Get Me Big Baby

Yes, Hellboy II is flush with comic book, fantasy action. Sword fights and magic fights and tree fights and gun fights; Hellboy II relishes them all, draping them in darkness and bold color to create a world distinctive in comic cinema canon. Splendid practical make-up – Oscar-snubbed make-up – embellishes the surreal mixture of contemporary real world and gothic fantasy.

But that’s not why Hellboy II works. That’s part of it, undeniably, but the treatment of these characters pushes them toward normalcy. Society views the main cast (government-employed, supernatural beings) as freakish outcasts. In public, citizens shout their bigotry. Late night TV mocks their appearance. One of them is a fish, after all. Another is just steam.

In time, what becomes clear is that Hellboy II is about subverting expectations. This isn’t a redressing of X-Men. Brought to Earth during World War II, Hellboy struggles in accepting a new German commander. By-the-book rule enforcement doesn’t sit well, recalling a totalitarian law. Even within their ranks, surface judgment exists between one another.

It’s dorky and weird in the vein of director Guillermo del Toro’s best

To defeat evil, it’s a matter of bonding and coming together. Derivative, if laced with careful moments of character building including a drunken night spent in front of a stereo, blaring Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You.” Hellboy’s red. He has horns and a rock hand. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) breathes through gills. They share relationship troubles, they drink themselves into a stupor, and absorb the soothing melodies of Manilow – and do so as equals. It’s dorky and weird in the vein of director Guillermo del Toro’s best, with the right touch of eccentricity to bring equality to a tale of metaphysical oddities.

Then romance, with Hellboy struggling to make right with his fire-spawning girlfriend Selma Blair. Abe too, falling for an ancient being and twin to Hellboy II’s big bad. That’s complicated. Even the violence carries moral quandaries. Hellboy squares off with a giant tree that is desperate to survive as the last of its kind. The kill proves the villain’s point – humanity is a brutish, cruel species. In another twist of making the weirdest among us equals, Hellboy’s equally merciless when trying to define his heroism.

Hellboy II is a treat, exotic looking and narrative rich, insofar that such a mega-budget production can be. The finale brawls with computer generated, steampunk-esque robots that isn’t much a pay-off, but look nifty in a trailer. That’s Hellboy II’s commercial edge, using that to lure people to a wacky if gorgeous parable of tolerance.


Universal brings this one to UHD, upscaled from a 2K finish that does leave things a little soggy. Definition doesn’t soar, weakened in resolution, likely at the source. Certainly, detail is evident. It’s easy to appreciate the work on Pearlman’s make-up and appliances. Same for the others, but only in close. Medium shots lack the precision typical of this format.

Mild grain doesn’t challenge the beefy encode. It’s consistent and natural. Boldness of color sticks out, with rich, dense primaries everywhere. Although color grading likes amber, gold, and a mixture of teal and blue, there’s no loss to Hellboy’s vibrancy. Sapien’s turquoise is safe too. Battling the tree creature means an explosion of intense greens. Every choice looks carefully considered, emboldened by the deep color touch.

Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography leans dark. That creates some crush. Look at the agents in the first act, whose suits meld to shadows. That’s a creative choice given the cautious boldness elsewhere that allows deep, pure black and detail to thrive. Image density jumps significantly over the Blu-ray, certainly the reason to upgrade as opposed to resolution. Some hefty highlights (especially fire) stand out. Hellboy II glows when it needs to.


An absolutely reference disc on Blu-ray, the UHD takes that into DTS:X with astonishingly pure results. In terms of direction, few movies use the soundstage this well. Hellboy’s street brawl with the plant is top-end stuff, one of the best mixed comic book action scenes for the way elements merge. Cars fly around, monsters roar, people panic, and guns fire. It’s so much, yet faultless without missing a chance at position. The first major action comes as tooth fairies envelop characters, flying and chittering in a complete 360 degree space.

While some newer films may supersede Hellboy II’s LFE output, the rumble here still holds its own. When a rock creature emerges late, variance in intensity pushes a solid sustained rumble, with an additional push when its hand smashes down. Guns add their own punch, scaled well into any frenzy.


On the UHD, bonuses begin with a commentary from del Toro, and another from cast members Jeffery Tambor, Selma Blair, and Luke Gross. Afterward, switch to the Blu-ray to watch an impressive set tour of the troll market, six deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons, epilogue comic, and play around with a somewhat fun comic book creator that lets you use stills to create your own story. U-Control featurettes run via a picture-in-picture window, and remain the most annoying way to access content.

Sadly, Universal does not include Hellboy: In Service of the Demon. That came on a separate DVD with the first Blu-ray release and ran 160-minutes. It was essential. Universal, however, didn’t see it that way.

Hellboy II
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Funny, smart, and distinctive, Hellboy II brings a story of equality to the screen in a clever but surreal way, right from del Toro’s mind.

User Review
2.5 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 52 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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