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(Two-Disc Special Edition)

"There are things that go bump in the night…
…we are the ones who bump back."

With a surprising amount of emotional depth, an irreverent attitude and tremendous special effects, the film version of HELLBOY ($29) is one of the most enjoyable comic book movie adaptations out there. Director Guillermo del Toro HELLBOY brings a significant visual flair to the production, beautifully working not only the big action sequences, but also building tension throughout the film, in addition to conveying the smaller emotional moments with a deft hand. As for the film’s star, despite being buried under a ton of prosthetic makeup, actor Ron Perlman makes the role of Hellboy clearly his own; even managing to still look distinctly like himself through the red latex and horns. Beyond the physical, Perlman infuses a great deal of humor, blue-collar charm, sarcasm and emotional longing to a character that could have been written off as a two-dimensional comic book creation.

Based upon the Dark Horse comic of the same name, HELLBOY is the story of a demon raised by humans to become a hero in the realm of supernatural phenomenon. HELLBOY opens in 1944, where we discover that Hitler has reached a point of desperation, where he has turned to the occult in an effort to the win the war. Hitler’s final solution involves opening a dimensional portal that will bring about an Armageddon by unleashing the seven gods of chaos on the Earth- thus allowing the leader of the Third Reich to rebuild the world to suit his evil, corrupt vision.

Binding technology to the resurrected Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), the Nazi’s are able to briefly open a gateway to the hell dimension before the arriving allied forces are able to close the portal down. While the brief dimensional gateway doesn’t give the gods of chaos enough time the time to cross over, the allied soldiers, and a lone paranormal investigator, discover that a small, red skinned, demonic infant they dub "Hellboy" has managed to find its way into our world. Flashing forward sixty years, Hellboy has grown into a man, raised by Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm (John Hurt), that lone paranormal investigator, who assumed the role of Hellboy’s surrogate father, as well as the leadership of the US Government’s super secret, but much-needed Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.

Realizing he won’t be around forever, the elderly professor decides to pass the torch for Hellboy’s care to a young FBI agent named John Myers (Rupert Evans). With Hellboy’s frequent jaunts outside to visit his pyrokinetic paramour Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) being captured by the media, FBI director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) keeps threatening to close down the Bureau. However, when Rasputin is resurrected, yet again, by his ageless lover Ilsa (Bridget Hodson) and Hitler’s chief assassin Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), it falls to Hellboy and his aquatic Bureau compatriot Abe Sapien (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) to a provide the first line of defense against Der Fuhrer’s insidious plan and a coming Armageddon.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made HELLBOY available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. HELLBOY is an out and out terrific looking DVD, which should make fans very, very happy. The image is exceedingly well rendered, appearing quite sharp and highly defined. Colors are very strong, without appearing artificially so. Flesh tones remain appealing throughout, whether they are up against fully saturated backgrounds or wintry, monochromatic landscapes. Blacks are deep and rich, while the whites are pure and totally stable. Contrast is very smooth, shadow detail is excellent and the picture produces a nice, dimensional quality. The film elements appear very clean and appreciable grain is rather mild. With few exceptions, digital compression artifacts are usually very well contained.

Not surprising for an action intensive flick, HELLBOY comes with a fairly tremendous Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound design is highly aggressive, making use of all the discrete channels to deploy sound effects that leap out at the viewer from all sides. Sounds also pan around the entire soundstage in an effortless manner, plus all of the channels seem tightly integrated to create cohesive sonic environments. Quieter moments are as convincingly rendered, as the larger showstoppers, thanks to the excellent fidelity of the recordings. Marco Beltrami’s excellent score is reproduced with full musical fidelity and is nicely spaced across the forward and rear hemispheres. Even under the tracks largest sonic assaults, dialogue is always fully intelligible and the voices produce a genuine sense of presence. The bass channel is deep, authoritative and ground shaking, without ever seeming artificially boomy. A French 5.1 track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one opens with a disc content introduction featuring director Guillermo del Toro. The disc itself features two separate running audio commentary tracks; the first is a Cast Commentary with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans and Jeffrey Tambor, while the second is a Creator Commentary with director Guillermo del Toro and co-executive producer Mike Mignola. Both tracks are interesting and fairly enjoyable, but the Creator track definitely had the edge when it came to the nuts and bolts of the movie, as well as the Hellboy character’s mythology.

Eight Branching DVD Comics are also provided on disc one and come as an interactive option that can be viewed during the course of the film, or directly from the menus- fun stuff created especially for the DVD. Eight Right Hand Of Doom Set Visits are also provided interactive fashion, or through the menus, which give one a look at how a given moment was created on the set. A Storyboard Track is offered for various sequences within the film, which allows one to watch the film play out with accompanying storyboards on screen. The Hellboy Recommends section provides access to the following four animated shorts: Gerald McBoing Boing, Gerald McBoing! Boing On Planet Moo, How Now Boing Boing and The Tell-Tale Heart. Disc one is also DVD-ROM enabled with access to the Director's Notebook, a Printable Script and the Script Supervisor's Book. A bonus trailer for FORGOTTEN closes out disc one.

Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Like disc one, disc two features a disc content introduction, only this time around, actress Selma Blair is on hand to do the introductions. Topping the disc two supplements is Hellboy: The Seeds Of Creation. Hellboy: The Seeds Of Creation is a truly outstanding documentary on the making-of the film. Running two and a half hours, the documentary covers every aspect of the production in exhaustive detail, and makes this program a must see for any fan of the movie. Disc two also features three deleted scenes (with optional director’s commentary) that contain some interesting moments that may be cut back into the upcoming director’s cut DVD edition of HELLBOY. Four Animatics are provided to show how the animated storyboards with CGI help visualize some of the more complex sequences. Five Board-A-Matics provide additional animated storyboards to detail how individual sequences are conceived.

Four Storyboard Comparisons utilize split screen to show a finished scene in relation to its accompanying storyboard. Scene Progression features director Guillermo del Toro, who explains how a scene goes from del Toro‘s rough sketches to storyboards; images from the finished film are also provided for comparison. Maquette Video Gallery gives a 3D look at some of the creatures created for the film. Poster Explorations offers a look at various design concepts for the film’s promotional artwork, plus the Final Campaign artwork is also provided. Weblinks to Hellboy merchandise, plus filmographies, character biographies, theatrical trailers, TV spots and additional bonus trailers close out the supplements.

As I stated up above, HELLBOY is definitely one of the most enjoyable comic book movie adaptations out there. The DVD looks and sounds tremendous, plus it offers an incredible wealth of highly worthwhile supplemental materials. If you are a comic book or genre fan, or a fan of director Guillermo del Toro, you will definitely want to add HELLBOY to your collection. Very highly recommended.



Hellboy (Two-Disc Special Edition) (2004)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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