Cats and Baby Ruths

Hellboy’s challenge is in finding who he is, or what he’s meant to be. He’s from Christianity’s interpretation of hell. Nazis brought Hellboy into the world.

But Hellboy’s lucky. American soldiers found him, adopted him. In rebelling against type, Hellboy shaves down his horns. And under guidance from a father figure, becomes a government entity who battles pure evil.

Guillermo Del Toro toys with these ideas; Hellboy enjoys being goofy. The character acts more like a teenager than defender of us all. Chaotic action employs copious comedy, and Hellboy’s pleasant sense of irony with regards to a devilish figment saving Earth is too good just on its own.

Funny, if also touching in exploring identity and judgment. Hellboy drops a script coated in religious in-fighting. Nazis use their Biblical belief to a ruinous end; Hellboy chooses to become a new age savior. It’s how the two sides see things, with Nazis believing in their arrogant superiority, and Hellboy frequently reminded he’s fallible. Hellboy does little things, like a small piece of debris bonking Hellboy in the head. This isn’t a creature who sees himself as all-powerful, even if his ego suggests otherwise.

Nazis use their Biblical belief to a ruinous end; Hellboy chooses to become a new age savior

For a little layering, there’s the US government. In that plotline’s resolution, Jeffrey Tambor’s Tom Manning stands on a bridge, commanding these religious figments to follow his orders. It’s hopeless for Manning. Hellboy mocks the idea of control, while embellishing church and state separation. Turns out, the two are forced to separate, because one is beyond congress’ legislative scope.

By the finale, overdrawn with action stacked on action, Hellboy faces himself. In that moment, either he turns malevolent as designed, or becomes his own being. That’s an intelligent climax, breaking free from the Bible’s direct line between good and evil. There’s always choice. Hellboy grabs a rosary thrown his way, the cross burned into his hand, branding him as the most unorthodox Christian hero. The ones who were wrong? They pre-determined who Hellboy was, whether by looks or egregious comprehension of scripture. How Nazi-like.

Unlike Hellboy II, character development isn’t quite as vibrant here. The sequel mastered its sense of self. Hellboy isn’t as firm in bit parts like Abe Sapien or Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). Sherman’s especially lean, equally conflicted with who she is, if too lean as romantic interest. Hellboy’s story isn’t so much how these paranormal beings get along with one another but how they intersect on a fearful Earth.

Video

Sony gives Hellboy a new 4K master for this release. Partly, that shows by way of increased resolution (obviously) and firmer texture. Appreciating details in makeup and suits is easier now. Close-ups resolve strict facial texture, and other than digital backdrops (softening things as early ‘00s CG does), consistency gives this transfer its high points.

Also key, HDR work keeps Del Toro’s darkened imagery intact. Potent shadows hit spectacular purity, with the drop to total black faultless in maintaining detail. Against the shadows, highlights produce pleasing extremes. Light sources push pure brightness, accentuating fire, street lamps, or any additional contrasting elements. It’s firm and aggressive, without losing the cinematography’s intent.

At times heavily color graded, scenes take on hearty blues, yellows, and sturdy warm hues. Flesh tones follow, although Hellboy’s red never recedes. Deep color tweaks things a little, but cautiously. The image still carries the touch of early grading techniques, but not to any detriment.

Where things struggle is grain. Sony’s encode falls to chroma noise too frequently. Fluctuations in density create further concerns, at times dropping definition down a tier. Rather than carrying the look of a camera negative, grain looks as if pulled from a generational print. Then, the compression lets Hellboy down.

Audio

Dolby Atmos brings Hellboy into the modern era, emboldened by substantial low-end power. Range excels, stretching the mix with dominating subwoofer jolts. A steady rumble gives weight to Hellboy smashing a wall or even a thunder clap.

While limited in height channel use, the expansion does make use of added rears. When crossing a road, cars transition between speakers, catching surrounds accurately. Rain, gunfire, and debris make their own moves, well spread with distinctive separation.

Extras

Sony adds a Guillermo Del Toro intro and director’s cut commentary to the UHD, this in addition to two more commentaries featuring Hellboy creator Mike Mangola and the cast alongside the theatrical version. A seven-minute retrospective is all Del Toro as he recounts his choices. Seeds of Creation also makes the trip, the 140+ minute making of that remains perfect.

The Blu-ray keeps things going. Three deleted scenes and a 17-minute lighting test for the make-up come first. Visual Effects How-To’s come in a three pack, running around five minutes on average. Scott McCloud’s Guide to Understanding Comics is a 12-minute piece with the named author discussing the origins of the medium and its highlights.

Hellboy
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Del Toro’s take on Hellboy is smart high-dollar filmmaking, mixing comic book action and unusually pure religious metaphors.

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