Audio commentary - Guillermo del Toro; Marco Beltrami; Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Rupert Evans
Isolated music score
Behind the scenes footage
9 TV spot
Dolby Digital trailer
Hellboy - The Director's Cut
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 127 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Make way on your DVD shelf for Big Red! ...and I'm not talking tomato sauce!
When I initially saw this movie at the cinema, I was impressed but it didn't seem quite rounded-out enough to make it to the top of my speed-dial. Since then, every time I have seen this movie, and especially after watching this Director's Cut, I simply enjoy it more and more!
Ready for a Fight: Kroenen the Clockwork Villain
Director Guillermo del Toro (Mimic, Blade II) passionately brings Mike Mignola's comic-book story of Hellboy to life. But do not be afraid! This is not your average, pulped, run-of-the-mill comic book adaptation.
A little tongue-in-cheek, the story of Hellboy is complex, clever and, being inspired by a comic-book which is, itself, steeped in the supernatural, the visuals are rich, dark and brooding. Superb acting and a dry wit from Ron Perlman as the seven-foot, cigar-smoking hell-demon is brilliant and extremely enjoyable.
"There are things that go bump in the night... And we are the ones who bump back!"
With such a complexity to the plot, there is quite a bit of history to cover before the movie can go charging off under it's own steam, and we open where all good movies do - in the rain...
Hey! Hey! They're Playing our Song!
1944. Off the coast of Scotland. The US Marines, guided by paranormal specialist Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm, are trying to locate a group of occult Nazis - who are bound to be up to no good!
On the other side of the small island, these nasties, are in league with the recently resurrected Rasputin and his clockwork henchman, Kroenen. Acting as the Key, these villains are performing some mysterious dark ceremony in an attempt to open a portal to the dark-places, to bring forth the Seven Gods of Chaos who will destroy the world!
When the Marines charge in and break up the party, all hell breaks loose and Hellboy is 'born'. Broom and the young Hellboy immediately form a relationship and this bizarre family is formed.
Leaping ahead 60 years to present day, we find Rasputin is once again resurrected, and hell-bent on completing the dark ritual that he began six decades earlier. Professor Broom is now head of the 'Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense', a top-secret facility and, with the assistance of Hellboy and an assorted motley crew, try to stop the evil monk once again.
Beauty and the Beast
Hellboy, not only follows the character of Hellboy himself (Ron Perlman) as he resolves his own conflicts, but also the events and decisions of all of those who surround him: His adoptive and loving father, Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm (John Hurt); his new and naive keeper, FBI Agent John Meyers (Rupert Evans); his troubled, fiery love interest, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair); his web-footed Paranormal assistant, Abe Sapien (Doug Jones); and of course his spiritual and megalomaniacal father, Grigory Rasputin (Karel Rodin). All of these characters have their own strengths and flaws which are revealed in the journey.
Over the past couple of decades, and becoming more prevalent, is the comic-book-to-movie adaptation. And let's face it, not all top-selling comic book/cereals instantly translate into blockbuster movies. Take The Phantom (with Billy Zane) for instance. This is undoubtedly one of the best known and biggest selling comic-book heroes of all time. But push it out into a cinema screen and... Pow! Biff! Zok! ...Ouch!!
Rasputin and his Nazi Gang Set their Trap.
Hellboy is different for several reasons. It's obscurity from the popular culture limelight means that it doesn't have to prove itself to the same extent suffered by other great comic-book heroes such as Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and The Hulk. These winners have been re-forged regularly over the decades, to both the silver and small screens, and are forced to continually reinvent themselves to newer audiences. The challenge is to somehow remain faithful to their original premises and existing to their existing fan base.
Also, Hellboy is cleverly complex, action-packed and fun - well above your average pulped cartoon-turned-movie! However, as I stated earlier, at first viewing I thought that this movie had been one of those ill-fated reincarnations which had missed the mark; with characterisations not quite full enough, and the plot a little thin in places, but this Director's Cut Edition fills in all the gaps!
Professor Broom and Abe Sapien
The focussed vision and loving hands of talented Director Guillermo del Toro provide a faithful representation of this cult comic hero, complete with his journey and intertwining sub-plots. In the cinematic release much of this detail was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor, and the movie seemed to be squeezed into the 'Quirky Action' pigeonhole. Thankfully, this oversight was corrected, restoring Hellboy to it's full glory for this brilliant Director's Cut release.
The Transfer is presented in 16:9 and, apart from the initial 'cloud' sequence, which I found a little grainy, the quality is exceptional (Hmmm, I really should give this a 10!)!
Director Guillermo del Toro says in the Panel Interview on Disc Three, that they would be digitally enhancing the black levels in post-production as they did in Blade II. The result is obvious with a great contrast and balance. Colours are brilliantly saturated and the astmosphere is as intended - dark and creepy.
The Audio is like the subject matter: Complex, well balanced, and thoroughly engaging.
The music throughout is a suprising and an ecclectic blend of powerful symphony composition from Composer Marco Beltrami, and contemporary pieces from the likes of Nick Cave.
The Surround track is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 English, with no dts track making it through the Portal. This is a little unfortunate but, as the disc set is so packed with Extras, I would expect that there just wasn't any room!
This Director's Cut Special Edition comes through the Hell-Portal on three massively bulked-up discs. I would give the Extras an 11 if I could - there is just so much fantastic stuff in here! So, please bear with me as I attempt to break it down to a reasonable granularity!!:
The first disc, in addition to over 12 minutes of additional Director's Cut footage - taking the Hellboy Feature to over 2 hours - contains an incredible number of Special Features:
For a start, there are two detailed Commentaries. The first contains an Exclusive Director's Cut Commentary by Guillermo del Toro. This is non-stop Guill from beginning to end. In it, he goes in to some incredible depth discussing his influences and his philosophies and how they relate to his vision for Hellboy. He also discusses his relationships with Hellboy actor Ron Perlman, comic-book Artist Mike Mignola and composer Marco Beltrami. The second is an Isolated Score with Commentary by Composer Marco Beltrami where he discusses his choices for music and instruments and how his specially created character themes are worked into the action.
We then have a group of Extras which can be viewed as a Branch from the Feature, or directly as an Extra: A collection of DVD Comics that contain several little animated comic-book style sequences with some character back-stories. And "The Right Hand of Doom" Set Visits contains eight behind the scenes featurettes showing the cast and crew in action. These can also be watched as a single 18 minute feature. Very worth watching.
A simultaneous Storyboard Track synchronises artist Simeon Wilkins' storyboards to the Feature. We can see how the original look of scenes were intended. However, these are reasonably low-res monochrome and sometimes a little scarce (I couldn't actually find the example that they use in the menu!), but is well worth a look!
No Backdrops or boring icons here, the DVD-ROM Component has a cool feature allowing us to look at the Script Supervisor's Notebook, and Excerpts from Del Toro's Director Notebook to peruse concurrently while the movie is being played in a window, and there is even a Printable Original ScreenPlay.
And that's just Disc 1...
Disc Two begins a behemoth sized collection of extras split over 2 dedicated discs. We begin with an Introduction by Selma Blair briefly outlining what to expect.
The Egg Chamber contains a collection of 3 Deleted Scenes with Directors Commentary, a Documentary entitled "The Seeds of Creation" and Filmography and Character Biographies with the latter housing some nicely illustrated static pages regarding specific characters.
The main feature of this second disc is easily the Seeds of Creation Documentary running for a total of 142 minutes. This extensive documentary covers most of the time-line of creating the movie from Pre-Production, Principal Photography, Second Unit, and Post Production. A literal smorgasboard of interviews with almost everyone involved in these areas gives us such an in-depth look that you could almost go out to your garage and begin your own comic-book adaptation - budget limited of course!
Kroenen's Lair takes a look at various conceptions to final film footage transitions broken down into categories such as the the scene progression of Ogdru Jahad, Animatics, Board-a-matics and storyboard comparisons. A unique Maquette Video Gallery section allows you to take a much closer look at the various works of the maquette artists used to sculpt the main characters of the movie. This stuff is extremely detailed...
Rounding out disc two is a trip to Bellamie Hospital where a swag of Ppromotional Material is available in the form of Theatrical Trailers & TV Spots:
There are 2 trailers and 9 TV Spots for Hellboy along with an additional 5 trailers for movies like Resident Evil: Apocalypse, White Chicks, You Got Served, Anacondas and Envy. If that wasn't enough, the Print Campaign looks at an attic full of possible Poster Explorations as well as the actual material used for the Final Campaign. There is also a URL presented where folks can buy Hellboy Merchandise.
Now, in something I have not seen before, Disc Three contains an entire Cast Video Commentary where we watch Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans and Jeffrey Tambor in studio, watching themselves perform. With a small movie inset, the Commentary is a little slow for the level of action, with only occasional inspiring moments. Finally, I was uncomfortable that questions asked by Rupert Evans were consistently met with sarcasm, or ignored completely, by Ron Perlman!
In the Production Workshops, we have complex Make-Up and Lighting Tests with commentary by Guillermo, and several Visual Effects How-To's 3-minute featurettes where the miniature sets and CG usage are discussed in some detail.
Two further Featurettes contain an Q&A Archive: Comic-Con 2002 with Guill, Ron and Mike which is a 23 minute panel interview (presented in 4:3) regarding Hellboy and it's intended production process. Although edited, this is fantastic stuff! And A (Quick) Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud. A 12 minute history of comics with a focus towards modern comic-books including Hellboy.
Finally Disc Three contains a MASSIVE Gallery comprising of several hundred pictures! Included is Conceptual Art and Production Stills (Production and Set Designs, Publicity shots, etc), Mike Mignola Pre-Production Art - including a suprise 40 minute commentary by the man himself, a Director's Notebook - with pictures and text (in Spanish) by Guillermo, and Comic Book Artist Pin-Ups this is a Gallery where Mike Mignola, and other great comic artists have submitted their impressions of the larger-than-life Hellboy!
Hellboy brilliantly hits a niche. The cleverly constructed story and complex characters make it refreshing.
An abundance of wry and sarcastic humour offsets the darker supernatural backdrop, and balances perfectly. If anything, the love-story is a little thin, but (as fans of the comic would know) it's a bit thin anyway!
And, sure, with its roots in the magicks, the movie is a little dark (the main character is a Hell-Demon after all!) but the essence of the story remains fun and is not twisted and tortured like some other comic-book adaptations.