PicturePlanet Hulk bashes its way to Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's natural 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The animation is certainly not the most advanced in style, sometimes looking like a throwback to the 80s Hulk cartoon, whilst at other times it looks superb, offering up well-drawn characters on CGI-designed backdrops. Unfortunately the CG is used very sparsely, leaving the rest of the animation as an average but far from exemplary visual offering. Detail varies - again depending largely on the use of CG - with line detail faltering and colours bleeding occasionally. The colour scheme itself is broad and lavish, everything from the space-age shuttle holograms to the various exciting locales on the alien planet coming across well, particularly on the superior background designs. Black levels are good and there are no noticeable defects, but this is still the kind of video presentation that you would have expected over a decade ago - by today's standards it is one of the less grand-looking animated movies out there.
SoundAlthough boasting a DTS-HD 7.1 track, honestly, this is not the kind of material that was ever likely to push the boundaries of High Definition audio potential. Still considering its direct-to-DVD animated movie nature, the track presents the limited material in the best possible way. Dialogue is largely clear and coherent across the duration, although some of the various accents are more muffled than others (the cyborg deaths' head guards are barely comprehensible). Surrounds get a fair amount to do, and whilst the track isn't particularly dynamic, there is enough action to press at you from every angle and keep you immersed - even if it showcases little discernable directionality. Bass is the track's strongest point, and this is such a ground-pounding epic action tale that you are likely to feel your living room rumbling several times during the movie. Whilst not a subtle, skilfully crafted mix, the track makes up for it with punch, which is probably what you need for a Hulk tale.
First up we get an Audio Commentary with the Supervising Producer Joshua Fine and the Screenwriter Greg Johnson, who talk about the story concepts, the changes made to the original comic story and characters and how they brought this epic tale to the animated movie realm. It's a solid offering, but we also get a second Commentary with the Director Sam Liu, the Character Designer Philip Bourassa and the Key Background Painter Steve Nicodemus (who never says anything) which overlaps in far too much of the material. The second track does have more discussions about the animation side of things (rather than the story) but there are too many pregnant pauses and overlaps for them to have really recorded a whole second track. Worse still, the contributors sometimes offer entirely different story background explanations - for example the screenwriter justifies the fact that the Hulk does not transform back to Banner as being because the planet would be toxic to humans. Conversely, the director seems to think that it's because his spaceship was blasted by gamma rays before hitting the planet. Neither explanation is true to the comic (where Hulk was capable of turning back into Banner but, largely, just did not want to) and it is particularly confusing that the Director and Writer have differing ideas about key plot points.
A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk
This Featurette takes 21 minutes to look at how they brought the comic to the small screen, taking an overview on the entire project and how it allowed us to see a different side to the Hulk, then looking in a more detailed fashion at the CG and animated style of key scenes - including the credits sequence - and the voice cast contributions. It was interesting seeing the characters and scenes that were directly ported over, and those that were dropped (complete with shots of the original comic), with them most notably discussing the legal reasons for having to remove the Silver Surfer and the logic behind making this a self-contained story (rather than setting things up for World War Hulk). It's a short but packed Featurette without any filler, and arguably more interesting - and more reliable - than either of the Commentaries.
Let the Smashing Commence: The Saga of Planet Hulk
This is an 11 minute Featurette on the original Planet Hulk comic saga, with contributions from the likes of Greg Pak - the comic's writer, and Aaron Lopresti - the comic's key artist. We hear about how the comic came to fruition, the ideas that were thrown on the table and the saga that evolved, interspliced with plenty of slide-shots from the original book. If you liked Planet Hulk - in either form - this will be a must-see offering.
Previews and Trailers
We get the 4-minute Opening Sequence from the upcoming Marvel animation Thor: Tales of Asgard. With much better animation than Planet Hulk, this tale may not be as interesting (it's kind of like Thor: Origins, with this irritatingly-voiced little boy running around pretending to be the child who will become Thor). The Opening Sequence runs off the back of the extended Trailer for this animated movie.
The Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Motion Comic plays over ten minutes and gives us episode 1 in the comic, which has been brought to life here with slow-moving still images played over an engaging audio narration and score. You've seen the style before - whether in the recent Army of Two: The 40th Day videogame or on those Watchmen animated segments - and, whilst not as engaging as a fully animated movie, it is nonetheless quite refined. This particular Spider-Woman escapade is worth watching but, unfortunately, is all-too brief, not even allowing the titular character to get into her spandex.
The Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Motion Comic does the same for the first chapter in the excellent Joss 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Whedon comic book, The Astonishing X-Men, only with far more animation - this time we get lips moving in synch with the dialogue, rather than just shifting, drifting still images. If you like this 15-minute taster (which features one of the best Cyclops vs. Wolverine confrontations) then you should definitely consider picking up Whedon's collected stories.
The Spider-Woman Music Video is for the dance song Watch Your Step by Dan Phillips, featuring the vocals of Anna Abbey. With plenty of comic shots in it, it probably offers a better glimpse of the Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. graphic novel than the above Motion Comic does, actually showing us the girl in action. As a song, the offering is pretty generic.
The Astonishing X-Men Music Video, Rise Up (by David Ari Leon & Guy Erez and featuring vocals from Bronx Style Bob and Christian Altman) is also quite a nice sampler from the Astonishing X-Men saga but, again, the track itself is nothing special.
Finally we get a bunch of Trailers, including ones for the Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and Hulk Online games, as well as ones for the animated offerings Hulk vs. and Battle for Terra.
VerdictPlanet Hulk is one of the best Hulk stories ever brought to the screen - big or small. It drops the big green angry menace onto a new planet, where he is forced to fight as a gladiator to earn his freedom, and eventually face the might of the evil King whose dictatorial grasp is choking the life out of the population. Cleverly taking its cues from the Award Winning Ridley Scott / Russell Crowe epic Gladiator, the story allows Hulk to smash and bash within the confines of a decent plot, and even throws some zombies into the mix for good luck. It marked a momentous comic saga, and has been adapted adeptly for this animated interpretation. On US Blu-ray we get decent if unexceptional video, bass-thump-heavy audio and a great selection of solid extras. If you're into your superheroes then you could do far worse than give this entry a shot, and if you like your Hulk stories then it doesn't get much better than this.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.