Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer that is AVC MPEG-4 encoded. I'm glad to report that the lavish production has been given an equally lavish transfer with eye popping visuals galore.
First up is detail, which is sharp and accurate and defines edges from the closest parts of the frame to the far off distance. The carvings on Hellboy's body are sharp and clear, skin detail including pores and hairs are pin sharp, the markings on Abe's skin, all are clear and distinct. Look too as the many books in the library, pause the film and read the titles if you want. Middle distance fairs just as well, the cars in the street, the sign posts or billboards all are perfectly readable. And far off distance is no slouch either, the film doesn't use many but the long shot over Ireland could be printed as a post card, sunny too! But for shear eye candy visit the Troll market for therein lays some breathtaking imagery, I'll be coming back to this scene time and again for the picture quality but for now the detail is outstanding, from individual creatures, to brickwork to the slimy floor; it's all perfect clarity.
Colours too are faithfully represented in all their vivid glory. The blues of the human world, the reds and golds of the underworld all are rich and bright without any hint of bleed or wash. But for sheer spectacle return again to the Troll Market, for here there is every colour you can imagine bright, lush and vivid. Blues, purples, greens, browns, reds, golds all positively shine off the screen. There are no grading problems and all are bold and strong, look to Reds skin for proof. The human skin tones are well realised looking natural enough within the confines of the lighting.
Brightness is set to give some lovely deep blacks giving rise to plenty of frame depth. There is plenty going on in the shadows too and this being the type of film that used them take, once again, a look at the Troll market and the amount that can bee seen lurking deep within the darkness. Contrast is set to give decent strong whites, never over blown and certainly not boosted, never any detail lost.
Digitally there were no compression problems to report and there was no edge enhancement either. The original print is pristine suffering no blemishes of any kind and has an overcoat of grain that give the picture one of the best 'film' looks I have seen for a very long time. In short this is a top notch picture and am happy to award it as such.
SoundThe disc has three sound tracks French and Spanish DTS 5.1 and an English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 7.1 Surround; although I concentrate on the latter I must mention that reviewed is just 5.1. In a word, wow. In another word, loud! Right from the off, that's the production titles, all the speakers spring to life and barely let up until the final credit has rolled. And this is no muddled mess either, this is precise detailing of the sound environment and makes it one hugely exciting sound track. Let us take for example the Elemental attack, here we have a huge amount going on with the sound track; buildings crashing down, screams, dialogue, bullets shooting, the score and falling water all competing for space in the sound field. And it is mixed with aplomb, the action takes the centre of the stage with huge rumbles from the sub, and debris falling all around, dialogue is clearly audible - with directionality - when needed, Elfman's score comes from above and below and those soft water drops tinker just under the radar, listen and they are there, a superb mix means that nothing is missing.
The track is just as good when it comes to the quiet moments, when Red is injured and soft dialogue between Abe and Liz is still underpinned with soft ambience from instruments and the general hum of the building. The surrounds are in constant use to really place you in the centre of the action. Elfman's score comes across with gusto and subtly depending on what is needed. But perhaps the wildest part would be the final showdown against the Golden Army itself; surrounds, fronts and most notably the sub - which rumbles so loud it can be felt through the floor and move furniture - are used to their fullest in a bombastic and all encompassing aural attack. Awesome.
If I had a niggle it would be that it is a very loud track and may require a little volume adjustment for those with sensitive neighbours (or ears) but on the whole this is HD sound as it should be demonstrated. Top marks from me.
- Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro
First up we have a very informative, if a little scene specific, commentary from the director who goes to great pain to explain his ideas, conception and look for the film. Whilst it is quite specific to the scene on show Toro meanders around the subject but with such enthusiasm that you cannot help but be hooked on what he is saying. After the introduction, and his apology of his accent, you really don't notice it as his explanations come thick and fast about what was happening here, what went on there from a production, design, look, camera, casting point of view. No stone is left unturned and as such there is a little repetition with other areas on the disc.
- Audio Commentary with Cast Members Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair & Luke Gross
No where near as technical as Toro's effort and if I'm honest does come across as a little amateurish, however all three have good recollections and are happy to engage with each other showing a fine chemistry. Shame they take to just watching the film and commenting as opposed to being up front and talkative which leads to a few gaps and some errors in judgment when one (remaining nameless) confesses to not knowing characters.... Perhaps a one listen play.
- Troll Market Tour with Guillermo del Toro - 0.12.22
Toro walks us around the set for this most intricate scene and talks about how it was designed to accommodate the space and give a sense of perspective, you really get to see just how big and detailed this set was without any actors in the way, just a shame it is not in HD.
- Production Workshop - 0.04.41
Introduced by Toro who tells us the genesis and reasons for its existence. We are presented with a split screen showing us the development of the opening puppet story through to finished film. Can be played with Toro's commentary.
- Animated Comic Zinco Epilogue - 0.05.14
An SD short acting as an epilogue to the film we've just witnessed, leaves it open for a third instalment in a direction that the film did not predict.
- Comic Book Builder
Make your own comic by selecting a cover, scenes from the film and dialogue which is then crafted into an authentic looking comic book. Nice idea and execution if ultimately a gimmick.
- Still Gallery
Pictures from the film both post and pre production which can be viewed individually or as a slide show.
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Guillermo del Toro - 0.05.04
Six scenes that can be watched individually or all together with or without director's commentary. The whole thing only runs for five minutes and amounts to only a few seconds of additional material, removed due to pacing and whilst there is nothing of significance how much would five minutes really have made ...?
- Video Prologue - 0.0.23
An introduction to the extras section in which director Guillermo del Toro professes his admiration for this his most personal project.
- Hellboy: In Service of the Demon - 02.34.51
And astonishingly in depth making of documentary that goes into the minutest detail about everything during pre, post and production. Packed to the gills with interviews with everyone involved with the film, behind the scenes filming, pre-behind the scenes filming and just about everything you need to know about the production of this film. It is refreshing to see such a well made documentary of the insights into not only this film but the motion picture industry whole and Universal should be congratulated on producing such a well thought out and designed feature such as this. It is so all encompassing that it inevitably treads on the toes of some of the other features on offer in the disc but never the less this is one entertaining and informative watch deserving of your time. Can be watched as chapters but when watched with 'play all' contains even more extra footage.
- Marketing Campaign
Posters from all over the world watched as a slide show or skipped with the remote
- Digital Copy Script
Digital copy for ipods and the like plus a copy of the script if you fancy reading along with the action
HD Exclusive Content
Making extensive use of Universals U-control facility there are four ways to view the film - all can be watched together:
- Scene Explorer: Schufftan Goggle View
Watch certain scenes during stages of their filming from greenscreen, animatic, blocked CGI and finished product, best view is all four at once through the 'goggles'
- Director's Notebook
Stops the film to take a look at a page from Toro's concept book containing all his notes and drawing for the scene in question; the highlighted option allows behind the scenes filming and interviews, all in HD, of all the HD content this one is the most entertaining and informative.
- Set Visits
Much like the above but without the note book, opens up to view the set in question, showing just how intricate and well designed everything was.
- Concept Art Gallery
Original designs and artwork of the various creatures that inhabit certain scenes float across the screen
- BD Live
Reported to include My Chat, My Scenes Sharing and Exclusive BD Live Content such a additional deleted scenes, but as yet is not working
In all this is one of the most comprehensive extras packages I have ever come across, not only does it delve deep into the inner working of the film but is done so in a thoroughly entertaining way that makes for a very enjoyable watch. Universal need high praise for this. One thing to note, the second disc is an SD DVD which is a shame because the documentary in HD would have been something really special. Finally and I know it's not really an extra per se but this set comes with a slip case and on it is one of those embossed pictures that from one side is Hellboy's face and in the other is his comic book guise; a lovely touch.
VerdictHellboy 2 hit our cinema screens during a summer of bigger, at least in terms of budget, super hero movies. Whilst is may be smaller is scale when compared in terms of bang for your bucks Hellboy 2 more than delivers. Delivering a complex story of co-existing worlds, warring factions, love and loss all intertwining with 'family' drama, comedy and balls out action, it ticks all the boxes of an all out entertaining film. And when a story is so well told that you cannot help but fall for the characters and their plight despite the complete outlandishness of their species this one is a hit no matter how you look at it.
As a Blu-ray set Universal have delivered one of the most outstanding packages to date, from the stylish slip case to reference picture and sound and an extras package that will have you watching again and again, the only low is the lack of full HD, but even that can be overlooked with a decent upscaler. Matching and surpassing its original Hellboy 2 comes thoroughly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.
- Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro