marveldom giving the Hulk the big heave-ho by locking him in a spaceship and sending him off to a peaceful, faraway planet. Seems the Hulk has some issues with anger management (imagine that!) and Iron Man and crew have had quite enough. Of course, due to a mega-sized temper tantrum, Hulk smashes the spaceship off its trajectory, and guess what? Goodbye peaceful planet with abundant food and supplies, hello war-torn planet with gladiator-style fights to the death. Which planet would we rather see him on? Exactly.
 
Once he crash lands on planet Thunderdome, er, Sakaar, he is immediately sold into slavery under the rule of the tyrannical Red King. While there, our hero wastes no time in become the planet’s biggest, baddest gladiator, along with forming a sort of love-hate bond with his fellow fighters. This is where screenwriter Greg Johnson takes the characters from Greg Pak’s original comics and creates very individualized and surprisingly nuanced characters. Each has their own background and important role to play as the narrative progresses. With just enough plot twists, cool cameos, and gut-wrenchingly bloody battles, director Sam Liu keeps the pace quick, and the momentum hot.
 
As far as technical specs, the colors are sharp and clear, and the 5.1 sound that I experienced was as high-quality as the rest of Marvel Animation Features’ output of late. In fact, the terrifying sequence where the prickly “spikes” (basically a cross between a spider crab and a tribble) rain down on a village in Sakaar would be a great test of any home-theatre system. The two-disc edition includes a digital copy so you can Hulk out on your iPod whenever your heart desires, but it doesn’t stop there, fellow Marvelites. The set is loaded with cool commentaries, making-of docs, a Wolverine and the X-Men episode featuring the Hulk, and a couple of just-okay music videos. Rounding out the experience are two motion comics – “Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D,” and “Astonishing X-Men: Gifted.” Both artfully done, both well worth your time.
 
So, if you’re looking to drop some coin and get back in touch with a decidedly un-jolly green giant, Planet Hulk would be a fun addition to any DVD or Blu-Ray collection. Excelsior! | Jim Ousley

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