In the Marvel Animated feature Planet Hulk (adapted from Marvel Comics storyline of the same name) the Green Goliath has been banished from earth by a superhero collective known as the Illuminati, who have grown weary of his destructive rampages. The Illuminati trick Hulk into boarding a shuttle that will carry him to a Planet where he will no longer be a threat to himself or others.
Upon realizing what has transpired, Hulk flies into a rage and smashes the cockpit to pieces. This sends the ship off course and crashes it on the Planet Sakaar. The Hulk is quickly captured and forced to fight as a gladiator for the pleasure of the Red King and the people being oppressed under his tyrannical rule. The Hulk’s displays of awesome strength and unbridled rage on the battle field make him a champion of the people, much to the chagrin of the Red King.
Though Lionsgate has yet to produce a feature that truly transcends the world of straight to DVD superhero cartoons, they have undoubtedly maintained a level of consistency. Planet Hulk benefits from its science fantasy setting and the portrayal of the Hulk as a reluctant and rather disgruntled hero. These qualities help the project to stand out from previous offerings from Marvel Animation.
The character designs are simplistic, incorporating angular shapes, with no complex or highly detailed images in the characters and landscapes. This isn’t expensive animation with high frame rates, but the creative team makes the most of their relatively limited resources. The overall quality is consistent; never detracting from the story or the action.
The action sequences are gloriously over the top and allow for a level of violence not normally associated with superhero cartoons. Bladed weapons slice flesh, severe limbs and impale combatants. Fists impact skulls with bone shattering force. Blood trickles from mouths and spatters in droplets on the battle field. Such elements are used sparingly and are never gratuitous; mostly meant to punctuate the savagery of Sakaar.
The story places Hulk in a rather unusual predicament, especially for those who are used to previous television and film incarnations of the character. He isn’t being chased by the military, nor is he simply a fearsome monster that lays waste to anything in his path. We are not meant to like or sympathize with him (this is helped by the fact that Bruce Banner never makes an appearance).
Planet Hulk offers us an antihero that isn’t simply a living, breathing incarnation of a meek scientists repressed rage. He is allowed to speak in full sentences as opposed to roars and growls. Voice actor Rick D. Wasserman’s monotone delivery underlines Hulks belligerent and self centered nature. He cares only about breaking out of captivity and being left to his own devices. He wants to be left alone.
Planet Hulk surrounds the title character with a gallery of colorful supporting players, each with their own internal and external dilemmas. Though the running time doesn’t allow for any of this to be explored with depth, we get just enough information to involve us in the story. Kevin Michael Richardson infuses the rock-like Korg with a gravelly rasp that suits his appearance. Mark Hildreth plays the Red King as a pampered and petulant man-child, concerned only with maintaining his iron-fisted rule.
Planet Hulk proves to be a credible adaptation of the popular storyline as well as an entertaining Battle Royale on its on terms. It gives us all of the fights and destruction we have come to expect, but also an off-beat scenario which allows a character who is usually portrayed as the id personified to be a hero and liberator (albeit unintentionally and reluctantly). Planet Hulk proves an intriguing “Twilight Zone” style entry into the Marvel Animation cannon.
Out of 5
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