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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hellboy: SE (2004)

"What is it that makes a man a man? Is it his origins? The way things start? Or is it something else? Something harder to describe? For me it all began in 1944. Classified mission off the coast of Scotland. The Nazis were desperate. Combining science and black magic, they intended to upset the balance of the war."
- Trevor Broom (John Hurt)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: July 26, 2004

Stars: Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Doug Jones
Other Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Karel Roden, Brian Steele, Ladislav Beran, Bridget Hodson, Corey Johnson, Kevin Trainor, Brian Caspe, James Babson
Director: Guillermo del Toro

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and frightening images
Run Time: 02h:01m:50s
Release Date: July 27, 2004
UPC: 043396013179
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AA-A+ A+

DVD Review

While most of the free world was waiting anxiously for Spider-Man 2 to swing into action in theaters, I was secretly biding my time until a decidedly lesser-known comic book hero hit the big screen a couple of months earlier—in this case Mike Mignola's hammer-fisted Hellboy. No offense to Spidey, but I always dug the left-of-center comic book characters, the types who were always embroiled in seemingly darker and more bizarre scenarios. Released by Dark Horse Comics in 1996, Mignola's big red Hellboy was a wise-cracking, cigar-smoking demon unwillingly drawn into our world by Nazis, who ends up on the side of the good guys working as a paranormal investigator/monster fighter for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

Written and directed by the exuberantly dark Guillermo del Toro (Mimic, Blade II, The Devil's Backbone), with a hearty involvement from original creator Mignola, the film adaptation of Hellboy takes on the difficult task of laying the groundwork for a potential franchise while at the same time creating a palatable bit of entertainment that would appeal not just to fans of the character, but more importantly to those completely unfamiliar with the comics. It is a challenging balancing act to be sure, but one that ultimately works out well here, no doubt thanks to the friendly give-and-take between del Toro and Mignola as characters and story arcs morphed and changed between the comic and film version.

It's required that the plot has to cover Hellboy's origins, which del Toro does right out of the box in a dark, rainy sequence set in 1944, featuring evil Nazis, glowing portals, and the film's primary villain, none other than the resurrected mad monk himself, Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden). As a secret Allied force temporarily foils the evil Nazi plan, we catch our first glimpse of a diminutive, candy-loving CG Hellboy, as he is sucked through the portal and taken in by the man who would become his mentor and father figure, Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm. Broom is played in the opening scene by Kevin Trainor, but for the duration of the film, all set in the current day, the character is played by a wizened John Hurt, looking so much like the comic book version that is hard to believe Mignola hadn't used him as a model.

Once the origin sequence is out of the way—and the narrative jumps to present day—del Toro introduces a fresh-scrubbed young FBI agent named John Myers (Rupert Evans) who is transferred to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense to unknowingly become the handler for Hellboy (Ron Perlman). The Myers character serves as a convenient transitional device to allow del Toro to fill in more of Hellboy's backstory quickly, as well as that of fellow mutant B.P.R.D investigator gilled fish/man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones).

In one of the more overt variations from the comic, del Toro turns Myers into an accidental third corner of a love triangle when former B.P.R.D. member and object of Hellboy's affections Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a troubled girl with the ability to become a human torch, returns to the fold to help the team stop an evil monster known as Sammael The Desolate One, as well as the apocalyptic plans of Rasputin and his evil henchman Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). The Kroenen character also gets a new lease under del Toro, who here transforms Mignola's masked Nazi from an occasionally whiny minor villain to sword-wielding killing machine with sand in his veins.

Ron Perlman, a guy who seems to play his most memorable roles under globs of latex (Beauty and The Beast, Quest for Fire) tackles the role of the equally latexed Hellboy with the right amount of cocky swagger and reluctant determination of hero bound by some kind of preordained fate to fight evil, or as Abe Sapien calls it "the whole loner/hero thing". It's a credit to del Toro's makeup effects team that the character of Hellboy not only looks so much like the comic, but that Perlman's features—especially his eyes—manage to show through. While he does utter a number of Ahnuld-esque one-liners throughout, Perlman plays the part with the right amount of bravado and humility.

There is an undertone of the need for one to fulfill their own destiny in del Toro's film—even if you're a horned demon with a very large handgun—mixed in with some broadly Lovecraftian beasties and sense of humor built around wisecracks and Hellboy's own frustrated personal life. The story may stall a bit slowly during the middle section, but the action sequences are certainly as noisy and exciting as just about any other comic-book-turned-movie.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Columbia TriStar's impressive treatment of Hellboy is truly a piece of work. Nitpicks about some extremely minor compression and edge enhancement flaws aside, the transfer here really sparkles, capturing all of the bright comic book colors and shadowy nuances del Toro intended. Image detail and clarity is first-rate, buttressed by some rock solid black levels, as well.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: For all of you "no DTS, no sale" types out there I'm here to assure you that the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Hellboy is as good of an audio presentation as I've heard in quite awhile. Apparently meant to be played loud, this resoundingly clean mix has the added punch of a deep LFE channel and active rear channel cues that a good comic book/action movie requires. Dialogue is crystal clear—even during the noisiest, most frenetic passages. Try as I might, I could not find one thing to beef about with regard to the audio.

Like Liz Sherman, it is a thing of beauty. Really.

A French language 5.1 track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Forgotten, Seinfeld, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, 13 Going On 30, White Chicks, Stephen King Presents Kingdom Hospital, Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Kaena
9 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
Screenplay
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
29 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mignola, Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Rupert Evans
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Sure, it has already been announced that there is an extended cut of Hellboy to be released in late 2004, as well as a fancy-schmancy gift pack, but in the meantime Columbia TriStar has done this two-disc special edition up right with regard to extras. It is really crammed full of goodness, so much so the glossy insert booklet folds out into a map so you can easily figure out where you want to go. The packaging is very nice, too, featuring a spiffy and shiny slipcase cover sporting images of Abe, Hellboy, and Liz (drool).

Disc 1

After a forced trailer for the upcoming thriller The Forgotten, things kick off with an Introduction (:25s) from Guillermo del Toro telling us what we can find on disc one, and if you peruse the opening menu screen you will find an Easter Egg (:45s) of the director lamenting the poor quality of his cue cards.

The feature is housed on the first disc, as well as two full-length commentary tracks, one featuring Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola, with the other featuring cast members Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans. When it comes to commentaries, there are few as consistently entertaining as hearing Guillermo del Toro expound on the filmmaking process, and here he's teamed up with Hellboy creator Mignola, discussing the underlying theme of how one can "choose who you are". A recurring topic is the differences between the comic and the film, and for once it was interesting to hear the original creator of something not pissing and moaning about the thematic changes made when turned into a feature film. The two have a fine rapport together, and the hints that del Toro drops about the upcoming extended cut sound promising. Not a dead spot on this track, and it is likely one of the best I've heard this year.

The second commentary featuring the cast members is noticeably less informative than the del Toro/Mignola track, but thankfully Jeffrey Tambor is on hand to lighten the tone up a bit. This is not what you would call relentlessly riveting by any means, but there a few recollections from Perlman that offer another perspective to the comments from del Toro.

There are a number of branching options available here, including one for DVD Comics, featuring 8 new Hellboy stories drawn by Mike Mignola and written by Guillermo del Toro. The comics feature sound and minimal motion, falling well short of being full-fledged animation. The stories are brief, but some offer some backstory or expand upon areas that don't get elaborated on in the film, and if you like comics then these will be a treat. If chose to not go with the branching option, you can view the stories separately via a menu option. The comics are:
Ragnarok: The Gate of the Dragon
Abe Sapien
The Samaritan
Pancakes
Hellboy's Belt: The Talismans
Hellboy Scrapbook
Rasputin: A Short Biography
Kroenen

Another branching option is available for The Right Hand of Doom Set Visits, or if chose you can view the featurettes separately via a menu option. Each of these 8 short segments start with the date and day of shooting, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of a scene. The sequences included are:
Abbey Ruins (02m:54s)
Brooms Office (02m:04s)
Machen Library Alley (02m:15s)
Subway Station (01m:58s)
Subway Tunnels (02m:23s)
Kroenen's Lair (03m:10s)
Egg Chamber (02m:11s)
Catacombs (01m:35s)

A third and final branching option - and the least frothy of the bunch—is available for the Storyboard Track, which synchs up Simeon Wilkin's storyboards with the finished film. It's a nice idea on paper, but the number of actual storyboards is not as frequent as you might imagine, making this probably the least invigorating of the branching choices.

From The Den: Hellboy Recommends is a collection of animated shorts that the big red guy happens to enjoy, including three Gerald McBoing Boing shorts from the 1950s, and an animated version of Poe's The Tell Tale Heart from 1953, narrated by James Mason. The McBoing Boing stuff is wonderfully oddball stuff, so square its hip, but then often bordering on the surreal. The shorts recommended by Hellboy are:
Gerald McBoing Boing (06m:56s)
Gerald McBoing Boing on Planet Moo (07m:11s)
How Now Boing Boing (07m:21s)
The Tell Tale Heart (07m:47s)

As if we needed more, disc one closes with DVD-ROM content, including a printable original screenplay, script supervisors notebook and excerpts from del Toro's director's notebook.

The film itself is cut into 28 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or French.

Disc 2

The second disc kicks off with a bored (but alluring) looking Selma Blair Introduction (:32s), telling us how the content is divvied up amongst the four main sections.

The first section is The Egg Chamber, and contains the gem of this set, which is the documentary Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation (02m:33s). It can viewed separately in any of its 27 sections, or viewed as one long doc, covering everything from pre-production to translating conceptual art to film to creature effects/design on through the premiere. Crammed with details and behind-the-scene info - and much like the del Toro/Mignola commentary on Disc 1—there are absolutely no dead moments to be found here, and on shear length alone it merits a few stunned huzzahs of appreciation. But its not all about simply the length (insert joke here), because Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation can stand right alongside whatever benchmark DVD doc that comes to mind. Almost staggering in its scope, this alone is worth picking up this two-disc set for.

There are also three brief Deleted Scenes, available with or without commentary for del Toro. Two of the three will be expanded for subplots on the upcoming extended version, but as presented here they don't offer much in the way of substance. The three scenes are:
Breaking The Ice Wall (:30s)
Cab Ride (01m:24s)
Russian Warehouse (02m:33s)

The Egg Chamber concludes with filmographies and character biographies.

Next is Kroenen's Lair, here focusing primarily on pre-production elements, so if you dig rough computer animation this will be like a day at the beach.

After an intro from del Toro (:37s) explaining how things go from "doodle to storyboard," it leads into Scene Progression: Ogdru Jahad (:46s), showcasing how his original vision was conveyed into storyboard format.

The Animatics section has another del Toro intro (:33s), explaining exactly what an animatic is, and each of the four sections is available either in comparison mode with the finished scene or as standalone fullscreen. The four sequences are:
Hellboy and Sammael: West Side Street (01m:58s)
Hellboy and Sammael: Subway (:48s)
Hellboy and Abe: Underwater Chamber (03m:00s)
Behemoth (:41s)

Board-A-Matics, with yet another del Toro intro (:44s), highlights the cut and paste storyboards, combined with some minimal animation and sound effects, designed to see if a scene can be expanded upon. As with the animatics, this section is available either in comparison mode with the finished scene or as standalone fullscreen. The five sequences shown here are:
B.P.R.D. Lift (:15s)
The Bridge (02m:34s)
Bellamie Hospital (02m:12s)
Hellboy: Rooftop (01m:44s)
Supported Beam Tunnel (01m:19s)

Lastly, Kroenen's Lair ends with Storyboard Comparisons, which oddly enough doesn't feature an intro from del Toro. Storyboard breakouts are provided for:
Ragnarok (03m:47s)
Hellboy and Sammael - Subway Platform (02m:52s)
Machen Library (02m:31s)
The Corpse (:42s)

The third section of Disc 2 is entitled Maquette Video Gallery, and contains rotating images of the maquettes (the small original design sculptures of various characters), with an option to select an enlarged, detailed view. The maquettes featured are for:
Baby Hellboy
Abe Sapien
Sammael
Ogdru Jahad
The Corpse
Behemoth

Finally, the Bellamie Hospital section is where all of the Hellboy advertising is housed. It's all about the promotion here, with two theatrical trailers, nine television spots (including one in Spanish), as well as a detailed look at the print campaign, with both original poster designs (these are gorgeous) and the final artwork featured equally.

Disc 2 wraps with a batch of unrelated trailers and a weblink for Hellboy merchandise.

Man, that's a lotta Red.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

The words "special edition" get lobbed around pretty loosely these days when it comes to marketing less-than-special DVDs, but this time the phrase actually means something. The movie itself is big, dumb fun, and the packed-to-the-rafters extras, including a superb documentary running nearly 2 1/2 hours and an insightful del Toro/Mignola commentary, rise above the usual fluff and nonsense that gets passed off as bonus materials.

I know there's an extended cut and gift pack set of Hellboy scheduled for release late in 2004, but this two-disc set seems to have it all right now.

Highly recommended.

 


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