Films often have that one scene that defines the entire work. In Planet Hulk, that scene comes in the First Act, when Hulk is fighting Sakaar’s Red King and nearly gets killed. As Hulk lies in the dirt, bleeding out, we briefly see a monster with the vulnerability of Bruce Banner. Banner is nowhere to be seen in this film, but Planet Hulk is nevertheless concerned with showing us the Hulk’s cowardice. And over the course of the film, his experiences overcoming the past molds him into the people’s champion.
Bursting with colorful animation and stellar voice acting, the film is a true feast for the eyes. But problems do arise with the plotting and character development in Greg Johnson’s script. The entire film feels abbreviated, even by movie standards. Backstory is reduced to exposition and logic hoops that spoil plot points before they’re even allowed to develop. The Red King is one-note and his motivations lacking. Caiera’s powers are barely hinted at and mostly left to the imagination or Deus Ex Machina. Korg has the most robust backstory of the supporting cast, but even he falls kinda flat. Meik is cool, though; the slavery and racism allegory works for his character, and he winds up with the most character growth of anyone besides Hulk.
Sam Liu’s direction is sharp, though not quite as dynamic as his work on Justice League: Gods and Monsters. It feels like the budget was smaller this time, and that’s evident in certain events occurring off-screen and only being heard in the sound mix.
Planet Hulk is a smashing experience for the Marvel completionist. But if you’re just a fan looking for a compelling Hulk movie, spend your dollars on the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead.
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