Review: Planet Hulk
By David Mumpower
February 2, 2010

He certainly doesn't need the body armor, but it -does- make him look cool.

At the start of 2009, my wife and I looked around our place and realized that we had boxes and boxes of stuff we weren't using. I'm not saying we were quite ready to go on Hoarders, but it was closer to being true than we would like. This is the problem when someone who collects tons and tons of CDs, DVDs and books marries someone who also collects tons and tons of CDs, DVDs, and books. When my wife and I catalogued all of our contents on Delicious Library, we found the task impossible without the usage of a bar code scanner. It would have taken hundreds of frustrating hours otherwise. Once we had all of our media itemized, we came to realize that we could get rid of 20 boxes worth of it without ever even noticing what was gone. What followed was a process of enforced minimalism wherein we picked the various items we could not live without and eliminated the rest.

In the process of performing this task, we got rid of most of our graphic novels, a not inconsequential number since, as you know, one of our dear friends and contributors here at BOP owns and operates a comic book store. Over the years, we had picked up a lot of books from him that we found were now collecting dust. When we came to one particular graphic novel, however, my wife and I both proclaimed that we couldn't part with it. That title was Planet Hulk, a grandiose story arc from Greg Pak that took The Green Scar away from his home world and moved him to a long forgotten place in the universe, one that may not have been properly prepared for his rage but had prophesied his arrival nonetheless. Given the fact that my wife is the bigger comic book fan (in terms of zeal, not size...I've got over a foot on her), it was rare that we would agree on a title. There is something in the Stranger in a Strange Land premise offered by Pak that resounded with both of us. For this reason, Planet Hulk maintained its spot on the book shelf as any number of other, lesser works failed to survive the culling.

Part of the process of thinning out the media herd was that we would no longer accept media screeners from various PR firms for a time. After all, the constant onslaught of available review copies would take up a lot of the free room we had recently created. And we still have some stuff lying around from previous promotions. We agreed not to sell that stuff and we've honored it, which makes us quite possibly the only people in the world in possession of Miss Congeniality 2 pink cell phone covers. No, that's not a joke. I even know which drawer they're in. Keeping all of this in mind, you now appreciate how highly we must regard Planet Hulk if we jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a review copy of it. Yes, there is some bias there you may want to keep in mind, but the reality is that the same people inclined to give this disc purchasing consideration probably have a lot of the above apply to them as well...except for the pink cell phone cover part.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of Planet Hulk, it's brushed over a bit in the movie version as opposed to the graphic novel. Some of Bruce Banner's closest friends, including Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, arbitrarily decide to drug him, put a stamp on his forehead and mail him to the Kaiser. Or something along those lines. They choose to drag his unconscious body on a space ship and send him off to what proves to be destination unknown. A paradisian world was the initial choice but since this is a comic book story, of course the trajectory gets altered in-flight, causing Banner's gamma radiation-intensive alter ego to become the newest inhabitant of a savage land known as Sakaar.

Over the course of his journey through this new land, he encounters several different races, making enemies of several while befriending a handful who become Warbound. That's a fictional word that basically means BFFs with swords who enjoy decapitating strangers together. Hulk also enrages the king of the land and winds up doing a more violent version of the Dave and Maddie routine from Moonlighting with a warrior with the way over the top name of Caiera the Oldstrong. Note that the romantic angle is dialed down quite a bit from the graphic novel and in fact varies at several key points. Presumably, there were licensing issues with the usage of characters such as The Silver Surfer that required swapping out for more easily available ones from Thor's Asgardian collection of buddies. Similarly, some tragic events from the graphic novel also did not get translated to the movie. This may bother purists, but it's great news for parents who want to shield their children from extreme violence. I should note to them that there is one moment in the film where you will want your child to look away. When Caiera holds a little girl she is trying to save, that's the point you should show Junior something shiny instead.

Despite the changes, Planet Hulk works quite well as an animated film. The world is lushly detailed and the storyline lends itself well to gripping visuals. There have been several other recent animated movie releases from Marvel as well as DC Comics that offered satisfactory storytelling for the most part, particularly the first Avengers movie and Wonder Woman. Planet Hulk is easily the best of its kind to date, though.

I would highly recommend it for the story alone, but the Blu Ray disc includes several other features that had me captivated for hours during a busy work week wherein I had very little free time for such distractions. Of particular note is the inclusion of a couple of recent motion comics, Marvel's attempt to blur the line between books and animated films. Spider-Woman and Astonishing X-Men have full episodes included and while I found them rather off-putting, I'm told that this style of storytelling is considered the next big thing in the industry. Also, an episode of Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, one fittingly enough including The Hulk, is also included as are several making of Planet Hulk featurettes, audio commentaries and a couple of music videos. It's a great Blu Ray package and it also includes a digital copy for those of you like me who want your media to be portable as we move forward into the iPad era. Planet Hulk is an 8 out of 10 and a movie I would have bought if our friends at the PR company hadn't mailed us a review copy.