Review: Planet Hulk Animated Feature

Iíll get right to it - Planet Hulk is very good. I was able to attend a special screening of the new Planet Hulk animated feature at the Paley Center in NYC and this movie is so good, actually, that Iíll certainly purchase it to see it again when itís released on February 2nd.

Right out of the gate, pardon the pun, the story moves along with a solid pace. Director Sam Liu delivers great action from the very beginning well through to the end of the film. I was very glad to see that the action doesnít hold back, and gets kind of violent as it rightfully should, justifying that these animated features tell the stories Marvel canít tell on a Saturday morning. The fights between Hulk and his opponents are very satisfying and shockingly bloody at times, getting some great cheers and reactions from the audience.

I thought Planet Hulkís story was very engaging. There are some great character moments specifically with Caiera, the Red Kingís lieutenant, that resonate. She gets has a great backstory and, personally, has some of the most emotional and effective character beats in the whole film. Hulk and others do get some great character development as well, but Caiera definitely gets the richest moments.

Iíll admit that Iím familiar with the Planet Hulk storyline in the comics but never actually read it. I knew the basic premise going into this film, yes. but for the most part I didnít know the actual story. Iím glad I came into the movie without having read the comics beforehand. First off, thereís a couple very cool surprises in the story, surprises that Iím not about to reveal. If youíve read the comics you might know what Iím alluding to, but the less said the better. I was very pleasantly surprised and suddenly enthused with the movie when those couple surprises came along, one of which plays a key role in the film and is pretty neat.

Seeing the previews prior to viewing the film, I was slightly turned off by Hulk being thrown into a Gladiator scenario admittedly. Having seen the film now, I can assure that all the ďGladiator-ishĒ stuff in the film doesnít feel tired or boring as I feared it would. Actually, the whole film doesnít take place solely in a gladiator arena, and actually mixes things up really nicely, showing a variety of beautifully designed locales and interiors on the alien planet that Hulkís finds himself on.

Greg Johnson did a great job writing the script. Aside from the aforementioned surprises I mentioned earlier that I wonít spoil, Johnson does a great job bringing up some unexpected moments and manages to shock you within the context of the story. Itís a straightforward story, but told skillfully, knowing when to throw in a twist to jostle the viewer.

In terms of voice work in Planet Hulk, Rick D. Wasserman voices Hulk and does a pretty good job. Some of his delivery in the film comes off a bit silly, but that might also be due to some admittedly goofy dialogue. Hulk dishes out more quips than you might be used to hearing from him in other films. The rest of the voice acting is very solid and basically what youíd expect from Marvelís previous films. Samuel Vincentís voice work on the alien Miek, who looks very similar to Zorak from Space Ghost, really makes that character very likeable, getting some great laughs and reactions from the audience. It was very apparent the audience grew to really like him as much as I did as the movie progressed.

In terms of the animation itself, itís provided by overseas studio Madhouse with assistance from DR Movie and MOI Animation. The animation in the film is very solid. Itís extremely consistent and stays reliably on model, unlike Hulk Vs. Wolverine which seemed to deviate off-model toward the end of that feature.

The overall design of the film is what youíd expect from Frank Paur, whoís continued to deliver some beautifully art-directed films. This movie has some really fantastic background paintings, and has some of the best background designs of any of Marvelís animated features. The planet of Sakaar is just beautiful to look at, and never gets stale or boring, making it a considerable achievement given the plethora of repetitive alien worlds seen in so many different media.

The character designs arenít as distinct and slick as Steve Gordonís work in Ultimate Avengers or Jeff Matsudaís with Hulk Vs. Wolverine, but itís still very good. The film offers up some very cool alien and robot designs, serving up some well-executed sci-fi designs in that regard. Having said that, this film doesnít really offer any regular character design work that feels fresh and different, but rather looks very similar to what weíre used to seeing in direct to video animated features over the years.

Overall, the filmís story is so strong that it makes me want to rush out and read the original comics to see what Planet Hulk comic scribe Greg Pak had done initially. The real selling point to the film for me rests on the fact that it tells a very strong story. It has an abundance of action and set pieces, yes, but manages to fit all that deftly into a really well put together story. For comparisonís sake, I would definitely rate this above Invincible Iron Man and Dr. Strange, and even above Ultimate Avengers II: Rise of the Panther and Next Avengers. It manages to combine the great pace of Next Avengers and deliver on some the heavy subject matter that definitely earns the filmís PG-13 rating, much like Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and Hulk Vs.

Without doubt, Planet Hulk comes Highly Recommended. There are times when this doesnít feel like a Marvel movie, given the setting and the fact that sometimes the movie focuses on characters besides the Hulk, but thatís okay. The story is so strong, and it delivers the Incredible Hulk and some other surprises so faithfully and satisfyingly, that I did not mind. Showing a Hulk that we havenít really seen before, Planet Hulk is honestly one of the most satisfying Marvel animated features that Iíve seen to date.

-screw on head
for Marvel Animation Age

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