Hellboy: 3 Disc Directors Cut DVD Review
PictureHellboy is presented in a fine 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is generally fantastic, with decent clarity, no softness and no grain whatsoever. There are also no noticeable signs of edge enhancement or of other digital artefacting. The colour scheme is quite broad, if nominally restricted by the darkness-dominated night-time sequences. Blacks are solid and deep, allowing for great shadowing, with decent reds, wonderful snow sequences and luscious colours whenever they are offered. The transfer itself exhibits no signs of print damage.
SoundAll we get for this release is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which is not that much of a loss as it is still a tremendous effort. The dialogue is presented clearly from the frontal array but the standout aspects of the track come in the form of the score and the numerous effects. From the explosions to the car crashes and monster fights, the big bangs are really in your face and even offer up a bit of thunderous bass, but there are also plenty of more subtle sounds that are cunningly observed throughout and give the surrounds lots to play with. The score runs almost constantly, either brooding during the quieter scenes or rousing you for the action set-pieces. I know some would have preferred a DTS alternative but most will be quite content with this outstanding Dolby effort.
ExtrasFirst up on Disc 1 there is a twenty-second Video Introduction by Guillermo Del Toro, who briefly runs through the different extras and options accessible on this disc.
The Commentary by Director Guillermo Del Toro is a brand new track recorded exclusively for the Director's Cut of the movie. Sure, we lose his original commentary and we also lose the cast commentary (which is given a different form and housed on the third disc) but the new information is far more relevant to this cut, with Del Toro detailing why he made the changes for the cinematic version and why many of the character evolution sequences were reinserted here.
There is also a Composer Commentary with Isolated Score (which, in a way is a shame as you sometimes want to just listen to the music and not here all the talk over it). The Composer, Marco Beltrami, talks about having worked with Del Toro on both Mimic and Blade 2 before and then cuts to the chase, discussing in fairly intricate detail the various thematic elements used to populate the score (Hellboy's main theme etc.) There are a few too many pauses (but these at least do allow you to hear the soundtrack more freely) and this is a fairly specialist commentary that only avid fans are likely to dip into.
The Branching DVD Comics with Text from Guillermo Del Toro are a series of stills from the new Hellboy comics that creator Mike Mignola drew and Del Toro himself wrote, which can be accessed as and when they are relevant to the film's proceedings, or can be viewed through the special features index. They include introductions to the Gate of the Dragon, Abe Sapien, The Samaritan, Hellboy's belts and Rasputin. For each of these - and the other - options, you get a few stills from the comics, with scrolling text explaining the relevant item/character and hauntingly eerie music playing in the background.
The 'Right Hand of Doom' Set Visits and Factoids also can be accessed as and when the icon appears during the movie, but again have the index option so that you can view them separately. They cover the Abbey Ruins, Broom's Office, the Machen Library Alley, the Subway, Kroenen's Lair, the Egg Chamber and the Catacombs. Each one spends three minutes or so not only showing off the particular set but also including background footage of fight rehearsals and the like (the Kroenen assassin training looks particularly good).
Rounding off the first disc are a series of Storyboards which can be played alongside the movie for direct comparison. Not all of the scenes showcase storyboards and the boards themselves are displayed only in the bottom right hand corner of the movie - rather than in split-screen fashion - but it is still nice to have them included here.
Disc 2 starts off with a short, fairly monotonous Video Introduction by Selma Blair, telling you what's on this second disc.
Split into Hellboy-themed sections, The Egg Chamber contains The 'Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation' 2 Hour Documentary on the Making Of Hellboy. This mammoth documentary is split into several sections: Pre-production - From Graphic Novel to Film, Clay Monsters/Comic Convention 2002, Creating Conditions and Atmosphere: The Look and Stunts of Hellboy; Principal Photography - Video Diaries for about thirty selected days from the hundred-odd days of filming; Second Unit - Animation; Post Production - Sound Design, ADR and Scoring and footage from the Premiere. What more can I say? There is just about everything you could possibly want to know about the making of this movie included here in this comprehensive documentary, which features contributions from most of the members of the cast and crew both on and off set and is one of the least fluffy, promotional making-ofs that I have come across.
The Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary are slightly disappointing in that there are only three: Breaking the Ice Wall, Cab Ride and Russian Warehouse. Worse still, the second scene (the taxi) is already in the Director's Cut and has no place in the extras for this release. Totalling only about three minutes of extra footage, the Director is quite down-to-earth about cutting these scenes out and you can largely understand why they were removed. It should be noted that the commentary was recorded before the release of this Director's Cut, making references to a 'forthcoming extended edition' throughout.
Finally for the Egg Chamber section we get a bunch of Filmographies for the main cast and crew members, along with Character Biographies for the significant parts.
For the Kroenen's Lair section we get Scene Progression: Ogrdu Jahad. With a brief introduction by Del Toro, this is a much nicer way of viewing these storyboards (as opposed to the miniaturised version available on the first disc) because here the storyboards take centre stage and the movie clip plays in the bottom right hand corner. There is also a separate Storyboard Comparisons option which utilises the angle option on your DVD remote so that you can change between different versions of the scenes. The scenes include the opening gambit, the library, the subway fight and the corpse.
The Animatics option allows you to watch a comparison shot of the animatics versus a relevant scene, or alternatively just view the full screen animatic. There are several scenes covered, including the first main chase sequence, Hellboy and Abe in the Underwater Chamber and the final showdown. Again we get an introduction to it all by Del Toro. Board-A-Matics is a side-by-side comparison of key scenes with the relevant animated storyboards. Covering the lift sequence, the hospital, the bridge, the rooftop scene and the tunnel - and also featuring a Del Toro introduction - this is a slight variation on the previous storyboarding and animatic options, since these are actually animated storyboards.
Given its own section, we get a Maquette 3D Character Sculptures Video Gallery which is split into: Baby Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Sammael, Ogdru Jahad, The Corpse and Behemoth, each showing rotations of various maquettes created for the movie. Using the thumbnail gallery as an index it is possible to select and enlarge each of the designs.
The Bellamie Hospital section contains the Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and Print Campaign, although the main menu also contains further trailers (for some truly terrible-sounding movies, including Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Boa vs. Python, Frankenfish and - the only one related to the main movie - Spideman 2) along with a promotion for some Hellboy merchandise.
The final disc kicks off with a Video Introduction by the star, Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, looking very 'normal' out of makeup.
The Cast Video Commentary with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans is the original commentary that was included for the theatrical cut release, only here we get to see the main contributors actually sitting and recording the commentary, with the movie itself playing in the bottom right-hand-corner of the screen. There are a few pauses where we cut back to a full-screen shot of the movie, but for the large part we get to see the cast discussing the production and their involvement in it. Vastly more interesting than the main Director's effort, it is made even more enjoyable by the ability to finally actually see the participants chatting together.
The Production Workshops section is split into Makeup and Lighting Tests (with optional Director's Commentary) and Visual Effects How-Tos covering the hospital, the lift miniatures, the CG sets, the final beast and Liz's fire. The Tests section lasts some seven minutes and explores how they lit certain scenes and the VFX offerings are only a few minutes' long each and look into more detail at the effects used in each of those sequences.
The Q&A Archive: Comic Con 2002 sees Del Toro, Ron Perlman and creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola attend and promote their production at the 2002 Comic Convention. It is basically 23 minutes of footage from their questions-and-answers presentation.
A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud lasts twelve minutes and explores the origins of comics (in the broadest sense of the word), how they evolved over the years and became what we have today. It is quite scary just how much this guy knows about the history of comics, but some of the facts are fairly shocking when you realise that the concept manifested hundreds of years ago, but didn't come to fruition until the last half-century.
The Galleries section includes the Director's Notebook, some Production Design galleries (covering Conceptual Art, Production Stills and Mike Mignola's own Pre-Production Art) and a selection of Comic Book Artists Pin-Ups. Creator Mignola's work here is sure to be of the most interest to fans.
As if this all were not enough, there are also a series of hidden feature Easter Eggs, including funny clips from Del Toro himself. These tend to be accessible by using your DVD remote to search around the main menus on each disc for special 'hidden' icons.
VerdictHellboy is a good, fun comic book adaptation with a dark, broody edge that makes it all the more enjoyable. The video presentation is decent but the soundtrack really stands out, as does the wealth of extras we get for this three-disk definitive edition. The director's cut will not convert those who did not like the original version but will clearly be of interest to fans of the cinematic version and if you haven't already picked up the Region 1 alternative then this is clearly the release to own.
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