Immortal Combat

Hellboy was brought to Earth by Nazis. His name isn’t subtle – he’s from hell, the Christian vision of demons and fire and torture, an analogous lore to Germany’s WWII reign.

Unlike Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy films, which existed in comic darkness, this reset intersects with wartime ideology. It’s harsher, abrasive, and preposterously bloody. When figments of Nazism smash through England in Hellboy’s finale, they do so with unreal bloodshed. Bodies split in two, civilians impale into other civilians, and building-scaled monsters wear the dead as jewelry.

For Hellboy (David Harbour), his quest considers what – or who – he is. That’s this version of Hellboy at its best, with this angry, spiteful comic book character internally struggling with the ideology he was born from. Evil tries to turn Hellboy hateful, against people, those same people who reject him. Everything in Hellboy comes down to a single decision, symbolic for heroism, and whether such power can lead to devastation. People with power turn against one another; heroes don’t.

Hellboy is a blitzkrieg of R-rated dialog, pushing language as some barometer for coolness or adultness

Yet the rest of Hellboy is a blitzkrieg of R-rated dialog, pushing language as some barometer for coolness or adultness. It’s tiring, aside from a few well timed quips. And its action becomes indistinguishable from weary superhero tales, borrowing a dreary aesthetic from that dreadful Tom Cruise-starring Mummy debacle; a scene with Milla Jovovich rampaging in London and shooting plague from her hands looks as if the intent were a shot-by-shot remake.

Further interfering with the good stuff is the hodgepodge of fantasy, clumsily tripping over itself in a hurried attempt to bring in the spiritual, fairy tale, and historical together. It’s too much. In the center of Hellboy, the BPRD, a heavy-handed Ghostbusters service, but their presence is an ambient placeholder. So rarely do they factor in. Instead, headquarters becomes a place for Hellboy to gripe, Harbour’s interpretation more of a teenage demon, brawling with his earthly father (Ian McShane).

In the end, Hellboy turns into a film about heroism – no shocking revelation there – and how those oppressed because of their looks only need to show their best. That’s demeaning, not equal. The oppressed and profiled need to do more than their counterparts to stand out, be acknowledged, and earn respect. Hellboy’s world isn’t one of rainbows, yet that conceit fails in tandem with this theme. After the credits roll, Hellboy understands who he is, but the judgmental living around him will not.

Video

Cinematography in Hellboy favors darkness. Lionsgate’s masterfully calibrated, Dolby Vision-paired UHD presentation loves shadows. Pure black becomes a regular character, rich and thick without loss to detail. It’s not a disc for brightness or contrast (but a few scenes throw their weight into intense light), but one to soak up for its elegant density.

The encode fares well too, asked to handle some significant noise in spots. Noise is consistently a presence too. Luckily, impact to definition is marginal.

Upscaled to 4K from a 3.4K source, fine detail jumps forward, even in low light. Make-up shines on Harbour, and even his jacket texture shows. While not an astonishing 4K disc, Hellboy’s flawless copy of the digital imagery focuses on accuracy.

Plus, color offers plenty to soak up. Hellboy’s red skin sticks out everywhere in this moodier palette. A fantastic sequence – in terms of saturation – brings a highly decorated apartment set to life, with jewels and other décor shining in the scenery.

Audio

While a touch light in LFE, there’s an Atmos reference sequence partway through. Hellboy battles a trio of giants, involving every speaker as the camera wildly swings around to keep up. Given the size discrepancy, sounds pan in from overhead, clipping surrounds as they go. The weight of these beasts catches the low-end (but again, not with the greatest crunch), a fine bit of accurate mixing.

Surprisingly, Hellboy often holds back from ambiance or other scene-adding audio touches. In that, the Atmos work is flat, if raised by a slew of swirling voices and a killer bit of crowd work when in a small wrestling arena. A flashback WWII sequence sends gunfire around with pleasing sharpness.

Extras

Tales of the Wild Hunt runs for 71-minutes, a great making-of split into three parts. It delves into the decision to take this reboot in a new direction, effects, and other topics. All of this is treated positively with smiles as if the production never suffered a single issue, but the behind-the-scenes material makes everything worthwhile.

A trio of deleted scenes run eight minutes, and three sequences of pre-vis run seven.

Hellboy
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Directly attaching Hellboy the Nazi regime creates an interesting internal battle for this reboot, if not one that transfers externally.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 46 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from Hellboy’s UHD: