Our road to Ragnarok concludes with an adventure which doesn’t feature Thor but still provides a great deal of material and inspiration for the forthcoming MCU movie: “Planet Hulk”.
With the Hulk’s rampages becoming more and more dangerous, the Illuminati decided to exile Hulk to a peaceful, barren world in a spacecraft. However, the Hulk awakens before the ship reaches its destination and, in his rage, damages its guidance systems causing it to crash on the planet Sakaar. Temporarily weakened by the crash, the Hulk is captured by the Imperial Guards, fitted with an obedience disk and forced to fight in gladiatorial combat for the amusement and entertainment of the Red King.
There’s no sign of Banner in this adaptation of the popular comic book storyline. Hulk is present at the beginning and never changes back. As such, this handsomely animated movie feels a lot like a Hulkified spin on “John Carter”, replete with prophecies, romance and a noble cause.
While it’s definitely a good story, there’s not much about it which feels intrinsically ‘Hulk’ – there are half a dozen heroes which could be the lead character in this movie and it wouldn’t shift the narrative a tiny bit. In the comics, of course, this adventure famously led straight into “World War Hulk” but the movie stops short of the cataclysmic coda from the comics which set up the sequel, instead ending on a very “Star Wars”-esque standing triumphantly in front of a panoramic window scene.
The action, and there is plenty, is well choreographed and, like “Hulk Vs”, the animators make the most of their direct to DVD freedom to be more brutal and bloody than they would otherwise be allowed in a TV cartoon. Although the storyline is almost solely focussed on Hulk, there’s still room for some cameos from the wider Marvel Universe. Iron Man is the one who delivers the bad news to Hulk that he’s being exiled, while Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic and Black Bolt lurk behind him in the shadows. If you keep your eyes peeled, Adam Warlock, Star-Lord, Gamora all appear in the crowds at the gladiator battles, as does the Grandmaster who will make his MCU debut in “Thor: Ragnarok” played by Jeff Goldblum. The main Marvel guest star is Beta Ray Bill, replacing the Silver Surfer of the original comic due to rights issues and making his own animated movie debut.
The voice performances are good and the animation is of a high standard, but in a way this story’s reputation precedes it as the Hulk storyline which deserves to be turned into a movie and I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s not that it’s bad or boring in any way just that it’s derivative of a lot of things which have come before, most notably the aforementioned “John Carter and Gladiator”. On the plus side, though, that means it’s ripe for reinvention and reinterpretation to fit into the MCU and Thor’s “Ragnarok” storyline, which means it’s the perfect place to end our road to Ragnarok and get ready for the real thing.