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HELLBOY:  DIRECTOR'S CUT
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Karel Roden, Rupert Evans, John Hurt
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date:
June 5, 2007

“Remind me why I do this again.”

“Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind.”

Film ***

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 moment.

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.

Video ***1/2

I always hate when I feel the need to knock off a little score for Blu-ray, especially with a disc as vibrant and colorful as this one.  Most of it comes across spectacularly, but there are a few darker moments that struck me as a little murky and less detailed.

Audio ****

No issues with the uncompressed audio offering, as the plentiful action and expansive scenes make the 5.1 soundtrack expansive and dynamic.  There are plenty of crossover signals, good clean dialogue, and a strong balance of text against the terrific music and special effects.

Features ***

This disc features a solid commentary track by Guillermo Del Toro, as well as a much detailed documentary titled, "Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation", deleted scenes with optional commentary by Guillermo Del Toro, a look at the effects, make-up tests, and A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud.

Summary:

Hellboy is a superb comic creation, and I'm glad to see that his adventures are continuing.  This Blu-ray release is a good way to catch yourself up to speed before you head to the multiplex for the sequel.

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