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HTF DVD REVIEW: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army - Recommended (1 Viewer)

Kevin EK

Senior HTF Member
May 9, 2003


Studio: Universal
Original Release: 2008
Length: 2 hours
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic Book Action

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Color/B&W: Color

English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English DVS

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13 (Sci-Fi Action and Violence, Language)

Release Date: November 11, 2008

Rating: 3 ½ :star: :star: :star: ½

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Seth MacFarlane and John Hurt

Written by: Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola
Based on the Comic Book Character Created by Mike Mignola
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an entertainingly bizarre mix of Mike Mignola’s comic book sensibilities and Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical visions. It’s as if we are seeing a sequel to both the first Hellboy movie and to Pan’s Labyrinth at the same time. The basic plot finds our demon hero Hellboy (played with easy sarcasm by Ron Perlman under lots of red makeup and prosthetics) faced with a threat from the world of elfdom while he deals with more domestic issues with love interest/pyro woman Liz (Selma Blair). There’s not much more to the plot than that, but it’s enough to string together a series of increasingly fantastic sequences (a swarm of vicious insect-like “tooth fairies”, a visit to a Troll Market beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, a fight with a gigantic plant creature, and the climactic face-off between our heroes and the unstoppable robot army of the title). There are some serious moments along the way – particularly a revelatory exchange between Liz and a literal angel of death about Hellboy’s destiny, but much of the film is played with the same level of easy humor as Perlman’s performance. Del Toro even manages to throw in not one but two sly 70’s film references into the mix for those who are paying attention. (One is on a film marquee and the other is a book definition recited in the first big sequence.) It all runs on a bit long, but the affection by the filmmakers for these characters shows through, as does del Toro’s unleashed imagination for all the fantastic creatures and environments they encounter. Fans of the comic book will find this a bit different from the usual story but they may enjoy del Toro’s contribution to this world. Fans of del Toro and Perlman will have a field day here.

The edition under review here is the 3-Disc Special Edition, which is actually a 2-Disc edition with a digital copy available on the 3rd Disc. The two discs that actually have the content are literally PACKED with materials. There are two scene-specific commentaries, a few minutes of deleted scenes, a series of “set visit” videos, a del Toro-led visit to the Troll Market set, and an animated epilogue (presumably intended to set up a third film in another 4 years). And that’s just the first disc. The second disc is loaded with a 2 ½ hour documentary about the making of the film, along with an examination of the opening puppet show, an interactive Director’s Notebook, and a series of galleries of production design work and marketing. And there’s a DVD-ROM copy of the script as well. Any fan of del Toro will be able to busy themselves for at least a couple of days trying to go through all this stuff. And fans of Hellboy get a 30 minute gallery of concept sketches narrated by Mike Mignola. It’s easy to recommend this DVD, not just for the solid presentation of the picture and sound, but for the amount of material presented here for DVD collectors. If you’re a fan of the character or of del Toro, you’ll definitely want to grab this one.

VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5 :star: :star: :star: :star:

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that effectively shows off the wide range of colors in the palette used by del Toro and his cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro. There are a lot of primary colors on display here – red for Hellboy, blue for his fish-like associate Abe (and for a telltale book in the library), green for many parts of the Troll Market, and an amber tint for almost all the sequences in the Elfen Court. It’s hard to discuss accurate flesh tones when so few of the characters are human, but the colors on the creatures and non-humans are striking and deep. Another element of the transfer is the integration of CGI effects and real on-set creatures. The mix here is mostly unnoticeable, with the exception of those shots that are clearly impossible (a few pullbacks from the live set to a CGI environment). This transfer is a pleasure to watch.

AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5 :star: :star: :star: :star:

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, French and Spanish that is, to use a bad pun, one hell of a sound experience. Surround channels and subwoofer are used about as much as I could have imagined, and in some cases past that. Multiple environments are presented in the surround channels, including the Troll Market and NYC streets to the point that you may find yourself turning your head to phantom street noises or creatures behind you to the left or right. The subwoofer is active throughout the numerous fight sequences, providing the aural foundation for some of the largest creatures on display here and for the various booms and bangs. This is a lot of fun to hear – but don’t do it late at night! A DVS track is included in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES: 4 ½/5 :star: :star: :star: :star: ½

Hellboy II: The Golden Army loads its 3-Disc Edition with a truly generous array of special features, including deleted scenes, commentaries, galleries, and a 2 ½ hour documentary about the production. Fans of the film or del Toro should set aside the better part of a weekend to try to go through this stuff (as I did). (One can only wonder what will happen when they put out the longer DVDs for The Hobbit between del Toro and Peter Jackson’s interest in the format…)

On the first disc, we find:

Feature Commentary by Guillermo del Toro – When you select this option, you’ll first get a brief video introduction by del Toro, welcoming you to the whole enterprise. Then the movie starts and del Toro gets down to business, warning the listener that his voice will effectively destroy the experience of the film. But this is actually a fairly dense scene-specific commentary, loaded with production information and del Toro’s thoughts about the project.

Feature Commentary with Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair and Luke Goss – This commentary is a lot jokier and less information-intense than del Toro’s. Basically, you’re watching the movie with three of the primary cast, listening to their byplay and humor throughout. Some information does come through – as they discuss the extensive makeup required for Goss on the project (a theme examined throughout the materials here) and talk about the various cast members on screen. If you’re a fan of these actors, this will be a good time. Fans of the film may be a bit disappointed that Perlman is not a part of this commentary.

Set Visits (17:42 total, Anamorphic) – This is a series of seven quick on-set videos during the preparation or filming of major sequences, including Hellboy’s confrontation with a giant elemental. Ron Perlman gets a couple of good quips off during these videos, at one point trying to call “And that’s Lunch!” only to have the assistant director call out “Pay no attention to the man in red! Let’s shoot!” In another clip, covering the on-set disintegration of a character, Perlman appears and shouts at del Toro “Would you just stop?!!” Great stuff.

Troll Market Tour (12:20, Anamorphic) – Guillermo del Toro leads a set tour of the Troll Market, walking the viewer through the various areas and examining in detail what we only see in the film for seconds at a time. The level of detail shown here is remarkable, down to the handle for a door to a map library itself being shown to be a navigational map.

Zinco Animated Epilogue (5:10, Anamorphic) – A special epilogue to the film is presented here in animated comic-book form. The plot points here are obscure but seem to point to what could well happen in a third Hellboy film.

Deleted Scenes (5:00 total, Anamorphic) – Five minutes of deleted scenes are presented here, with optional commentary by del Toro. The comments show del Toro’s affection for the scenes, but he readily admits that they are unnecessary and needed to be cut.

When the disc is first put into the machine, a series of non-anamorphic trailers are presented for the DVD release of Wanted, the video game of Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the new NBC reboot of Knight Rider, the Universal Blu-ray trailer, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, an anti-smoking PSA, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior.

On the second disc, we find a whole pile of additional features. (This really starts to feel like a commercial for the Ginsu Knife – “But wait, there’s more!!!”) The list of features is impressive:

Prologue (0:22, Anamorphic) – This is a quick introduction by Guillermo del Toro, congratulating the viewer on getting to the 2nd disc, and encouraging one to dig deeply into the contents here.

Hellboy: In Service of the Demon – (2:34:40 total, Anamorphic) - This is a quite thorough documentary covering the prep, production and post for the movie. An early pre-production conference with everyone sitting on the floor of the office is intercut with copious material about the creation of the various worlds seen in the film. An entire sequence deals with the extensive prosthetic makeup tests and work done on Luke Goss and Anna Walton to turn them into the Prince and Princess. The viewer is shown parts of an entire session turning Goss into the prince, starting at 415A and ending around 745A – and this is after the process has been consolidated. (The longest days of this apparently started at 1230A when the rest of the crew would appear to film around 730A or 830A…) It is surprising to see how much of the work was done on set and not as CGI – several creatures I was convinced were completely CGI are actually complete physical models and puppets. Past the production process, attention is given to the CGI work to create what couldn’t be generated on the set, including the giant elemental and the robot army. One running theme throughout the documentary has to do with the steps taken by del Toro to stay within his budget but still have a really big look to the film. My only issue here is that this isn’t quite a fly-on-the-wall view of the production process. We get occasional glimpses into the difficulties faced by del Toro (he lists at one point all the issues they have with various characters being blind, or blind and deaf, or what have you), but there isn’t much sense of how the production worked to overcome these difficulties. Instead, we mostly just see the usual mutual congratulations, albeit in the midst of some truly stunning designs and sets.

Production Workshop: Professor Broom’s Puppet Theater (4:41 including introduction, Anamorphic) – The opening puppet theatre presentation of “The Golden Army” tale is examined here. Guillermo del Toro starts things off with a 90 second introduction, detailing that part of his method of keeping the budget within reason was to refrain from staging the opening backstory of the Golden Army with real actors or live-seeming CGI. Instead, he chose to do a simpler version using CGI animation of puppets, which plays more like a mini-animated film and keeps the final revelation of the real Golden Army a surprise. The presentation shows a trio of images: On the top right we have del Toro’s original scratch sketches, on the top left we have Mike Mignola’s storyboards, and at the center, you can see the actual sequence as presented in the film. There is an option to watch the sequence with del Toro’s commentary, specific for this discussion.

A Pre-Production Vault is Presented with two internal areas:

Director’s Notebook (Anamorphic) – After another introduction by del Toro, we are presented with a series of pages from his production notebook. Several of the pages also include clickable video clips detailing the material, sketches and designs on display. (Much of the writing is in Spanish, so del Toro says it will help if you can read that language…) When you add this up, you have another group of specific video clips regarding design and production, narrated by del Toro.

Gallery (Anamorphic) – This is actually a series of galleries, all of which can be viewed in a slideshow format or as individual frames. One is an 18 page sequence of creature designs, another is a 9 page sequence of production designs (sets), and a third is a 2 page group of production stills. The gem here is the Mike Mignola Creator Gallery. On its own, this is a 7 page sequence of Mignola’s sketches. But if you want the full treatment, try the “Slideshow with Docent” feature: this will run the gallery as a thirty minute slideshow, narrated by Mike Mignola.

Marketing Campaign (Anamorphic) – Here are two more galleries, this time focused on the publicity of the material. The first gallery covers the various posters actually used for the film’s release, and the second shows various concepts for posters. Both are only viewable in a slideshow format.

DVD-ROM Script – This option is for computer use only. Essentially, when you put the DVD in the computer’s disc drive, you’ll have an option to view a scanned photocopy of a draft of the script, as a 2.77 mb file in Adobe Acrobat format. This appears to be an earlier draft, as several sequences appear drastically different, the prologue is absent, etc. But it is certainly interesting as an option.

The third disc in the set simply carries a digital copy of the film that you can download to your PC, Mac or portable device. Instructions on how to do this are included in the packaging.

Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.


Hellboy II: The Golden Army gets a lavish enough treatment here to make any fan of the film or Guillermo del Toro quite pleased. There’s enough material here, beyond the solid presentation of the film’s picture and sound, to justify a recommendation. But Hellboy fans won’t need my recommendation…

Kevin Koster
November 10, 2008.

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