Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Planet Hulk" (2010)

Starring Rick D. Wasserman, Lisa Ann Beley and Mark Hildreth
Written by Greg Johnson
Directed by Sam Liu
Not Rated - Violence
Running Time: 81 Minutes

When Earth's heroes decide that the Hulk (Rick D. Wasserman) is simply too dangerous to keep around, they lock him into a spaceship and fire him off toward an uninhabited world where he can live out the rest of his time in peace.  Unfortunately, when he awakens and discovers what's happened to him, his violent outburst sends the ship off-course and he crash-lands on a dangerous world ruled by the ruthless Red King (Mark Hildreth).

Captured and sold into slavery, the Hulk is forced to do battle in the gladiatorial arena for the entertainment of the king.  He bonds with his fellow slaves, Hiroim (Liam O'Brien), Korg (Kevin Michael Richardson), Miek (Samuel Vincent), Elloe (Advah Soudack) and Android (Lee Tockar).  To everyone's surprise, the group is able to best their opponents in the arena, and people begin to believe that the vicious Hulk may be the Sakaarson - a prophesied warrior who would bring an end to tyranny on their world.

But the Red King has no intention of allowing the Hulk or his friends to survive, no matter the rules or laws of the land.  His faithful servant and assassin Caiera (Lisa Ann Beley) will do whatever it takes to make sure the Hulk can't threaten her king, but as the Red King grows more desperate, she soon begins to realize that perhaps she's on the wrong side of this conflict.

I watched "Planet Hulk" with some trepidation.  I am not a fan of the comic book storyline it is based on.  Greg Pak's fantastic premise was sullied by poor writing and confusing artwork.  And the ending of the book was the sort of 'twist' that kind of makes everything that preceded it pointless in order to simply move the story forward in another direction.  Sloppy.

The movie, on the other hand, being constrained by an 80-minute runtime is forced to be sleeker and more to the point, which is to its benefit.  The numerous side stories that kept the comic going off course don't pop up here.

That said, it's still not that great of a movie, even if it is one of the rare times when the movie is better than the source material.  There's no Bruce Banner in this film; the Hulk is his big, green, angry self the entire time.  Now, I'm familiar with the comics so I know that this was actually the status quo for the character for quite some time.  Those less familiar, who only know the movies or TV series, will likely be confused as to why this is happening.  Shouldn't he only become the Hulk when he's angry? they'll ask.  The movie gives no answers to this question (though, neither did the comics, but that's because it had been that way for years already).

There are stretches of the film that are just boring.  The cast isn't particularly great, neither is the animation, which is mostly rather choppy and not very detailed.  Some of the battle sequences are decent enough and entertaining, but nothing in "Planet Hulk" is likely to blow you away.  Some of the twists and turns in the plot are interesting, but ultimately it just feels kind of meandering.  The Hulk takes far too long to realize that he actually gives a crap about people and then they suddenly make him their king.  It's a little awkward.

There are some great moments, though, that make the entire movie worthwhile.  In one scene, small creatures called 'Spikes' begin to infect an entire village.  Caiera is holding a young child in her arms to protect the girl when the Red King drops a bomb on the village to eradicate the infestation (and the Hulk) - Caiera survives the blast, but the girl doesn't, and Caiera ends up holding a pile of ash in her arms and weeping.  It's one of the few openly emotional moments in the film that really works.

All in all, "Planet Hulk" is better than its source material, but still not that great.  It's an entertaining diversion, but there are better Hulk flicks out there.  With smoother animation and better writing, this one could have been gold.  But like the comic, it gets bogged down in execution and the premise is never quite done justice.