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August 4, 2007
Hellboy: The Director's Cut - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
19/8/200410/5/2007Sony PicturesGuillermo del Toro
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVCDD5.1 448kbps
PCM 4.6Mbps
MRon Pearlman

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Colours in Hellboy are vibrant!
When it comes to comic book properties Hellboy isn't exactly one which would spring to mind for most people. Indeed, before the release of this movie in cinemas in 2004 I can't honestly say that I had even heard of the character, but he has a large following around the globe and the Hellboy universe is certainly an interesting one. This movie, like the comic books, can best be described as a supernatural action adventure. The Dark Horse Comics are written by Mike Mignola and this movie has been directed by the genius that is Guillermo del Toro - a name which you will certainly be quite familiar with in the coming years, if not already. So what's it all about then...

Hellboy was born in the flames of hell and brought to Earth in 1944 as an infant to perpetrate evil, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) was rescued from sinister forces by the benevolent Dr. Broom (John Hurt), who raised him to be a hero. In Dr. Broom's secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy creates an unlikely family consisting of the telepathic "Mer-Man" Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), the woman he loves who can control fire. Hidden from the very society that they protect, they stand as the key line of defense against an evil madman who seeks to reclaim Hellboy to the dark side and use his powers to destroy mankind.

So do I actually like the movie? I would say it's good, but not great. I saw it in the cinemas and walked out satisfied; nothing more, nothing less. I've seen it on Blu-Ray three times now and it still holds up pretty well after each viewing, if anything my appreciation for the movie is going up. It probably helps that the Blu-Ray version is the Directors Cut and includes about 10 extra minutes cut back into the movie which adds a few more key scenes and fleshes out the story a little more. Cinematically the movie retains a comic book feel. Colours are bold, from the red of Hellboy himself, to the blues of Abe Sapien, or the blacks of the Nazi's. Set design is impressive, and the acting, for the most part is pretty good with John Hurt providing much of the heart of the movie and a nice balance to Hellboy's gruffness. Selma Blair is gorgeous as Liz Sherman (Hellboy's girlfriend) but is so underutilised that come the finale there's isn't as much emotional impact as one would expect (don't worry I won't say any more to spoil it for you!).

I guess my uncertainty about this movie stems from the inability to really come to love someone like Hellboy. While other comic book characters such as Spider-Man, Superman or even Blade have some charisma I found Hellboy to be stale. Perhaps that is Ron Pearlman - not the most articulate of actors at the best of times - or perhaps it's the source material and his dislike for a world which he can't explore as he remains hidden away. If you like movies such as Blade or X-Men then you'll probably enjoy this movie - whether it manages to truly satisfy remains to be seen.

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John Hurt puts in an excellent performance.
Video on Hellboy: The Director's Cut is presented with the AVC MPEG-4 video codec. The most impressive aspect about this transfer is just how vibrant everything is - not least of which is the red skin on Hellboy himself. Dark scenes are also impressive - the opening scene when the Nazi's are opening the portal not only takes place at night, but also during a storm with brilliant lightning flashes and heavy rain. It looks simply gorgeous. After the dark opening you move into a brilliant red opening credit sequence which is razor sharp throughout. In a movie where there is so much makeup there's always a chance it would show up on the High Definition transfer, but soo good is Guillermo del Toro's eye for detail and quality that every little detail in the characters, and movie sets, is gorgeous to look at. You're never taken out of the movie experience due to bad effects or makeup.

I do have one small niggle which pops up on occasion. A couple of the scenes occasionally look a little soft - I'm not sure if these were in the original theatrical presentation or some of the extended scenes - but they are there although it will take a keen eye to pick it and we have to assume they were from the original filming, and not this transfer.

Audio in Hellboy is very impressive indeed. If you have the means the Linear PCM track at 4.6Mbps will blow you away with deep bass and even the smallest effects being accurately picked up. If you speak Italian you're in luck as you get the very same track (albeit with Italian speech of course). Surround sound use is pretty aggressive, especially in the action scenes with the only issue being Ron Pearlman's deep voice occasionally being a little muffled.

If you don't have the capabilities to play back the PCM audio then you may have to live with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack at 448kbps (which is, yet again, available in either English or Italian). We have to admit that we're a little disappointed in this track as it's not as good as we hope for from a Blu-Ray disc - 640kbps would have been nice that's for sure. Compared to the PCM track this audio experience seems a bit light and certainly lacks the impact of the higher bitrate track. Still, from a technical standpoint we didn't notice any major issues with the track.

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Guys, my goggles are fogging up!
Hellboy has been released on DVD in a couple of varieties already with a 2-disc version being absolutely choc-full of superb extras. Unfortunately this Blu-Ray release is missing many of those extras but keeps the two key ones... a documentary which runs for almost 2 1/2 hours, and the commentary with the director Guillermo del Toro. It's a good set of extras which only disappoint due to the Standard Definition video rather then HD.

Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation (143:08):

    Now this is a documentary! With a runtime of 2 hours 23 minutes this is actually longer the extended cut of the movie! Fortunately it's not all fluff either, with tonnes of information from the creation of Hellboy, to the efforts to put this movie together, and filming the feature. It's an extensive documentary - and among the best we've ever seen on Blu-Ray of DVD. The video is presented in Standard Definition with MPEG-2 compression and 192kbps Stereo Sound. One thing to note though is that for some parts of the documentary the participants are speaking in Spanish, and the subtitles are off by default.

Audio Commentary by Director Guillermo del Toro:

    We can probably be a little bit honest here and say that while Guillermo is obviously very much in love with the source material, and the movie he as created, and is full of information this wasn't an overly exciting audio commentary. For me Guillermo's heavy accent actually made listening to the commentary a tiring experience - it was much better when listened to in chunks.

Deleted Scenes (4:28):

    Three deleted scenes with optional commentary with the director. Two of the three were actually put back into the Extended Cut of the movie, so they aren't really deleted. Interesting comments as to why they were removed originally. Worth a look, but hardly the extensive content one would expect.

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Well, Hellboy, what have you there?
Visual Effects How-To's (12:04):

    Three short, but interesting pieces about the visual effects used in the movie from practical to CG effects. Each is quite interesting and worth a look.

Make-up and Lighting Tests (7:21):

    An interesting look at how different lighting was tested in the creation of the movie. Commentary with Guillermo del Toro discusses the various looks and styles that worked, and didn't.

A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics (12:19):

    A look at comic-books and how the visual style impacts on the reader.

Trailer (2.32/HD):

    A trailer for Ghost Rider in HD with 448kbps audio.

If you like Hellboy and own a PS3 then there's little reason not to pick up this Blu-Ray disc. It offers a beautiful transfer with a decent set of extras, although there is some disappointment that we don't get the full suite of extras seen on the fabulous 2-disc DVD set with the commentary with stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans certainly missed. Still, I would rather the developers put all their efforts into the video and audio presentation - the quality of which can not be faulted on this disc.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.