Hellboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A fairly early Blu-ray, this one held up pretty well.
For the most part, sharpness worked fine. Some wide shots could be a little soft, but those were outweighed by all the tight, accurate elements. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no distractions, and only slight signs of edge enhancement materialized. As for print flaws, they seemed virtually absent during this clean and fresh presentation.
The disc replicated the stylized palette of Hellboy well. The hues always appeared vivid and distinct, and the movie handled all the tones with aplomb, as the scenes remained tight and lacked any signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels looked deep and rich, while shadows appeared appropriately heavy but never became excessively dense. The light softness and edge haloes knocked my grade down to “B+” – and almost to “B” – but too much of the image looked great to penalize it severely.
Hellboy featured excellent Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio. All five 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 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 superb mix.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2004 Director’s Cut DVD? Audio was a bit more dynamic, and visuals showed obvious improvements in accuracy and clarity. This made for a good step up in quality.
The Blu-ray reproduces some – but not nearly all – of the extras from the three-disc DVD. We find an audio commentary with director Guillermo del Toro, as 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.
The next attraction stems from an extensive documentary called Hellboy: Seeds of Creation. It fills a whopping two hours, 23 minutes, and eight seconds with the usual mix of movie snippets, archival and behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from del Toro, creator Mike Mignola, 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 Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, 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 shoot.
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.
Next we locate three deleted scenes. These run between 30 seconds and two minutes, 33 seconds for a total of four minutes, 27 seconds. We’ve already heard about “Cab Ride” in the first commentary. 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 and also a few other notes.
Visual Effects How-To’s breaks into three featurettes. “Bellamie Hospital/BRPD Life Miniatures” goes for five minutes and 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, 54 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 A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud. How quick? 12 minutes and 19 seconds, to be precise. He 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.
Under Trailers we find “Coming to Blu-ray” and a preview for Ghost Rider. No trailer for Hellboy appears here.
As I mentioned earlier, the Blu-ray drops many extras from the 2004 DVD – way too many to list here. If you want to see the differences, click on the link I provided earlier. We still get plenty of good materials here, but the Blu-ray doesn’t approach the “exhaustive” level found on the 3-DVD set.
Based on my first glimpses of its trailer, I thought Hellboy would be a silly dud. However, the flick provided a pleasant surprise. A lively and well-executed comic book movie, it occasionally faltered but it offered many more positives than negatives. The Blu-ray delivers pretty good visuals, excellent audio and an informative set of supplements. Fans will want to hold onto the DVD version of this release for the missing bonus features, but the Blu-ray presents the movie in a superior manner.
To rate this film, visit the 2004 Review of HELLBOY