Comic book characters have provided a large slate of movie productions in recent years. This really isn’t anything new; both Superman and Batman have each fueled successful film franchises (It should be noted that both are soon to return). Spider-Man’s record take opened a new floodgate. Some have been quite disappointing (The Hulk and The Punisher) while a few (X-Men and Spider-Man) have provided outstanding products. Hellboy fits somewhere in the middle. The character is somewhat lesser known and considerably more …ecent. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast here. He almost makes this larger than life creature believable. Guillermo Del Toro creates a convincing world of dark hues with tremendous style that never gets pretentious or interferes with the story. At first this film looks unsettling, but as you allow yourself to be immersed in the rich shadows, you are completely transported away. It’s a hell of a fast 2 hours.
During WWII Hitler’s minions, led by the legendary Rasputin (Roden), open a portal to Hell in search of a powerful demon/god to destroy their enemies. An American expedition destroys the gateway, but not before a demon baby is sent through. Hellboy (Perlman) becomes a covert FBI agent used to destroy other monsters who have slipped into our world. Hellboy must stop Rasputin from fulfilling his 60 year plan to open the gates of Hell.
There is simply a lot to get excited about in this Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Surrounds are about as aggressive as Hellboy himself. They invade every corner of your room. Subs are heavily driven when necessary. Dialogue is as sharp as Perlman’s tongue. The dynamic range is superior to almost anything I’ve heard so far.
There are two commentary tracks provided for your listening pleasure. Del Toro gets together with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Here you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the Hellboy universe. If you are unfamiliar with the character, this commentary is an excellent way to get up to speed.
The second commentary features several members of the cast, most notably Perlman, Jeffery Tambor, and Selma Blair. Don’t expect this to sound serious. This is a rowdy and funny track.
Hellboy is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The sharpness and detail definition are beyond words, but since this is a review I’ll attempt to use some. Colors are vivid while maintaining Del Toro’s amazing use of shadow and subdued lighting. You’ll find no film artifact or specks of any kind. There is the tiniest bit of digital artifact in a few very short instances. Black levels are essential to the atmosphere of the film and reveal wonderful detail. These black levels stand in stark contrast to the red Hellboy and blue Abe Sapien.
Disc One contains the film and the commentary tracks. You also have several options while viewing the film. One of the most unique is a chance to view brand spankin’ new artwork by Mike Magnola. They help to fill in certain story elements. You can also opt to view original storyboards while watching the film. The disc also contains an odd Del Toro introduction. (Look for the Easter Egg where he apologizes for it.)
Disc Two is mostly made up with the lengthy documentary: “Seeds Of Creation”. You can view this in its full 185 minutes or watch it in 24 smaller segments.
The three deleted scenes are kind of useless. The first is merely a couple more seconds of the early mountain discovery. The second is a “cute” taxi ride with Myers and Liz. The final is perhaps the better. Here we see how Rasputin obtains the gateway.
The last main extra is “Animatics”, which is a short study of 4 scenes from the film. Of course, you get the full compliment of trailers, bios, storyboards, production notes, and a 3D image gallery of the creatures of the film.
My only major complaint is the menu system. It is complicated enough that the booklet offers you a tree chart to help you find your way. While it’s nice to have the chart, I happen to watch my DVD’s in a dark room and the chart is next to useless.
I must admit to having a limited knowledge of the Hellboy mythos before seeing this film. The Magnola commentary was a great source of information. The film made a lot more sense after I heard it. No question. This is not a typical “Marvel” style comic. This dark horse character is a ton more gritty. The makeup f/x are just plain cool. I often talk about films serving a “ride” for the viewer and Hellboy is well… one Hell of a ride. Watching this film was great fun. After all: “It’s my job”.
Special Features List
- DVD comics: eight branching DVD comics by Mike Mignola
- “Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation”: a 2.5-hour documentary on the making of the film
- “Right Hand of Doom: Set Visits”: behind-the-scenes branching feature
- “From the Den” Hellboy recommends… Geraldn McBoing Boing animated shorts
- Feature-length storyboard track
- Video introduction by Selma Blair
- Four computer-generated animated scene breakdowns
- Five Board-a-Matics: side-by-side comparison of scenes with the animated storyboards
- Three deleted scenes with optional commentary by Guillermo del Toro
- Character bios written by the director
- Maquette 3-D character sculptures video gallery
- Poster explorations