Hellboy: Director's Cut DVD Review
PictureFantastisc. And it needs to be, too! There are dark, deep shadows throughout, which would just be inky black if it were not for the superb picture. As it stands, there is layer upon layer of detail hidden in Hellboy's deep shadows especially in the WW2 period introduction piece. Unlike, say, Fight Club in which subdued lighting can become wearing, Hellboy never seems so. The festival through which the Sammael creature and Hellboy race is chock full of colour, contrast and vitality. Some winter scenes have a huge contrast range - dark tombs against virgin white snow that reveal a dirt free picture. Just make sure your DVD player is up to the task of displaying all of Hellboy's deep pallet.
SoundSound is very good indeed and every speaker will be given a workout. This is a comic book adaptation so OTT special effects, explosions and gunfire are prevalent. However it isn't the performance of your sub which will make or break the sound, but the centre and surround channels. There is a fair bit going on, normally, and it is testimony to the mix that all the important information is so clear. At no point did I crave more clarity or a reduction in ancillary sound, in fact I wanted more! From an agent scratching his hair implants to an exploding asylum, the sound effects are great. The Only criticism is that there isn't a particularly effective musical theme. Hellboy is a bit like X-Men 1 in that music plays an understated role, underlining moods or character emotions. This is perfectly fine, but the scene I mentioned above, with Hellboy watching a procession, works so much better with a tight focussed score. I feel the rest of the movie may have benefited, too, from this approach?
ExtrasGood God! Where to start? It has took me ages just to watch the stuff, and nearly all of it is good. So, firstly the freebie: Diary of Grigori Rasputin. Not that useful, but certainly interesting, this diary is full of artistic imagination. There is an olde world feel to this freebie which is difficult to attain. The pictograms, text and drawings all reek of occultism. Little of the text means much, but there is an explanatory appendix at the back of the diary by creator Mike Mignola for the bits that do. The manufacturers even made the diary even smells right!
Guillermo del Toro's new commentary is as interesting as the first, full of asides, backstories and anecdotes. He explains some of his artistic inspiration, how he worked in an asylum and ate lunch in a graveyard! He even touches on some Mexican history where Catholicism was outlawed, there. Comments on restored scenes are also given, where appropriate.
Braching DVD Comics are an innovative extra with some of these being pretty good. One such is a fairly light hearted look at how Hellboy will never return to his homeland, now he has discovered pancakes!
Right Hand of Doom set visits Are interesting insights into behind the camera chitchat. I like this kind of stuff, it somehow makes the movie more personal? Jeffrey Tambor in particular seems to have a very dry sense of humour that the crew appreciate. “There's no such thing as a light prop, on this show!” Jeffrey states when Ron Pearlman complains that his arm is getting tired.
Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation is about as exhaustive a documentary as you could wish for. It makes even the Star Wars one look a little less impressive. Huge amounts of detail, and yet enjoyable all the same I never got tired of watching this. There is a very informative sound effects part, too, which goes into some detail about this often overlooked area of filmmaking. Character Bio's show how much detail went into this movie without a page of the script ever written. These Bio's are very impressive and must have been a great boon to the actors involved. Speaking of which, Cast Video Comentary is a weird one. When I first looked at this I thought “this is going to be boring”. You see, Cast Video Comentary is the entire theatrical release of the movie played in a little picture in picture box. The main screen is the four main actors sitting in a studio doing their commentary from the first DVD release. Strangely, though, actually seeing the actors offers a new experience. Pearlman's intensity and instantly applied wide vocabulary shines through as does Tambor's humour. I loved this format of commentaries, especially after the end of the movie where they all relax and act like friends. Tambor states, “Y' know, we're more animated and cogent now the movie's finished than when we were commentating?”
A Quick Guide to Comics with Scott McCloud is a fairly in depth critique of comics and how they have evolved. McCloud is at some pains to explain that comics are not childish things but are a sophisticated form of art, which is right. His points are supplemented with excerpts of Mike Mignola's are from Hellboy. I think anyone who has read “Arkham Asylum” with its astonishing artwork will be in no doubt of this, but as a widely accessible documentary to none comic fans, this is a treat.
VerdictAs a comic adaptation, Hellboy is not perfect. I simply cannot be engaged by the much used Sammael creatures. To me, once the human, identifiable, element is removed from an antagonist, I tend to loose interest and this happened with Hellboy. As a package, though this Directors Cut is exceptional, offering material from way beyond the movie. This is a rare instance in which the extras really do make up for, to me at least, a mediocre movie. Obviously, fans of the series will be much more impressed.
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