The following article contains spoilers on the Planet Hulk movie. You’ve been warned, so no crying. Now let’s get to it! Last night I caught a screening of Planet Hulk at the Paley Center for Media. For those of you not familiar with Planet Hulk, let me try to sum it up. The Marvel Illuminati hatch a plot to get Hulk off of Earth. Iron Man — in all of his Civil War dickishness — is worried about Hulk losing control and killing millions. After plotting with Nick Fury to subdue the Hulk, the “heroes” place him in a spaceship and send him to an uninhabited planet. Unfortunately, a wormhole takes him to the world of Sakaar, where a perilous adventure, peace, and tragedy await.
I’m a huge fan of the Planet Hulk comics (written by the excellent Greg Pak), but I was more than a little worried about how the epic tale would translate into an 80-minute move. As expected, a lot of the details and subplots that made the comics so great were lost in translation. What’s left is a violent romp that’s certainly entertaining, but pales in comparison to the source material. Here are some thoughts and observations (not a review) on the movie.
The Silver Surfer is Replaced with…Beta Ray Bill?!?
In the comics, Hulk faces off against an enslaved Silver Surfer in the Red King’s gladiator arena. The fight comes off as a gargantuan affair between two beings with enough power to destroy planets. Furthermore, they’re both — to various extents — iconic characters. It’s a clash of the titans! Sadly, this could not happen in the movie. From what I understand, legal issues prevented the Silver Surfer from being used. It’s part of the game and I accept that…but Marvel couldn’t think of anyone better to use than Beta Ray Bill?
There are several problems with Bill being used. Few fans will believe that he can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk. Furthermore, a lot of people don’t know who the hell he is. I can see a lot of viewers thinking that Thor got drunk, slept with a horse, and gave birth to a boy named Bill.
Miek Gets Squashed
When the Warbound make their pact, only Hiroim and Korg tell their back stories. Miek never gets to reveal his background. In fact, Miek never gets to do much of anything in the movie. This is a shame because he’s an interesting character that goes through several changes in the comics. The subplots with his queen and his transformation were great. They gave him depth and purpose. In the movie he’s just a bug thingie that talks like Gollum and gives Hulk a medal.
Savior Aspect Not Played Up
In the books, the people of Sakaar eventually think that Hulk’s there to save the world. He’s shown uniting people with his actions. His blood transforms barren deserts into lush fields. He saves the planet by jumping into its core and pulling together its tectonic plates. Eventually, he becomes a messianic figure. This isn’t really conveyed in the movies. Hulk is a guy the beats up a lot of other guys and his blood only results in sprouts.
The relationship between Hulk and Caiera was a slow burn in the comics. Early on they exchange looks and one-liners. They fight. They grow to respect each other as warriors. They fight some more. After getting to understand one another, they respect each other as people. They become allies. In the end, they become lovers. The movie didn’t have any of the subtlety of the books. The two pretty much fight, become allies, and *bam* Caiera is feeling Hulk up. It was almost jarring.
The Movie Ended the Right Way
Fans that read the comics or graphic novel know that Planet Hulk starts and ends on down notes. The movie doesn’t. It ends with Hulk seemingly appointed ruler of Sakaar (through violence…what a lovely lesson to teach kids), adored by the people and with Caiera ready to get it on. It’s a happy ending for the Green Goliath and I totally agree with what the writers did here. It’s like the main event of WrestleMania — the good guy has to win. You have to send the audience home happy. I know that some purists will scoff at the happy ending, but I believe this was the right thing to do for casual fans. You don’t want people to watch the movie, get depressed, read The Bell Jar, and go kill themselves.
I also have a bunch of shorter, bite-sized observations and opinions on Planet Hulk (that still don’t constitute a review). Here they are:
Awesome Action — You get to see the Hulk break a lot of stuff, smash a lot of stuff, and punch a lot of stuff. You even get to see him squish a bug-like alien to death. There’s a lot of action and violence in this movie…and it’s so much fun. Hulk smash!!!
Unimpressive Art — There was nothing distinct or special about the animation. The art was drab, especially in comparison to the excellent comics. Newcomers might not notice it, but fans of the books will be displeased.
Thor Unleashed — The writers added a few minutes of Thor fighting Korg’s people in a flashback sequence. This was only a couple of panels in the books. The animated action was pretty cool. Beta Ray Bill was slapped into this sequence to give his inclusion a sense of continuity.
Johnny Sakaarson — In my head, the term Sakaarson is pronounced Sakaar-sun. In the movie it’s rushed together so that it sounds like one quick word, as in The Tonight Show with Johnny Sakaarson. It’s a stupid peeve, but it definitely bothered me.
No Bruce Banner Scenes — Reverting to Banner plays an important part in Hulk’s romance with Caiera, but it’s also a vital part of the character. Never mind that there are like 17 Hulks in current continuity. The Hulk is all about duality. Not having Banner as the Hulk’s “other side” seemed wrong.
No No-Name — Warbound member No-Name of the Brood is nowhere to be found in the movie. This is a shame because she comes from an awesome race and gets jiggy with Miek. Not only did the writers strip away all of Miek’s depth, they also took away his sexy time. Poor Miek.
Warbound Incomplete — I mentioned pieces of this already, but you don’t get the complete Warbound experience in the movie. Aside from No-name’s absence, Elloe and Miek do not reveal their background. There was a point in the screening where I thought I passed out for a few minutes. Hiroim and Korg told there stories, Elloe was about to tell hers, and *blam* the next scene happens. I seriously thought that I blacked out and missed a few minutes of the movie. On the plus side, the two origins that were used were well done.
No Racism — One of the most interesting dynamics on Sakaar is between the pink humanoids and the bug guys. The bugs are used by slaves or servants by some of the pinks. The racial tension is palpable, which makes Hulk uniting the planet even more remarkable. This isn’t conveyed in the movie.
Lame Cylon Joke — The movie has an android fighting alongside the Warbound. It’s there for like two minutes before it dies. It mutters, “Oh frak!” before kicking the bucket. I would have preferred No-name or nothing at all over this quickie joke.
Invulnerable Hair — There’s a scene where the Red King is repelling Hulk with a blowtorch-like weapon. Miraculously, Hulk’s hair doesn’t burn off. I suppose gamma-irradiated hair is super strong, but if the flame was powerful enough to keep Hulk at bay for a few seconds then shouldn’t it have burned his hair off?
Caiera the Sexy — In the comics, Caiera the Oldstrong is a large and powerful woman. She’s thick and muscular in a beautiful way. The artists made her cute and dainty in the movie. This doesn’t work at all. Hulk would destroy the movie version of Caiera in bed.
Even though I have a lot of issues with the changes and omissions in the movie, I think a lot of people will enjoy it. The action is great, the skeleton plot works well enough, and the pace is peppy. If you’ve read the books then you’re sure to have issues with the movie. In fact, the more you enjoyed the source material, the bigger your issues will be…unless you realize that there’s only so much you can do in 80 minutes. In that context, the writers did a good job of highlighting key moments of the comics in a severely limited format. There are so many things that I wish were included, but I understand why they weren’t.
At the end of the day my suggestion is to buy the graphic novel and rent the movie.