(Not a) Review of the Planet Hulk Movie

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.

Sledgehammer Romance
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.

Netflix Coming to Wii in Spring 2010

Nintendo has announced that the Netflix movie service will be available for its Wii console this spring. Already available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems, the streaming movie service has been one of the most popular non-gaming features on consoles. Now it will be available on the most popular console in the world. Today’s press release stated:

Netflix is scheduled to go live on the Wii console this spring in the United States at no additional cost to Netflix members who have a plan starting at $8.99 a month, a Wii console and a broadband Internet connection.

I’m curious to see how Netflix will do on the Wii. Obviously the installed base is enormous, but I wonder how many casual gamers even have their systems connected to the Internet. For enthusiasts gamers that have multiple consoles, there’s no reason to use the service on the visually challenged (but environmentally friendly *snicker*) console; they’d be better of using the PS3 or Xbox 360 for a superior image. I’m sure Netflix will do well on the system, but I’m not sure how well.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Today’s Poll: The Next Spider-Man

Now that Tobey Maguire is out of Spider-Man 4 and the franchise is apparently headed for a reboot, let’s think about the perfect actor to play the spectacular amazing Spider-Man. Sony’s Columbia Pictures plans to focus on Spidey’s teen years, so the actor should be young and awkward. A lot of people have been throwing Zac Efron’s name around, but he’s too handsome. While I don’t know how athletic he is (all the cool stuff is done in CG anyway), I’m a big Michael Cera fan. He’d bring out the science nerd side of Peter Parker in a way that Maguire never could.

Who’s your choice for Spidey? Let me know in the poll (please)!

[poll id=”19″]

Coffee Talk #62: The Videogame Movie of Your Dreams

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, those amazing Cardinals, Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium, or your favorite CES 2010 gadget, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Videogame movies…so many of them are embarrassing. Whether you’re talking about Uwe Boll’s numerous offenses, Raul Julia going out with a psycho crusher in Street Fighter, or Dead or Alive sucking despite having some truly beautiful women running around half-naked for 90 minutes, movies based on videogames haven’t been the best.

Some gamers don’t see the point. Games are a form of interactive storytelling, so why do they need a linear and traditional way to tell a story? Doesn’t that take away the uniqueness of the medium? I’m all for videogame movies, just like I support videogame books, comics, lunch boxes, etc. If it helps expand the world of a game I enjoy and expand the business in general, that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the execution if often…off.

Today I wanted to ask you about the videogame movie that’s playing in your head. What gaming franchise to you want to see on the big screen? Do you have any actors or actresses you want to attach to your dream project? Kindly channel your inner director and tell me all about the videogame movie you want (please)!

Ron Jeremy Says Videogames are Worse Than Porn for Kids

Speaking at “The Great Porn Debate” panel at CES 2010, sponsored by InternetSafety.com, adult actor Ron Jeremy said that videogames are worse for children than porn. The man known as The Hedgehog declared:

We don’t want kids to watch porn. [Studies have] found that violent video games are much bigger a negative influence on kids.

Connoisseurs of adult movies might remember that Jeremy starred in a Super Mario Bros. parody called Super Hornio Brothers. (Would that make this a case of biting the schlong that feeds you?) While it’s annoying that another public figure is denouncing videogames, Jeremy’s comments will be unfairly dismissed simply because of his profession.


Random Stocking Stuffer Suggestion: Chocolate (DVD/Blu-ray)

If you’re still doing some holiday shopping for the wonderful people in your life, here’s a random suggestion: Chocolate. This Thai action movie has a cute premise and some of the best fighting sequences I’ve seen in years. It’s directed by Ong Bak’s Prachya Pinkaew and stars newcomer Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda. The young lady pulls of some truly awesome stunts and her fight scenes are phenomenal. Plus, the outtakes show you the relatively dangerous conditions action movies from third-world countries are made in — it’s kinda nuts.

The fight scenes pay tribute to telegenic martial arts greats like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. If you want to give the gift of action or the gift of an autistic girl on a quest for revenge…ah forget the jokes — Chocolate is just awesome! Hit the break for another fight scene. I’d love to hear what you think of these clips.

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Get Your Avatar Books, Action Figures, and T-Shirts!

James Cameron’s Avatar is going to conquer the universe this week. While I’m still not sold on the movie, there’s no denying that this thing is going to be huge. You’re all aware of the movie and the videogames by Ubi Soft, but here are some other Avatar products you might not be aware of.

Avatar…the Books!

If you want to prep for the movie then you ought to consider curling up with Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide and The Art of Avatar: James Cameron’s Epic Adventure. The former offers more information on the unique world of Pandora. The latter features all sorts of images from the flick. Again, Cameron totally lost me during his three-hour soliloquy at E3 2009, but the visuals in this movie are amazing, so I’m actually kind of interested in the art book.

Avatar book

Avatar…the Action Figures!

Any sci-fi movie worth a damn has action figures, but Avatar takes it a step further by implementing some interesting web-cam connectivity. Here’s the official word and a photo:

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