Hellboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD disc. Despite a few minor concerns, this mostly became a strong presentation.
Sharpness looked very good. A few slightly soft wide shots emerged, but the majority of the flick appeared accurate and well-defined.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no distractions, and edge haloes remained absent. As for print flaws, I saw an occasional small speck but nothing much, as I only witnessed maybe five of those across the film. With a nice layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any problematic use of noise reduction.
Don’t expect a wide array of colors from Hellboy, as it leaned toward a heavy blue/teal emphasis. Of course, reds emerged as well, and those became the most dynamic hues. While not a showcase for colors, the hues worked fine given the design choices, and the disc’s HDR gave them extra punch.
Black levels looked deep and rich, while shadows appeared appropriately heavy but never became excessively dense. The disc’s HDR added brightness to whites and added impact to contrast. Overall, I felt pleased with this image.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Hellboy featured excellent Dolby Atmos audio. All the channels received almost constant 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 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, so that spectrum accentuated the process and didn’t become a distraction. I found nothing about which I could complain as I listened to this superb mix.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The Atmos audio expanded the prior mix and added some impact.
As for visuals, the 4K UHD looked better defined than the Blu-ray, and it provided superior colors and contrast as well. The Blu-ray was more than decent, but the 4K UHD improved upon it.
Packed with extras, the Theatrical Hellboy starts with a short 23-second introduction from director Guillermo del Toro. He simply gives us a couple of vague notes.
It’s superfluous but not the same 25-second intro from the prior release. I’m semi-amazed del Toro bothered to record such a useless clip just for the 4K.
Alongside the Theatrical Cut, we find two commentaries. The first involves actors Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans.
All four sit together for their running, screen-specific track. Since Blair was the main culprit in one of the crummiest commentaries I’ve heard, I feared the worst for this one. While the actors’ track never falls to the level of Blair’s earlier atrocity, it also fails to become something terribly useful.
Don’t expect much strong information here. General impressions dominate. We hear a lot about working with del Toro, though in glowing, non-specific terms.
We also find many notes from the set, with an emphasis on uncomfortable periods such as those with extreme cold. The commentary manages to be moderately fun, but I don’t feel like it tells us much.
Blair-related footnote: toward the end, one participant jokes that they’re recording the worst commentary ever. She chimes in that she’s been involved in crummier ones. And she’s right!
The Theatrical also brings a commentary from del Toro and co-executive producer/comic creator Mike Mignola. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. Del Toro gives good commentary, and the presence of Mignola helps make this one stronger.
From second one, the pair launch into a lot of compelling topics. We hear about visual takes for the film in general and characters in specific, differences between the film and the script, liberties taken with the original comic books, visual elements and effects, themes, and other areas.
As usual, del Toro tosses out funny notes from the set, such as when he talks about the sherpa who couldn’t walk more than six feet. The pair indulge in too many remarks about all the elements they love, but this remains a fun and informative discussion.
To accompany the Director’s Cut, we locate another track from director Guillermo del Toro. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion that covers a mix of useful topics.
Del Toro goes into influences, inspirations and references, comics background and development, casting and developing the story, reflections on the comic book genre and some history, changes made for the director’s cut, and many personal reflections on various issues.
From start to finish, del Toro proves literate and incisive. He doesn’t spend a lot of time with production-related material, largely because he already addressed those issues in the commentary for the film’s theatrical version. Instead, he delves into broader issues connected to the genre and subtext of the film.
The majority of his comments connect to personal domains, as we get a lot of background on the piece and the director’s inspirations and influences. The track broadens a bit as it progresses, though, and del Toro goes over some movie-specific topics toward the end.
Those help flesh out various issues. As always, del Toro gives us a chatty and engaging discussion that offers a lot of illuminating information.
New to the 4K, To Hell and Back runs seven minutes, three seconds and offers notes from del Toro. He discusses influences, the source comic and adaptation issues, and a few retrospective thoughts. As usual, del Toro remains informative and engaging.
Next comes Hellboy: Seeds of Creation. It fills a whopping two hours, 22 minutes, and 42 seconds with the usual mix of movie snippets, archival and behind the scenes materials, and interviews.
We hear from del Toro, Mignola, Perlman, Blair, Evans, producers Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin, mechanical technician/puppeteer Chad Waters, prosthetic makeup Matt Rose, creature/makeup effects supervisor Mike Elizalde, production designer Stephen Scott, stunt coordinator Monty Simons, director of photography Guillermo Navarro, animatronic supervisor Mark Setrakian, stunt double Jimmy Hart, visual effects producer Velvy Appleton, sequence supervisor Shadt Amassizadeh, special effects supervisor Nick Allder, makeup artist Jake Garber, computer graphics supervisor Kevin Raillie, creature supervisor Rudy Grossman, animation supervisor Mauricio Baiocchi, prosthetic makeup supervisors David Marti and Montse Ribe, special key makeup artist Xavier Bastida, visual effects supervisor Ed Irastorza, lead character setup Paul Thuriot, CG supervisor William Todd Stimson, lead CG modeler Sven Jensen, animation supervisor Todd Labonte, visual effects supervisor Blair Clark, costume designer Wendy Partridge, lead compositors Colin Epstein and Jim McVay, sequence supervisor Ryan Tudhope, sound designer Steve Boeddeker, and actors John Hurt and Doug Jones.
“Seeds” covers virtually all the appropriate topics. We get starts with the origins of the Hellboy character, his path to the screen and adaptation issues, character design and prosthetics, set, production and visual design, stunts, casting and characters, visual and practical effects, costumes, sound and music and post-production, cinematography, and the premiere.
The program offers a heavy emphasis on details of the actual production, as “Seeds” thrives on footage from the set. Once we get into production, those elements proceed in chronological order and dominate, and the show branches to hit upon relevant issues when appropriate.
For example, during the shots from the Moscow cemetery scene, we see how they developed the animatronic skeleton. The program balances raw footage with interviews well and offers a consistently tight and informative look at the flick. It’s a complete and well-executed documentary.
The 4K UHD ends with two trailers. The included Blu-ray copy offers more extras, however.
Three deleted scenes fill a total of four minutes, 27 seconds. The clips offer a little expansion of existing themes but nothing too valuable.
We can view the segments with or without commentary from del Toro. He lets us know why the clips got the boot.
Visual Effects How-To’s breaks into three featurettes. “Bellamie Hospital/BRPD Life Miniatures” goes for five minutes, 49 seconds as we hear from visual effects supervisors Ed Irastorza and Gene Warren Jr. plus model supervisor Gene Warren III and VFX director of photography.
“Computer Generated Sets/Behemoth” fills four minutes, one second with remarks from Irastorza, animation supervisor Todd Labonte, lead character set-up Paul Thuriot, CG supervisor William Todd Stinson, lead lighter Steve Reding, and Tippett visual effects supervisor Blair Clark.
“Liz’s Fire” takes two minutes, 53 seconds with statements from del Toro, visual effects producer Velvy Appleton, sequence supervisor Matt Hendershot, These featurettes provide nice coverage of their subjects and come across as helpful.
The Make-Up and Lighting Tests last seven minutes, 21 seconds and come with commentary from del Toro. Really, no makeup tests occur, as the focus is totally on methods used to light Hellboy.
These are surprisingly interesting to see, as we discern how much difference the kinds of lighting make. As usual, del Toro provides concise and informative notes about the topic.
After this comes A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud. How quick? 12 minutes, 19 seconds, to be precise.
McCloud goes through a short history of comic art and its origins as well as visual techniques and their representation in Mignola’s work. The piece offers some good insight but seems awfully dry.
In addition, we get something called The Right Hand of Doom, which includes visits to the set. These offer a total of 18 minutes, 21 seconds of footage.
As one might expect based on the title, these offer raw video clips from the shoot. We see stunt rehearsals and scenes filmed during these quick and interesting pieces. I love this kind of material, and the shots seem fun.
For something a little different, we go to Hellboy Recommends. This includes five shorts Hellboy watched in the film: “Gerald McBoing Boing” (six minutes, 56 seconds), “Gerald McBoing! Boing! On Planet Moo” (7:11), “Gerald McBoing! Boing’s Symphony” (7:03), “How Now Boing Boing” (7:21) and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (7:47). All are interesting to see and add a neat component to the package.
Shot in 2002, the Q&A Archive: Comic-Con lasts 23 minutes, 17 seconds, as it shows a panel discussion with del Toro, Perlman and Mignola. They discuss general notes about the project and let the fans know what to expect from the film.
The presentation acts as little more than their attempt to reassure the partisans that they won’t mess up the series. Del Toro is funny as usual, but we don’t really learn anything here.
The Mike Mignola Pre-Production Art comes as a running slideshow. Normally I prefer still frames, but the piece offers a cool twist: it gives us commentary from Mignola.
This goes for 40 minutes, nine seconds. The artist talks about the sketches, with notes about inspirations and what he tried to do, the creative process and collaborations, and comparisons with what showed up in the final product.
Mignola proves chatty and engaging, and he provides a strong exploration of the various concepts and conclusions. It’s one of the disc’s best components.
Animatics allows us to check out four scenes: “Hellboy and Sammael (West Side Highway)” (1:58), “Hellboy and Sammael (Subway) (0:48), “Hellboy and Abe (Underwater Chamber) (3:00), and “Behemoth” (0:41).
The animatics display animated storyboards, and we can view these either on their own or in a comparison with the final product. This becomes a fun examination of the source materials.
In the same vein, Board-a-Matics gives us a look at five scenes: “BRPD Lift” (0:14), “Bellamie Hospital” (2:12), “Bridge” (2:34), “Hellboy (Rooftop)” (1:44), and “Supported Beam Tunnel” (1:19). These also provide the two viewing options seen with “Animatics”.
“Board” shows storyboards vs. the final film. They’re another good addition to the set.
Storyboard Comparisons ends this domain with segments for “Ragnarok” (4:25), “Machen Library” (2:31), “Hellboy and Sammael (Subway Platform)” (2:52), and “The Corpse” (0:42). All together, these elements provide a fine examination of the various planning methods.
The Scene Progression (0:45) looks at Ogdru Jahad and shows various stages of art vs. the final film. Though brief, it adds to the set.
Two Easter Eggs appear: “Alternate Opening (Submarine)” (2:07) and “Hell on Earth” (0:36). Presented as a storyreel, the “Opening” gives us a different intro to Broom, whereas “Earth” provides an animated sequence of a post-apocalyptic world. Both are interesting.
In addition to nine TV spots, we find eight Photo Galleries. These cover “Director’s Notebook” (26 screens), “Production” (66), “Concept Art” (234), “Maquette Gallery” (38), “Costume Design” (7), “Comic Book Artists Pin-ups” (30), “Poster Explorations” (101), and “Guillermo’s Quotes” (47).
All offer good material, though I wish the disc split up some of the larger domains, as they become unwieldy. Also, because the images were scanned for DVD, they looked a little rougher than I’d like.
Based on my first glimpses of its trailer, I thought Hellboy would be a silly dud. However, the flick provides a pleasant surprise, as it offers many more positives than negatives. The 4K UHD brings very good picture quality as well as excellent audio and a tremendous roster of bonus materials. This becomes a strong release for a fun movie.
To rate this film, visit the 2004 Review of HELLBOY