HELLBOY: DIRECTOR'S CUT
Review by Gordon Justesen
Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Karel Roden, Rupert Evans, John Hurt
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2004
me why I do this again.”
eggs and the safety of mankind.”
It seems that just
about every single comic book creation is getting their big break on the big
screen, from Spider-Man to Daredevil
to The Punisher, etc. In fact, comic book characters are so populating
films right now that even the lesser known creations are getting a chance to
make their mark. Case in point, Hellboy.
I must confess
that, up until about a year or so before this film came out, I had no idea who
or what Hellboy even was. For someone
who claims to know his share of comic book hoopla, I did feel kind of
embarrassed. But then again, Hellboy
happens to be the product of Dark Horse Comics, perhaps the one comic book
distributor I fail to keep up with. It's clear, though, that this particular
comic book creation has a serious legion of fans. Otherwise, they're
wouldn't have been a strong desire to have a movie adaptation made.
It goes without
saying that having visionary master Guillermo Del Toro (Blade II) on board to direct and adapt a screenplay for the movie
certainly did the fans a whole lot of justice. Del Toro, a director with a gift
for painting truly eerie atmospheres, is the ideal choice for a movie like this.
The result is a visually spectacular action adventure, which carries an added
bonus of sheer campiness.
The movie's story
takes its time setting itself up, as demonstrated in the masterful opening of
the film. It opens during World War II, where it turns out that a group of Nazis
are attempting to conduct an experiment of horrific proportions. With the help
of demented scientist Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), the Nazis' goal is to
open up a portal to the dark side to bring forth the feared Seven Gods of Chaos.
The plot is then
foiled when U.S. forces, being aided by President Roosevelt's personal psychic
aid, invade. The experiment goes awry just as the portal is being opened,
resulting in Rasputin being sucked in the portal and disappearing. It is also
discovered that something came from the other side; that of a red demon baby
with a tail and a pair of horns.
The scientist takes
the infant in; raising him to become a big part of what will become a secret
organization battling extreme paranormal activity. Cut to the present, where the
same scientist, Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), has indeed done just that by
establishing the secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. The very
little demon boy has now grown into a larger than life presence named Hellboy,
the agency's lead operative.
Hellboy is played
magnificently by Ron Perlman, whose very physical structure indicates why he was
the ultimately perfect actor for the role, even if he had to endure endless
makeup in the process. Perlman also makes the character into something unique,
by injecting both sarcastic wit for great one liners, as well as putting a good
depth of humanity to Hellboy, since he was after all raised in a human fashion.
The central plot
involves the sudden return of Rasputin, who has been brought back from the other
side by way of a ceremony performed by two of his Nazi cohorts. As part of his
return to Earth, Rasputin has cut a deal with the dark gods; in exchange for
immortality and unlimited powers, he will open a gateway to Earth. In order to
do so, he must first convert Hellboy to the cause.
Although he's 7
feet tall, big and red, and doesn't necessarily fit in, Hellboy, or Red as he
is preferably known, can't even think to betray his life. He has two specific
reasons for it; his love for Prof. Bruttenholm, who is very much his adoptive
father, and a secret but undying affection for Liz (Selma Blair), a fellow agent
whose possesses the power to ignite fires whenever she gets excited. Since
Hellboy is technically “fireproof”, they would make a perfect couple.
Of all the action
displayed in Hellboy, the real kicker
is Red's extended battle with that of a slimy, reptilian like creature
that's been brought to life out of a museum artifact by way of the Nazi
enemies. The two have to fight each other on more than one occasion because this
creature can reproduce. Their duel on a subway train is a superb, pulse-pounding
Mixing in a way
over the top plot scenario with fantastic visuals, gargantuan action packed
thrills, and an a brilliantly uncanny performance by Perlman, Hellboy is top-notch eye candy done with pure craft and vision.
Credit the gifted Guillermo Del Toro for painting a visually distinctive look to
match the eccentric characters and their dimensions. Del Toro and Perlman have
already signed on to make a sequel in 2006. I for one will be ready for it.
I had a huge
feeling that this movie would make quite an impression on DVD. Boy, was I ever
more right, and then some. As of now, Columbia Tri Star's top notch job on Hellboy
is THE BEST video offering of the year thus far, surpassing that of another CTS
release, Big Fish, from earlier this year. The look that Del Toro has given
the film is delivered magnificently onto the format, blasting the visual senses
in nearly every single scene. Image sharpness is at a pure hundred percent
level, and colors are nothing short of remarkable, especially since Del Toro
uses much distinctive coloring in many of the movie's sequences. An awesomely
mind-blowing visual feast which illustrates DVD performance at its best.
In short, a perfect
match for the video performance. CTS' 5.1 mix ranks among the very best
sounding discs so far in 2004. The level of range given to this sound mix is
incredible and very impeccable. The sound of the movie itself is big and
furious, and so is the sound of the discs, which injects a strong sound
enhancement if I've ever heard one. Right from the opening sequence, the
quality simply never lets up for a second, as music, technical effects, and
dialogue all get sharp as a blade delivery through the channels. High marks all
when I thought the good people at Columbia Tri Star could never surpass the
previous 2-disc offering, here comes a glorious 3-disc package that even
surpasses that release.
1 features a brand new commentary track by Guillermo Del Toro, as well as a
video introduction by the director. Also featured is a composer commentary with
isolated Score, branching DVD comics drawn by Mike Mignola, the "Right Hand
of Doom" set visits and factoids, and a storyboard track.
2 features a
video introduction by Selma
Blair, a much detailed documentary titled, "Hellboy:
The Seeds of Creation", deleted scenes with optional commentary by
Guillermo Del Toro, character bios written by the director, motion board-a-matics,
Animatics, multi-angle storyboard comparisons, a Maquette Rotations Gallery,
Trailers and TV Spots, filmographies and poster explorations.
3 includes a
video introduction by Ron
Perlman , as well as cast video commentary with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair,
Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans, production workshops, makeup and lighting tests
, a Q&A archive for Comic-Con 2002, A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics
with Scott McCloud, director's notebook, photo galleries, Mike Mignola's
Pre-Production Art, conceptual art galleries, and Comic Book Artists Pin-Ups.
featured in the package is an exclusive collectible booklet, titled
"Excerpt From the Diary of Grigori Rasputin", by Mike Mignola.