Marvel Comics character the Incredible Hulk has been revered and reviled throughout his 40+ year history. He is a force to be reckoned with and the madder he gets, the stronger he gets. There have been several incarnations of the Hulk, which include a grey Hulk who was weaker but more cunning, the child-like Hulk who flew off the handle at little things, and my favorite version which combined the best of the Hulk and Bruce Banner in which the Hulk had the body and strength of the green Goliath, and the intelligence and cunning of Banner.
Over the years various denizens of the Marvel universe have found ways to get the Hulk out of the universe for a little while. One such instance occurred when the villain known as Nightmare took away the Hulk’s mind, leaving him just a snarling brute and Doctor Strange found an uninhabited dimension to move him to. Eventually the Hulk got his mind back and returned to the Marvel universe. The Hulk being too dangerous for Earth has been a reoccurring theme and Planet Hulk, which ran from issues 92 through 105 in 2006-2007 and was written by Greg Pak with art by Carlo Pagulayan and Aaron Lopresti, was the most recent telling of that chestnut and is the most recent direct-to-DVD film from Marvel Studios.
In Planet Hulk the Hulk wakes up to find himself on a spaceship with a message from Iron Man telling him he’s too dangerous for the Earth and it’s been decided he’s to be exiled. A planet has been located free of life, where the Hulk will do no more harm to anyone. This infuriates the Hulk and he breaks free of his shackles and starts smashing the ship. This causes the computer to malfunction and the Hulk ends up crashing on the planet Sakaar, which is ruled by the malevolent Red King. Before he realizes what is happening, the Hulk is sold into slavery as a gladiator and forced to compete in tournaments.
The Hulk should be in his element — he gets to smash and bash to his heart’s content, but due to passing through a wormhole, he’s not at full strength and can be wounded! Not only that, since he’s in constant danger Banner can’t emerge either (and he is absent from the film) and give advice. During his time he meets numerous gladiators including the Kronan Korg, a rock-like creature, Miek, who is an outcast on Sakaar, resistance members, and more. The gladiators ban together and the people rally behind them, which infuriates the Red King who needs to stop them before he loses control, especially since the rules state if a gladiator wins three bouts, he gains his freedom. If that happens the Hulk and his crew could challenge the Red King for control of the planet, and most likely the people would follow.
Throughout the movie we learn the history of the gladiators, including how ruthless and manipulative the Red King can be. Planet Hulk ends on a positive note for the jaded gladiator, which is a rarity for him and we could easily see a sequel somewhere down the line.
I’m an avid comic book reader and loved the Planet Hulk saga when it was a year+ story in The Incredible Hulk. Adaptations can be hit or miss; so did the DVD of Planet Hulk succeed in adapting over 400 pages of story? The answer is YES! Some scenes, like the setup of the Hulk getting onto the ship and being exiled which were part of a four-issue arc just before issue 92, were cut, as were some characters in the arena, but when you only have 81 minutes some things have to go. In fact there’s a pivotal scene in the comic with the Silver Surfer that had to be changed due to legal reasons. Producers had to either cut the scene entirely or come up with a suitable replacement; they chose the latter and used Beta Ray Bill who is another cosmic character that replaced Thor for a time in his comic and actually worked even better than imagined.
Planet Hulk is packed with extras. There are two commentary tracks; the first is with supervising producer Joshua Fine and screenwriter Greg Johnson, the second is with director Sam Liu, character designer Philip Bourassa, and key background painter Steve Nicodemus. The commentary with Fine and Johnson is a bit livelier and more interesting than the other one, but both cover many aspects of adapting the comic to film, what changes had to occur and for what reasons (some were legal reasons, while other had to do with having a limited running time).
“A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk” is a behind the scenes featurette that discusses what it took to make the latest Marvel direct to DVD film.
“Let the Smashing Commence!: The Saga of Planet Hulk” has Planet Hulk author Greg Pak and artist Aaron Lopresti discussing the Planet Hulk storyline as it occurred in the comic, as well as how Pak got the job on the title and what Lopresti liked about drawing it.
There’s also the episode “Wolverine vs. Hulk” from the Wolverine and the X-Men series which was a sequel to the last marvel DVD Hulk VS.
Also included is the opening sequence for the next Marvel DVD Thor: Tales of Asgard which looks to be yet another hit in Marvel’s direct to DVD franchise.
Rounding out the extras are two motion comics previously available only on the Internet. There’s Astonishing X-Men: Gifted which is an adaptation of the smash series Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassiday from several years ago, and Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev who are currently working on the Spider-Woman series as well. Both also come with a music video for their motion comic.
Planet Hulk is a great adaptation of the hit storyline, and could easily see another release which would be an adaptation of the smash mini-series World War Hulk which saw the green Goliath make it back to Earth to make those who exiled him pay for what they had done! Hopefully we’ll see that in the next few years.