Hellboy (Blu-ray) (2004)

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Released 10-May-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Audio Commentary-Guillermo del Toro (Writer/Director)
Featurette-Hellboy: Seeds Of Creation
Featurette-Visual Effects How-To's
Featurette-Make-Up And Lighting Tests
Featurette-A Quick Guide To Understanding Comics With Scott McCloud
Deleted Scenes
Trailer-Coming To Blu-ray
Trailer-Ghost Rider
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 132:28
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Guillermo Del Toro
Studio
Distributor
Revolution
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ron Perlman
John Hurt
Selma Blair
Rupert Evans
Karel Roden
Jeffrey Tambor
Doug Jones
Brian Steele
Ladislav Beran
Biddy Hodson
Corey Johnson
Kevin Trainor
Brian Caspe
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Linear PCM 48/16 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
English Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Creating a new superhero to compete with the characters that make up the Marvel or DC staples is somewhat like creating a new cola to compete with Coke or Pepsi. One has to find a niche that the new character will fit into, and hopefully gain enough traction with an audience to survive. Then one day, if one is really lucky, the character might suddenly gain recognition among a wider audience, possibly spurred on by a film adaptation. Hellboy is one example where a superhero character has suddenly become recognised by a wide audience due to a film adaptation. And it took a lot of luck just for the film adaptation to get made. Director Guillermo del Toro had wanted to make an adaptation of Hellboy for years, but was unable to find studio approval or a budget. Then, after Blade II opened to critical derision and financial success, del Toro was offered a choice between making either Blade: Trinity or Hellboy. Despite trying to find the time to make both, he opted for Hellboy, and with a sequel now in theatres, it appears del Toro has made the right choice.

The film begins with a team of Allied soldiers landing on the coast of Scotland in the midst of some spiritual monkey business being performed by none other than Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden). A young Trevor Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor) is the battalion's resident science-fiction expert, who keeps both the soldiers and the audience appraised of what Rasputin is trying to do. Essentially, Rasputin attempts to open a gateway into another dimension. The Allies manage to stop him before the procedure is completed, but not without sending Rasputin off into the other dimension. Investigation of the site eventually uncovers a small red humanoid creature that the soldiers dub Hellboy. Fast forward to the present day, and a young agent by the name of John Myers (Rupert Evans) is reporting for work at a government hybrid of think tank and special forces unit that is so secret its members probably know the truth behind such events as the Kennedy assassination. Myers is soon greeted by an elderly Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt in this incarnation). Bruttenholm introduces Myers to such characters as Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), an aquatic humanoid who essentially plays the brains of the group. But it is the character they have sitting in the lowest levels that Bruttenholm is most concerned about Myers' ability to work with, and so he introduces both Myers and the audience to the adult Hellboy.

Good god, that was a moment. Lore has it that when Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola decided to tell each other their choice for the role of Hellboy, they both said Ron Perlman's name at the same time. Since then, both have stated that when Perlman no longer wishes to play Hellboy, there will be no more Hellboy films. Ron Perlman plays Hellboy with such a presence that while there are certainly larger and more heroic-looking men in Hollywood, it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the character. Hellboy's basic deal is that he is much tougher than the standard Human, ages slower ("think reverse dog years"), and is about as cantankerous as you would expect from a red-skinned man living in a completely alien world. Not helping matters is Hellboy's interest in a woman who, although as ordinary in appearance as you or I, is able to set things ablaze with a single misdirected thought. Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) is also a former associate of Bruttenholm, but feels uncomfortable living among what she feels to be a freak show. And who can blame Liz when a colleague who has bright red skin and filed-down horns is by no means the oddest-looking one of the bunch? This was actually one of my favourite components of the film, as Blair's quiet, understated performance gives an excellent counterpoint to Perlman's boisterous, larger-than-life approach to Hellboy.

Of course, it would be a boring film without conflict, and Hellboy offers a conflict that shows what a few minor differences of detail can make. After being brought back from the other dimension by such savoury characters as Ilsa Haupstein (Bridget Hodson), Rasputin starts bringing over demons like Sammael (Brian Steele) in order to wreak havoc. As Hellboy and his people track Rasputin to a remote part of Russia, it becomes clear that Rasputin has a bit of an interest in Hellboy that goes well beyond the researchers' curiosity that Bruttenholm and his people share. Not to give away too much about the ending, but it has a lot to do with how he got to be on this planet in the first place, as well as the conflict between what he was intended to be and the identity that he has built for himself over the years.

Hellboy is a good title to add to the collection for a number of reasons. The special effects and fantastic concepts provide a number of demo sequences. The central character is of the sort one cannot help liking in spite of his best efforts. If you feel the need for another superhero film in your collection, you can certainly do a lot worse than Hellboy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The Region A disc sold in America is reported to feature a video transfer encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. I mention this primarily because if the Region B disc I am talking about now is the same encode, then it speaks to the enormous potential of the AVC MPEG-4 codec.

The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

I am running out of adjectives to describe how sharp and detailed the transfers I see on Blu-ray Disc are. During the sequence in which Rasputin is opening the portal to whatever world it is Hellboy originated in, the lightning and cell-splitting teleportation effects are so rich in detail that one truly has to rewatch the film in SD in order to appreciate how much more detail this HD transfer contains. One also notices the seams between the principal photography and CGI effects in some sequences, but such is the price of the extra resolution. The shadow detail, as exemplified by the opening sequence, is very good, and there is no low-level noise. Some shots have a mild sprinkle of grain in them, but the types of shots and their composition suggests this grain is inherent in the film and not the fault of the transfer.

An interesting motif occurs throughout the film with regard to colour. Most of the environments, and all of the human characters, have a virtually monochromatic look to them. Characters like Hellboy, Rasputin, and Abe Sapien, by way of contrast, are brighter and more vivid. The transfer preserves this scheme well, with no bleeding or misregistration to cloud the issue. Lens flares appear in some shots, and these of course bring an extra helping of grain, but this is another effect inherent in the original photography rather than a fault with the transfer.

Compression artefacts were not noted in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were not in the transfer, either. Small marks, usually little more than a small white dot, were the total of the film artefacts in the transfer. These were moderate in frequency, but easy enough to ignore.

Subtitles are offered in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The latter are well-timed and accurate to the spoken dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Five soundtracks are present on this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, which I immediately passed over in favour of the second soundtrack, a Linear PCM 5.1 version of the original English dialogue. An Italian dub is offered in Dolby Digital and Linear PCM, both in 5.1 channels. Also offered is an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Comparing the Dolby and Linear PCM soundtracks turned up no surprises. The latter has better separation between the dialogue, music, and sound effects. The score music in particular benefits from the uncompressed soundtrack. I tried to listen to both in their entirety, but once one hears the elements with space between them as opposed to blended together as tends to be the case with Dolby Digital, there really is no going back.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand in both formats, but more so in Linear PCM for the already-mentioned reasons. Audio sync appears to be accurate. I looked for losses of sync in the most obvious spots. Abe Sapien's voice appeared to be perfectly in sync with his lip movements in spite of the dubbing, and the sync elsewhere appeared perfectly fine.

The score music in the film is credited to Marco Beltrami. Some cues, such as during the subway battle between Sammael and Hellboy, are really quite memorable. Others, less so. A cover of the Nick Cave song Red Right Hand by Pete Yorn turned out to be the most memorable number outside of the score.

The surround channels are used somewhat sparsely when one discounts the centre. During such scenes as Hellboy's rooftop surveillance of Liz and Myers, the rears are basically silent. They become a little more active during such sequences as the subway fight between Sammael and Hellboy, but the rear channels generally only echo what is going on in the fronts. As a result, actual uses of the surround channels for effects tend to draw attention in a distracting way.

The subwoofer is used heavily during action sequences and other moments with bass-heavy effects. Like the surrounds, it is silent for long enough and often enough that it is noticeable when it bursts back into life. It is integrated better with the rest of the soundtrack than the surrounds in that it is active when one should expect it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There is a lot of controversy (read: b****ing) about how extras that were on the three-DVD collector's box that was released in America have not made their way onto any Blu-ray Disc. I say good. I will have to find the time to write about this at more length, but I do not want recycled standard definition extras on my HD discs.

Menu

As is the norm for Sony BDs, we have both a Top Menu and a Pop-Up Menu. Both are nicely laid-out, both have a good response time, and both are quite pleasant to look at. My sole complaint is that sixteen chapter stops is far too few for a film that runs in excess of 132 minutes.

Audio Commentary - Guillermo del Toro (Writer/Director)

Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional subtitles, Guillermo del Toro talks at length about the film, saying right off the bat that the cut which appears on this disc is his preferred cut. He is difficult to listen to, as much for his dull drone as his thick Mexican accent, but the insights he provides into his influences and the creative process make it worth the effort.

Featurette - Hellboy: Seeds Of Creation

A two hour, twenty-three minute, eight second featurette that can be played as either six separate parts or in one big chunk. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Deleted Scenes

Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 as a small window that is not 16:9 Enhanced, with a choice between Dolby Digital 2.0 production audio or a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary by Guillermo del Toro. The three scenes (Breaking The Ice Wall, Cab Ride, and Russian Warehouse) can be played as one big featurette with a total running time of four minutes and twenty-eight seconds.

Featurette - Visual Effects How-To's

Three featurettes that should have included a Play All option. Bellamie Hospital/B.P.R.D. Lift Miniatures (5:49), Computer Generated Sets/Behemoth (4:01), and Liz's Fire (2:54) describe how the effects described by the titles were achieved. Each featurette is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Make-Up And Lighting Tests with commentary by Guillermo del Toro

Footage of tests that were done to find the best way to light and shoot the film. Running length is seven minutes and twenty-one seconds. Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - A Quick Guide To Understanding Comics With Scott McCloud

Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this twelve minute and nineteen second featurette goes into the origins of the comic book and how the comic book has assumed the form it exists in today. Very interesting stuff.

Trailer - Coming To Blu-ray

This trailer, presented in aspect ratios varying between 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.20:1, and 2.40:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is basically a minute and thirteen seconds of Sony advertising their plans for the early stages of the format's introduction. Very pleasing to the eye since it is one of two extras on the disc that is high definition.

Trailer - Ghost Rider

Presented in the aspect ratio of (about) 2.00:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, this two minute and thirty-two second trailer manages to make the film seem even worse than it actually is. Also in high definition.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region A version of this disc misses out on;

The Region B version of this disc misses out on;

Unless you have an overwhelming need for a particular language option, I think we can call this one pretty even.

Summary

"If there's trouble, all us freaks have is each other..."

Hellboy was quite a pleasant surprise. Things I had read led me to expect a mashing of X-Men and Ghostbusters, and while that is one way to describe what we get in this film, we also get quite a lot more. The difference between what people tell us we are born to be and what we make ourselves is the theme here, and you definitely have to give Guillermo del Toro credit for approaching the material in a unique manner. Now, all I need is a similarly unique in style adaptation of the Flaming Carrot comics and I will be well-satisfied for comic book adaptations.

The video transfer is excellent.

The audio transfer is good, but collapses into the fronts a lot.

The extras are numerous, but almost entirely in SD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, July 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSharp AQUOS BD-HP20X, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
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3 Disc DVD - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Looks great so far... - Sean REPLY POSTED