To celebrate the film’s 15th Anniversary, Sony has released Guillermo del Toro’s vision of Hellboy, in a packed to the gills collector’s edition featuring both the original theatrical cut and director’s cut remastered in 4K, plus new and old special features, many of which have never been released on Blu-ray.
The Production: 4/5
In 2004, when Hellboy was released to theaters, director Guillermo del Toro had only made five feature films, with this being his third English language picture. It seemed that his more serious work (Chronos, The Devil’s Backbone) was in his native Spanish, while his more mainstream work (Mimic, Blade II) was in English. Hellboy would be his second comic book adaptation, and although it never quite lit up the box office, it garnered enough of a fan base thanks to cable and DVD, that the director was able to make a sequel four years later.
Ron Perlman was perfectly cast as the demon who does good, born out of a portal to hell opened by none other than Rasputin (Karel Roden) in Scotland back during World War II. Hellboy is then rescued by Professor Broom (played by Kevin Trainor in the WWII prologue, John Hurt in present day) who raises him as his own son while forming the top-secret agency the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Running interference with the press for the agency is Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), a nervous wreck of a man who constantly wishes Hellboy would behave like a normal 40-year old human rather than a rebellious teenager. Hellboy’s best friend at the BPRD is fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones but voiced by David Hyde Pierce), who has telepathic abilities. With Broom being diagnosed with the final stages of cancer, a new recruit is brought in, John Myers (Rupert Evans) who is at first given the task to essentially babysit Hellboy. When Rasputin is freed from the portal, hell-bent on finishing what he started some 40 years ago, the BPRD is on the case, recruiting Hellboy’s pyro-telekinetic flame, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair).
Hellboy in its time was fresh and original, mostly because in 2004 a movie adaptation of a comic book was not the blockbuster industry that it is today. Del Toro was also the perfect choice as writer-director, having grown up reading comic books in Mexico from a very early age. Although some of the early CG effects appear dated (particularly in this new 4K remaster), it is still a fun and enjoyable thrill ride. Sony has included both the Director’s Cut and Theatrical Cut on the 4K UHD disc, but only the theatrical cut (taken from this new remaster) on the included Blu-ray disc.
3D Rating: NA
When I first hit play on this disc, my heart almost sank when the Columbia Pictures logo appeared. Colors looked faded, the image soft and exceptionally grainy. Once the Revolution Studios logo appeared, though, I was greatly relieved, as it was sharp with bold tones of blue. The image continued to improve drastically as we moved through the prologue, into the opening credits (which now look very obviously computer generated), and the opening scenes in Moldavia and then the BPRD. Yes, Sony has released yet another stellar catalog title on 4K UHD.
Hellboy was shot on 35mm film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, then completed as a 2K digital intermediate. Sony’s 2160p upscale adds HDR10 high dynamic range to the mix, resulting in a first-rate UHD disc. Colors have a wider range of tones, with Hellboy’s red skin appearing more vibrant without being oversaturated or blooming and Abe’s various shades of green more pronounced. Detail is increased, with the circular patterns in Hellboy’s skin much more noticeable as are the various scales and other skin patterns on Abe. The package also contains a remastered Blu-ray edition of the theatrical cut, taken from this new 2160p transfer.
Hellboy’s Dolby Atmos track (on the UHD disc only) is truly demo-worthy. It is big and boisterous when it needs to be (pretty much most of the time), creating a wide and deep soundstage, extending atmospherics like rain and thunder and Marco Beltrami’s score, but also moving sounds seamlessly around the listening area. LFE is strong but never overbearing, while dialogue remains clear and understandable throughout.
Special Features: 4.5/5
In addition to some newly created special features, this release finally ports over many of the long-missing features from the original DVD release of the theatrical cut. The UHD disc contains both the theatrical and director’s cut of the film, while the Blu-ray only contains the theatrical cut (the filrst time it has been released on this format – the previous Blu-ray edition contained only the director’s cut). The commentary tracks are also exclusive to the UHD disc.
Introduction with Director Guillermo del Toro (2160p; 0:23): Del Toro welcomes the viewer to this new 4K release, which includes some new and some old special features. **NEW**
To Hell and Back Retrospective (1080p; 7:03): Del Toro looks back at making the movie in an era prior to the MCU and making peace with only being able to make two movies even though he had envisioned Hellboy as a trilogy. **NEW**
The Seeds of Creation (upscaled 1080p; 143:02): An exhaustive behind the scenes look at the making of the movie, ported over from the original DVD release and Blu-ray Director’s Cut.
Theatrical Trailer 1 (1080p; 2:27) Ported from the original DVD release.
Theatrical Trailer 2 (1080p; 1:19) Ported from the original DVD release.
Director’s Audio Commentary: Available on the director’s cut only (and ported over from the previous Blu-ray release), del Toro discusses the movie and the choices made in his preferred cut of the movie.
Cast Audio Commentary: Ported from the original DVD release and available on the theatrical cut, actors Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Rupert Evans have a fun time reminiscing about the making of the movie.
Creators Audio Commentary: The creator of Hellboy Mike Mignola is joined by co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro as they discuss various aspects of the making of the film. Ported from the original DVD release and only available on the theatrical cut.
Deleted Scenes (upscaled 1080i; 4:27): Three scenes are included, with optional commentary – Breaking the Ice Wall, Cab Ride and Russian Warehouse. Ported from the original DVD and previous Blu-ray release.
VFX How To’s (upscaled 1080i; 12:44): Visual Effects Supervisor Ed Irastorza walks us through three sequences – Bellamie Hospital/B.P.R.D. Lift Miniatures, Computer Generated Seat/Behemoth and Liz’s Fire. Ported from the original DVD and Blu-ray release.
Make-up and Lighting Tests with Commentary by Guillermo del Toro (1080i; 7:21): Del Toro discusses the importance of lighting a character in heavy prosthetic make-up. Ported from the previous Blu-ray release.
Scott McCloud: A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics (1080i; 12:19): Comic book expert Scott McCloud walks us through the world of comic books. Ported from the previous Blu-ray release.
Right Hand of Doom – Set Visits (upscaled 1080i; 18:21): Raw behind the scenes footage. Ported from the original DVD release.
Hellboy Recommends (1080i): Four classic UPA cartoons – Gerald McBoing Boing (6:56),Gerald McBoing! Boing! on the Planet Moo (7:11),Gerald McBoing! Boing’s Symphony (7:03), How Now Boing! Boing! (7:21) and The Tell Tale Heart (7:47). Ported from the original DVD release.
Q&A Archive: Comic Con 2002 (upscaled 1080i; 23:17): Highlights from the 2002 Hellboy Comic Con panel. **NEW**
Mike Mignola Artwork (1080i; 40:09): Mignola discusses the various pre-production artwork he created for the film. **NEW**
Animatics (1080i; 13:32): Comparisons and full-frame pre-visualizations of four key sequences from the film – Hellboy & Sammael (West Side Highway) – Comparison, Hellboy & Sammael (West Side Highway) – Full Frame, Hellboy & Sammael (Subway) – Comparison, Hellboy & Sammael (Subway) – Full Frame, Hellboy & Abe (Underwater Chamber) – Comparison, Hellboy & Abe (Underwater Chamber) – Full Frame, Behemoth – Comparison and Behemoth – Full Frame. Ported from the original DVD release.
Ogdru Jahad – Scene Progression (1080i; 0:45): Crude storyboard and finished sequence comparison. **NEW**
Board-A-Matics (upscaled 1080i; 15:31): Guillermo del Toro introduces us to a series of storyboard/animatic scene comparisons and full-frame presentations, including – B.P.R.D. Lift – Comparison, B.P.R.D. Lift – Full Frame, Bellamie Hospital – Comparison, Bellamie Hospital – Full Frame, Bridge – Comparison, Bridge – Full Frame, Hellboy (Rooftop) – Comparison, Hellboy (Rooftop) – Full Frame, Support Beam Tunnel – Comparison and Support Beam Tunnel – Full Frame. Ported from the original DVD release.
Multi-Angle Storyboards (1080i; 13:40): Guillermo del Toro introduces us to a series of storyboard scene comparisons and full frame presentations, including – Ragnarok, Machen Library, Hellboy and Sammael (Subway Platform), The Corpse, Behemoth and Ogdru Jahad. Ported from the original DVD release.
Easter Eggs (upscaled 1080i; 2:44): Two storyboarded deleted scenes – Alternate Opening (Submarine) and Hell on Earth). Ported from the original DVD release.
TV Spots (upscaled 1080i; 5:03): Nine TV spots are included – Ancient Evil Final, Team, Evil’s Back, Kroenen, Bump, Origin, Only Hope, Guillermo – English and Guillermo – Spanish. Ported from the original DVD release.
Photo Galleries (1080p): There are nine galleries to choose from – Director’s Notebook, Production, Concept Art, Maquette Gallery, Costume Design, Comic Book Artists Pin-Ups, Poster Explorations, Disc Credits and Guillermo’s Quotes. Ported from the original DVD release.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy of the theatrical cut (in UHD where available) from Movies Anywhere, although at the time of this review iTunes included the Director’s Cut in 4K with HDR after redeeming thru Movies Anywhere.
Sony’s new 4K release of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy is a must-have upgrade for any fan of this film. Recommended.
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