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Planet Hulk starts off with a premise that it almost immediately proves false: the Hulk is an unstoppable, remorseless engine of destruction. He is subsequently blasted into outer space to a realm deemed “uninhabited.” You can guess what that means. He lands on a planet run by a ruthless dictator and is taken control of by a disc which shoots nanites or something into his brain. Why was this tiny disc shot from a smallish weapon able to pierce the skin of a behemoth able to withstand nuclear lever explosions? No one bothered to explain that.  The Hulk is taken away to one of the greatest action movies clichés of all time: the gladiator’s arena. Here he is forced to fight beside several other castaways in this kingdom for the entertainment of the Emperor and friends because, frankly, the Romans got right to the heart of what the people want and no one ever did it better.

After the head scratcher of Hulk’s easily pierced skin and even easier subjugation comes another confounding problem: he cannot escape the arena because the king’s head guard, a woman far slighter than Hulk knocks him out with one of what I will call a Cosmic Yoga Punch, because it shimmers the air on screen and no one bothered to explain what that was either. All of this is basically Spartacus, though with some prophesied mumbo jumbo tossed in for effect. The only real surprise here is the unfathomable addition of Beta Ray Bill to the games. He is shown as being more powerful than an army of the same gladiators fighting, yet he is taken hostage by the same disc program somehow. What is it with these things? He proves able to free everyone easily enough, though no one explains why he didn’t just do that when he was able. He makes a heroic speech and then flies away without having any other effect on the final outcome. Seems like they might have asked him to stick around just in case the Emperor Redman didn’t want to fulfill his end of the bargain, given that he was an evil slave master and all.

Guess what? He doesn’t. Hulk soundly defeats him with the help of his newfound revolutionaries, though (you already knew that, don’t cry spoiler to me) and is made seemingly the new king of Planet Hulk, patent pending. Then, just as he is about to Captain Kirk himself some alien strange, a priest of the aforementioned mythic order comes forward to prove the one universal truth: no matter what planet, galaxy, alternate universe or even religious affiliation you may encounter, priests exist solely to stop people from getting it on. Then the movie ends.

The animation of Planet Hulk is serviceable, on par with other Marvel Studios productions of late. The action is well executed and fun in watching Hulk battle in the arena. The emotional connections of the characters vary from goofy to nonexistent but no one is watching for that. The defiance of previously placed logic, that Hulk always SMASH, is bizarre and unsatisfying, though. Hulk never SMASH like Hulk should. Also, nothing Beta Ray Bill does makes any sense whatsoever. You had two of the most powerful humanoids in creation become enslaved to some dopey king in a golden exoskeleton and his personal bodyguard, who was a combination Pythona and Nemesis Enforcer (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093066/). No explanation beyond a weak “coming to our world saps your power” was offered. Up to the very end I was waiting for a Hulk onslaught that never came. As an animated action film it does OK. As a Hulk movie, though, it fails. 2 ½ stars

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