Hellboy (2004)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes

"Hellboy" finally arrives in the high definition arena (on Blu-ray, of course) and in the form of the Director's Cut no less, and I am here to tell you about it. For those of you who don't already know, "Hellboy" is a series of comics created by Mike Mignola, and it has a very faithful fan base. I personally have never had the chance to read one, but after watching this film (I also picked up the two animated versions currently out) again, I must say it is on my things to do list. Brought to the screen by the visionary Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro ("Devil's Backbone", "Pan's Labyrinth"), "Hellboy" is a release I was very excited to behold in high definition.

The film begins at the end of World War 2, the Nazis have somehow developed an occult plan to open a portal to the dark side and summon The Seven Gods Of Chaos, luckily the plan is thwarted by the American military. Grigori Rasputin (Karel Rodin), who is the master of ceremonies at this evil attempt at provoking the apocalypse, is sucked into the void. But something does slip out, an adorable red devil toddler with a hand made of stone, but with a taste for Baby Ruth candy bars. The Allied forces seem to adopt this creature as some form of mascot and the wonderful credit sequences reveal newspaper headlines and magazine articles that lead us into the present. 'Hellboy', he has been dubbed by the media, and he has become something of a mythological creature that is denied as a hoax by the government. In reality though, he is kept in very comfortable 'confinement' at the U.S. Bureau Of The Paranormal Research And Defense. Completely raised by humans, Hellboy has grinded his horns down to a bare minimum and is a very sarcastic fellow. Smoking cigars and with a soft spot for kittens, Ron Perlman was born to play this role. It seems effortless, but no doubt he had to be trying under all of the makeup (Rick Baker has truly outdone himself with this film). His performance is incredible. In fact, the audience is pulled into this strange world much easier thanks to his very human characteristics and flaws. He also has a freakish monster-like counterpart that is highly intelligent and amazing to watch, Abe Sapian (Body: Doug Jones, Voice: David Hyde Pierce) whose powers of perception and psychic abilities are extremely useful in solving some cases. You see, Hellboy fights injustice and crime in a surreal world of the occult and supernatural, while being overlooked and taken care of by his father-like mentor Professor Trevor Bruttenholm aka Prof. Broom (John Hurt). Broom is actually on his way out from health problems, which adds another layer of emotional depth to the story, as does the subplot involving his love for a human with firestarting abilities, Liz Sherman (played by Selma Blair).

The mad Russian monk of folklore, Rasputin, is resurrected and this time he has some truly devilish plans to bring upon the Apocalypse with the help of some very well-rendered CGI creatures. This evil madman is out to finish what was started years ago by the Nazis, in the ritual that actually brought Hellboy into our dimension. This, of course, is something Hellboy and his team must try to halt by any means necessary. The special effects in this film are quite simply astounding and done extremely well. The action sequences are highly original and truly fun to watch. The set decoration and lighting and atmosphere are near perfect and utterly transport you into the comic book world of Hellboy in every way. I love the way you always feel you are in an alternate reality, one much like ours but one in which most sinister conspiracy theories are real, the Nazi obsession with the occult, the American government and the Freemasons, ancient presidents like Eisenhower having psychic advisers. I love the way it uses real people from history and blends them with the fantastic. If you need a movie to escape into, this is one where the world is fully realized, and one in which the makers created with much work and devotion to the story.

As for the visual presentation, let me tell you, it is stunning. It is everything I had hoped it would be. Textures are very stable and the colors pop off the screen in all of their glory. The many dark scenes are handled very well, the blacks are deep and the reds and blues are perfectly rendered, the special effects scenes look better than they ever have and there are a lot of them. I am surprised this release wasn't treated as more of an event, especially after the very successful "Pan's Labyrinth". Well, you are all in for a real treat because this is demo material visual clarity and Blu-ray really brings out the best in this film. It is the perfect format for this film.

The sound is just as impressive, especially the constantly active and awesome sounding uncompressed English PCM 5.1 track (16-bit/48 kHz/4.6 Mbps). It will shake the living room with the LFE response, and you will be thrilled to hear the explosions and fight scenes and the music by Marco Beltrami comes across excellently. The surrounds are constantly active and frequency response is excellent. Dialogue is always clear, and Hellboy's thunderous voice comes across as clear and understandable as ever. This is one you put in to show off the system.

In the special features department, not all of the features from the original three-disc set are ported over, but the good news is the one that matters the most is, I am referring of course to the widely hailed six-part documentary that clocks in at 144 minutes, 'Hellboy: The Seeds Of Creation'. It is everything and more that you could possibly want from a making of feature and covers every single detail of the film's production as well as the history of the comic. It is fascinating and worthy of watching, although I do wish it were in high definition. Mike Mignola and del Toro are featured throughout, and their passion and enthusiasm is very well documented. Really, as far as special features go, this is the only one needed, in my opinion. But we also get a director's commentary. Gone are the two other commentary tracks, one featuring some of the cast members and the other featuring the music composer, so some of you may want to hold onto the three disc set. Also ported over is 'Scott McCloud's Guide To Understanding Comics', which is fairly dry and basically covers the history of comics as a whole, not necessarily "Hellboy". It runs about 12 minutes. We also have some deleted scenes with optional director's commentary that are truly not worthy of adding to the film. 'Visual Effects How Tos' shows us how they created a few of the CGI scenes, very technical and I don't really care for this type of information. We also have a featurette called 'Makeup And Lighting' which shows some of the difficulties and challenges in creating the world of "Hellboy". None of these features are in high def, we do however get a high definition trailer for "Ghost Rider", which is something, at least.

I personally think "Hellboy" is one of the best comic adaptations ever filmed and the epic story and wonderful performances, along with excellent cinematography shine in all of their glory on this excellent Blu-ray release. It is showcase video and audio and I am proud to own it. I am surprised that people aren't making a bigger deal of this release, perhaps it's because it appeared to receive not as much publicity as it should have. Quite simply, this is a must own Blu-ray!