Hellboy II: The Golden Army appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While much of the flick looked quite good, a few too many problems emerged.
Some of these connected to sharpness. I noticed examples of moderate edge enhancement, and those elements gave some shots a loose, tentative feel. Though most of the image looked concise, the occasional softness and the edge haloes created distractions. No concerns with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, though. As for print flaws, they seemed absent, though I thought the flick displayed more grain than usual.
Colors also could be somewhat erratic. The film used stylized tones that favored a mix of blues, golds and reds. The first two came across well and looked vivid, but the reds tended to appear a bit too heavy. For the most part, though, colors seemed good. Blacks were deep and rich, but shadows were less pleasing. Some low-light shots displayed slightly murky definition and could be too opaque. At no point did the transfer become unattractive, but I thought a big flick like this deserved a more consistent presentation.
At least Army featured strong audio, as the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundfield offered an active environment. All five channels received frequent use, whether for the vivid action sequences or just to provide generally spooky music and ambience. The different elements seemed nicely delineated and placed within the spectrum, and they blended together smoothly and cleanly. The surrounds played a very substantial role in the process and provided a high level of discrete information. As a result, the soundfield consistently gave us a lively and engaging presence.
Audio quality also seemed terrific. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid, and the score and songs demonstrated solid dynamics; highs came across as crisp and clear, while low-end sounded deep and warm.
Effects provided the highlights of the track, of course, as the myriad of elements kept the mix active. Those components sounded clean and accurate and they featured excellent low-end response. Bass consistently appeared loud but it remained tight and never became overwhelming; that spectrum accentuated the process and didn’t become a distraction. I found nothing about which I could complain as I listened to this positive mix.
Like virtually all Guillermo Del Toro movies, Hellboy II features a ton of supplements. On DVD One, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Guillermo Del Toro, as he provides a running, screen-specific chat. Del Toro discusses story, themes and characters, the development of the sequel, sets and locations, visual design and cinematography, makeup and effects, inspirations and influences, and other production specifics.
Del Toro always offers interesting commentaries, and his chat here continues that trend. The director comes across as thoughtful, funny and unassuming as he discusses his film. He digs into a mix of fascinating topics and turns this into yet another terrific track.
For the second commentary, we hear from actors Selma Blair, Luke Goss and Jeffrey Tambor. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They talk about their experiences during the shoot as well as some character notes and performance specifics.
After the excellent chat from Del Toro, it seemed inevitable that the second track wouldn’t be as good. The actor commentary indeed falls far short of the level achieved by the director, and it often doesn’t give us a lot of substance. Oh, it proves to be reasonably entertaining, mostly due to the chemistry among the actors, but we simply don’t learn much about the flick.
Next we find a collection of seven Set Visits. These run a total of 17 minutes, 51 seconds; the clips vary from one minute, 29 seconds up to three minutes, two seconds. These provide raw footage from the sets; we go to the locations and watch the cast and crew at work. I like this kind of behind the scenes material, so I think these are quite satisfying. I would’ve liked a “View All” option, though.
A Troll Market Tour with Guillermo Del Toro lasts 12 minutes, 21 seconds. During this, the director leads us through the troll market set and tells us a little about it. Since I still enjoy behind the scenes elements, I find a lot to enjoy here. Del Toro is always such a fun host, and we get a nice sense of the details in the complex set through his chat.
After this we get an animated comic. Entitled Zinco Epilogue, the piece fills five minutes, 14 seconds as it shows an extension of the film’s ending. It proves mildly interesting but not much more than that.
Six Deleted Scenes go for a total of five minutes, two seconds. These include “Blackwood’s Auction Video” (0:40), “Coffee Break” (0:59), “Minty Aftertaste” (0:32), “On the Beat” (0:45), “Prince Nuada Silverlance” (1:27) and “Big Baby Montage” (0:36). Liz and Manning get a boost in a couple of these, and we also find some minor exposition. “Silverlance” already appears in the final flick in shorter form; it’s the least interesting of the segments here. Nothing crucial appears, but the clips offer some interesting little bits.
We can watch these scenes with or without commentary from Del Toro. He gives us some basic notes about the segments as well thoughts about why he dropped them. As always, Del Toro amuses and informs with his remarks.
DVD One opens with a few ads. We get promos for Wanted, the Wanted: Weapons of Fate videogame, Knight Rider, Blu-Ray Disc, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior and Slap Shot 3: The Junior League.
Over on DVD Two, we start with a quick Prologue introduction from Del Toro. In this 23-second clip, he gives us a quick overview of his intentions for the extras. It’s painless.
The disc’s main attraction comes from a documentary called Hellboy: In the Service of the Demon. During this two-hour, 34-minute and 41-second piece, we hear from Del Toro, Goss, Tambor, Blair, creator/co-executive producer Mike Mignola, producers Lloyd Levin and Lawrence Gordon, creature and makeup effects designer Mike Elizolde, puppeteer/creature department supervisor Mark Setrakian, stunt coordinator Bradley Allan, animation lead Anders Beer, visual effects supervisor Michael Wassel, digital effects supervisor Andrew Chapman, animation lead Jay Davis, CG sequence supervisor Graham Jack, costume designer Sammy Sheldon, production designer Stephen Scott, assistant VFX supervisor Manex Efrem, animation supervisor Eamonn Butler, 2D sequence supervisors Jolene McCaffrey, Tom Rolfe and Paul Morris, 3D sequence supervisor Brian Kranz, sequence lead Stewart Love, technical director Graham Hudson, and actors Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Anna Walton, James Dodd, John Alexander, Brian Steele, and Seth MacFarlane.
“Service” covers the development of the sequel, visual design and choices, characters and story, costumes and sets, creatures, makeup and effects, cast and performances, stunts and fight choreography, dubbing, and post-production CG. With more than 150 minutes at its disposal, “Service” gets a great deal of time to cover the production, and it does so very well. The show touches on a good variety of subjects and offers a fine combination of filmmaker notes and behind the scenes footage. This is a consistently stimulating and informative piece.
A Production Workshop gives us a “thumbnail storyboard progression”. The “Intro” includes some opening notes from Del Toro, but then it shows the Golden Army puppet prologue via a storyboard/final film comparison. We can watch the sequence sans intro but with added commentary from Del Toro. As always, he brings good information to the table and helps make this component worthwhile.
Two pieces appear in the Pre-Production Vault. “Director’s Notebook” starts with yet another Del Toro intro (0:43) in which he tells us what to expect. From there, we leaf through the pages of Del Toro’s notebook to see his sketches and pre-production ideas.
This area also includes six “video pods”. These provide short clips that offer additional information about the subjects depicted in the notebook. As usual, this collection gives us quite a lot of nice tidbits.
We also get a “Gallery”. It breaks down into “Creature Design” (174 images), “Mike Mignola Creator Gallery” (67), “Production Design” (83) and “Production Stills” (14). You can view the elements either individually in thumbnailed galleries or through slideshow presentations. If you choose the latter for “Creator Gallery”, you’ll find a 36-minute and 20-second commentary from Mignola as well. That makes the “Creator Gallery” particularly valuable, but all four are good.
Under Marketing Campaign, we begin with a “Print Gallery”. It includes 16 ads. “Poster Explorations” contributes another 57 stills. Both offer nice images, though I especially like the “Explorations” since they allow us to see unused advertising concepts.
While not quite as much fun as its predecessor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army provides a worthy sequel. I dislike some of its production aspects, but it still entertains and delights much of the time. Unfortunately, picture quality is erratic, but the film boasts excellent audio and a large, interesting roster of extras. Despite the visual inconsistencies, this is a positive release for a good comic book flick.