Sunday, January 24, 2010
After reading the first page of the comic there, you've got basically all the setup you need to enjoy the trade paperback collection of PLANET HULK by Greg Pak, which collects the entire epic tale as first printed in INCREDIBLE HULK #92-105 (2006-2007). The film can be enjoyed with or without reading the comic first, but I'd recommend the original book because it is very worthwhile reading.
The animated film begins in roughly the same way as the original story, except you'll notice that it's Tony Stark (IRON MAN) delivering the farewell speech to Bruce instead of Reed Richards (MR. FANTASTIC). This is because the Marvel animated line is trying to build a connection with the live action movie series leading up to the AVENGERS movie.
Also included in the opening is a segment with one of the Saka priests praying for the arrival of the Sakaarson (messiah) to come and unite the planet. As if in answer to his prayer, he witnesses Hulk's ship enter through a wormhole and crash-land on the planet (!). Hulk's role as the prophesied deliverer is not quite as explicit in the book.
Surviving the crash, Hulk is attacked by a group of the planet's natives (which resemble cockroach-people). Before he can finish dealing with them, they are interrupted by some soldiers sent to claim Hulk as property for the Red King. When Hulk tries to attack the soldiers, he gets shot with an obedience chip and shocked into submission. When he wakes up, he's in a transport ship heading to the King's coliseum, where he'll be forced to fight in deadly gladiator games for spectator's amusement. It's briefly explained that Hulk is somewhat weaker on this planet (but he's still "the strongest there is").
Hulk is fully preoccupied with escape rather than combat, but after a few early casualties, Hulk rescues the other slaves from a giant tentacled alien. He then attempts to attack the Red King directly, but in his weakened condition, he fails miserably. Despite qualifying for execution for an attempt on the monarch's life, Hulk is spared because the Red King finds him intriguing and entertaining.
Back in their cell, the surviving fighters agree to becoming "warbound", making a pact to fight together as brothers for their mutual well-being. As part of the bonding process, they tell one another a little of their backgrounds.
HIROIM reveals himself to be a former Saka priest who shamed himself by refusing to worship the Red King.
Thor makes a cameo in KORG's flashback story, as it's revealed that him and his brothers had fought the thunder god at some point in the past before they too had crashed on Sakaar.
MIEK and ELLOE's stories are not told (although they are in the book). Also missing from this animated version is the other warbound slave, a member of the BROOD species (which may be because of an upcoming X-MEN film, I'm guessing).
The second day of the games finds our group of heroes facing a number of various killing robots, the worst of which is a gigantic robot snake called the "egg breaker".
Miraculously, our gang survives (mostly because of the Hulk's efforts) and are then returned for the next night in their cells. During this night, Hulk is visited by CAIERA, the king's guard, who offers Hulk a bargain for his freedom, which he flatly refuses. Hulk instead prefers to earn his freedom in the arena.
Of course, freedom ain't free, and what the warbound group has to face on the third and final day of battle proves to be their very toughest opponent. A being of nearly unlimited cosmic power that seems to have no weaknesses at all. Even if you've read the comics, you'll be surprised as it's a different character altogether (once again, for reasons I assume are connected to the live action movies).
I thoroughly enjoyed this cartoon. Granted, they changed quite a few things here and there, but it really wasn't much when you take into consideration that the movie is always going to be different. They didn't change enough to ruin the story for me, anyways.
My main gripe is that it seems a little too short. It ends the story much sooner than Greg Pak's original and feels open-ended. Perhaps that's a good thing since I'm not against seeing the sequel (WORLD WAR HULK) adapted for animation as a follow up to this.
For people with smaller children, you might consider watching this yourself first as there is quite a bit of graphic violence. Overall, I give it ★★★★★ , very entertaining and faithful to the source material. Totally worth a rental.
There are bonuses for the more hardcore Marvel maniacs as well. Watch closely during the crowd scenes for Skrulls and some other aliens. For those that will purchase it instead of renting, there's a whole batch of other special features that'll hopefully give you your money's worth.
♠Actors: Kevin Michael Richardson, Mark Hildreth, Liam O'Brien, Marc Worden, Rick D. Wasserman
♠Writers: Greg Pak
♠Producers: Joshua Fine
♠Format: AC-3, Animated, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
♠Subtitles: English, Spanish
♠Number of discs: 2
♠Studio: Lions Gate
♠DVD Release Date: February 2, 2010
♠Run Time: 81 minutes
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