Lately, it seems, there has been a glut of superhero movies hitting the big screen.
It’s hard to swing a cat without hitting a comic book fanatic who is eagerly awaiting the big screen debut of their favorite four-color hero.
The ’80s, though, were a different time. In a decade known for excess, comic book fans faced a clear drought of superhero movies.
All was not bleak, though.
A select few films burned brightly in the night sky like a Batsignal, heralding the arrival of a new breed of hero.
Most of them didn’t even wear masks.
Heroes like John McClane or Martin Riggs understood what it took to fight the war on both drugs and evil Europeans alike.
One hero, though, stood out from the rest. This was a hero that knew sometimes the only way to stop a bad guy was to dip him in acid and run over him with a car.
This hero, of course, was part man, part machine and all cop.
A movie very much of its time, 1987’s RoboCop combined explosions and satire in the story of a Detroit cop, Murphy, who is gunned down.
In a scene that seemed to go on forever, Murphy is shot several hundred times by automatic weapons and even has an arm blown off with a shotgun.
Instead of dying, though, his mangled body is repurposed as the fleshy nougat in a new crunchy cyborg shell. Murphy was sent to the streets as the iPhone of law enforcement officers.
A hit among audiences, RoboCop took aim at the money-hungry schemes of a Reagan-centric government.
In a world of constant advertising and overblown hype, RoboCop’s biggest enemy was the society that created him. His technology was constantly being thwarted by the next big advancement in police cybernetics.
Every great movie has a life lesson and RoboCop is no exception.
If there is one thing that audiences should take away from Murphy’s harrowing struggle to reclaim his humanity, it’s to be wary of too much technology.
Sure, having a new cell phone that can send texts, take pictures, play movies and act as a wingman when out clubbing would be a nice feather in your cap, but is it worth it in the end?
Those popular Bluetooth headphone pieces are already ushering in a new wave of chatty cyborgs — all marching toward a post-apocalyptic future where robots rule the world.
With a tiny bit of tech stored in their ears, these RoboTalkers are one memory implant away from helping SkyNet win their war against John Conner.
Next time you decide to take an afternoon off work so you can wait in line for your new piece of iTech, remember the plight of Murphy.
Is your humanity worth whatever toys Steve Jobs throws at us?
Bad(ass) Movie of the Week — Planet Hulk
Watching the recent batch of animated movies based on Marvel Comics’ line of super heroes has been, in a lot of ways, like a series of drunken one-night stands.
In 2006, when the first film, Ultimate Avengers, was released straight-to-DVD, fans of Marvel Comics were lonely and desperate for a bit of (animated super hero) action. While Batman and Superman had enjoyed their time in the spotlight during the glory days of Bruce Timm and his team of animators, Marvel’s pantheon of heroes were several years away from their time dominating Saturday morning cartoons. They had never, in fact, even had an animated movie to call their own (unless you count that 1980’s Japanese cartoon loosely based on The Tomb of Dracula).
Fans were desperate and willing to go home with just about anybody.
So when Ultimate Avengers appeared in video stores nationwide, fans devoured it. Parades were held and dreams forged of future movies staring everybody’s favorite four-colored heroes.
As the dust settled, though, and fans woke up in bed next to Ultimate Avengers and it’s sequels and spin-offs — they realized the movies were, in fact, terrible films. They were poorly animated and, even worse, downright boring at times.
With the seventh film to be released from Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Home Entertainment, though, fans need not worry about having to go all coyote ugly and gnaw off their own arm to escape Planet Hulk.
The film is, surprisingly, pretty downright badass.
I’ll admit to not having read all the issues of The Incredible Hulk this animated movie is based on. While I only browsed a few stray issues of Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan’s original comics, I know enough about the story to realize that Planet Hulk, the film, is pretty faithful to Planet Hulk, the comic.
When the rest of Earth’s super heroes get tired of the Hulk, the green raging behemoth, a few of the world’s most powerful heroes (including Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic and Black Bolt — the latter two covered in shadows perhaps due to licensing rights issues) get together, put Hulk on a shapeship and send him hurtling into the depths of space.
When he crash lands on a planet ruled by a tyrannical despot calling himself the Red King, the Hulk is sentenced to a life as a gladiator.
Before you can say “Russell Crowe,” the Hulk is trussed up in armor and given a sword so that he can battle all sorts of alien menaces — including robots, rock men and even Beta Ray Bill — everybody’s favorite horse-faced Thor clone.
The Hulk enters into an uneasy alliance with his fellow gladiators and, together, they attempt to earn their freedom and — if the rest can convince the Hulk to give a damn — overthrow the king’s rule.
The movie combines elements of the aforementioned Gladiator and John Carter of Mars, mixes it up with some good old fashioned super heroics and concocts a cartoon that is action-packed and, sometimes, surprisingly violent.
During the gladiator combat, limbs are severed, eyes exploded and blood splatters the ground with the frequency of a comic book purist’s cries of “what about continuity?” while reading Jeph Loeb.
That’s not all — a sub-plot of the film deals with a mysterious weaponized spore that transforms people (including children) into hideously deformed zombies that need to be put down with extreme prejudice. This film is not for the kiddies.
While there’s plenty of action to be had in Planet Hulk, the plot is not completely bare either. While not exactly high concept, the storyline moves along at a brisk pace keeping even the most novice of super hero fans entertained — even if they don’t exactly know what’s going on.
This movie seems to be made entirely for fans of the genre. That’s to say, there isn’t a whole lot of exposition.
While a lot of movie watchers (especially those buying a movie called Planet Hulk) are familiar with the origins of the Hulk and don’t necessarily need the tale retold for the umpteenth time — very little explanation is given to some of the ancillary characters that make an appearance in the film.
When Thor and his Asgardian-powered alien pal, Beta Ray Bill, make an appearance, there is absolutely no explanation given to who these characters are — audiences are assumed to either know who the two hammer-wielding heroes are already or not care as such.
Likewise when the Hulk goes from a rampaging monster at the beginning of the flick into an unlikely anti-hero that can not only be reasoned with but is prone to cracking (admittedly deadpan) jokes, audiences are expected to just go with it.
For fans of Marvel, though, filmmakers fill the movie with plenty of easter eggs — including appearances by members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a cosmic superhero team.
The animation, while not up to the standards of most of Warner Brothers’ DC Comics animated movies, is a big step up from the earlier Marvel cartoon flicks.
On Blu-ray, the film looks downright pretty in places — with color that pops and a fluidity to the action.
The Blu-ray comes with a wealth of special features including two audio commentaries, a half-hour featurette about the making of the film and a short segment about the history of the story.
The disc also comes with a preview of the upcoming Thor: Tales of Asgard animated movie — a film that looks to be just as entertaining as Planet Hulk — even if it won’t come out until 2011. With the animation looking pretty finished, I have to wonder what’s going to take them so long to get the next movie released. My guess is that they are waiting to coincide with the Thor live-action film.
In addition, the Blu-ray comes with bonus episodes of Wolverine and the X-Men and the motion-comics Spider-Woman and Astonishing X-Men, the latter of which was written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Joss Whedon.
A few (terrible) music videos are also included — serving as little more then a promotion for Marvel’s line of motion-comics.
A digital copy of the film is also included.
While Planet Hulk may not be a perfect film — it’s pretty entertaining. Especially for a movie released by a studio that doesn’t exactly have the best track record for making animated movies.
While probably not recommended for the youngest Hulk fan in your house, Planet Hulk should be a welcome addition to the collection of any fanboy or fangirl you know. Hulk smash, indeed.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.