In 1944, supernaturally inclined Nazis open up a other-dimensional portal, through whichcomes a demon infant. Rescued from such evil foster-parents, the baby grows up, under the wingof John Hurt, into Hellboy (a perfectly cast Ron Perlman), who now fights monsters undercoverfor the US government. Said government isn’t ecstatic about the clandestine work of Hellboyand other creatures (these guys get none of the respect of the Men in Black). But the need for thissupernatural …-Team becomes terribly pressing as the evil Rasputin plots to open the gate to theOgru Jehad (horrific Lovecraftian deities) and bring about the end of life as we know it.
As action/horror comic book adaptations go, this is the standard to beat. Writer/directorGuillermo Del Toro know his pop culture, knows his comic books, knows his horror, andrespects and loves them all. He is the director Stephen Sommers likes to believe he is, and acomparison between the exciting, heartfelt Hellboy and the bloated Van Helsingis instructive. The special effects are as extravagant as anyone could hope for, but there is somereal characterization going on too, especially in this cut, which restores primarily characterscenes and subplots.
Watch the opening sequence: as the camera plunges from the heavens towards a stormsystem, the roar of that storm gathers force in the front speakers, then blasts out of the rear louderand louder as we descend into the maelstrom. Now that’s placement. The bass is tremendous(you can feel the passing of a subway train in your bones), and the environmental illusion isdamn near total.
This is a film that takes place primarily in darkness, and could run the risk of murkiness, butno such problem exists. The blacks are profound, and the contrasts are very strong, so the filmremains crystal-clear (and grain-free) even as it is also gloomily atmospheric. The image isextremely sharp, and free of edge enhancement haloes.
In a word, everything is here, all the way down to a booklet by Mike Mignola that presentsitself as the actual necromantic diary of Rasputin. Each disc is introduced by one of the mainplayers in the film: Del Toro (Disc One), Selma Blair (Two) and Perlman (Three). Disc One’scommentary by Del Toro is typical of his efforts of this kind: informed, informative, andpersonal. Meanwhile, composer Marco Beltrami gets his own commentary to go along with theisolated score track. Watch the movie with the “Right Hand of Doom” enabled, and you branchout into set visits and video comics (the latter again by Mignola). The storyboard track is huge,and as if this weren’t enough, the DVD-ROM features include printable versions of thescreenplay, the script supervisor’s book, and the director’s notebook.
That load of extras would be generous by any standard, but there are two more discs to go.Disc Two has Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation, a documentary which, at 2 ½ hours, makesthe usual making-of featurette look even more pathetic. Also on this disc: deleted scenes (withoptional commentary by Del Toro), motion board-a-matics, animatics, multi-angle storyboardcomparisons, a maquette rotations gallery, trailers and TV spots, filmographies, posterexplorations, and a web-link to merchandise. In other words, another exhaustive list.
But wait! There’s more! On Disc Three, you can see the movie again as a PIP while watchingPerlman, Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans comment on the film (the result isn’t quite asfelicitous as Del Toro’s, but still…). Also here: production workshops, makeup and lighting tests,a Q&A from Comic-Con 2002, “A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud”(and believe me, McCloud is the man you want as a guide), the director’s notebook, photogalleries, Mignola’s pre-production art, conceptual art galleries, and comic book artists pin-ups.
The last time I saw a selection of extras this huge, it was on the Panic Room SpecialEdition. This should keep fans going for months. As for the menus, they’re fully animated andscored. The spiral layout on Disc One is a little bit difficult to navigate through.
A very strong comic book adaptation, and this re-release is both gorgeous and packed to therafters. I can’t imagine what else they could have added.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Composer Commentary with Isolated Score
- Cast Video Commentary
- “Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation” Feature-Length Documentary
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- DVD-ROM Features
- Branching DVD Comics and Set Visits
- Storyboard Track
- Production Featurettes
- Q&A Archive: Comic-Con 2002
- Director’s Notebook
- Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparisons and much, much, much more.