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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A trailer for Ghost Rider in HD with 448kbps audio.
Review By: Dave Warner