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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

Hellboy II: The Golden Army [Blu-ray]

 

(Guillermo del Toro, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Universal Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE

Runtime: 120 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: November 11th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1

 

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Director Guillermo del Toro

• Commentary with cast members Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair & Luke Goss.

• Troll Market Tour with Guillermo del Toro (12:22)

• Animated Zinco Epilogue Comic (5:14)

• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Guillermo del Toro (5:04)

• Production Workshop: Professor Broom's Puppet Theatre (4:41)

• Comic Book Builder

• Image Gallery: Teaser banners, One-sheets & Posters

• Disc 2 (DVD): Hellboy: In the Service of the Demon (2:34:51)

• Digital Copy Disc

• Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• U-Control: Scene Explorer: Schufften Goggle View, Director's Notebook, Set Visits

• BD-Live: My Chat & My Scenes Sharing; Sneak Peek of Wanted

 

 

The Film: 8
It is widely held that sequels are not nearly as good as the original. While this is largely true, there are notable exceptions: Tarzan and His Mate (1933), After the Thin Man (1936), From Russia with Love (1963), The Godfather, Part 2 (1974), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and now I think we can safely add Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Up against stiff summer competition, the sequel to Guillermo del Toro's 2004 original didn't do as well as hoped in its theatrical release. All the same, the second movie is, in my view, more entertaining, more substantive, more engaging, with a more interesting bad guy and very cool production values, especially as concerns the true origins of the Tooth Fairy and the depiction of the Troll Market. Certainly there's nothing in the first movie that equals the eloquence of the death of the forest elemental giant.

Hellboy is yet another comic book-to-movie character – this one created by Mike Mignola for Dark Horse Comics. What's most interesting about the character is that he is sent here from the other side of existence to destroy the world, but has been "tamed" from infancy by the mankind's possible representative and mentor. While this dichotomy is addressed in both movies, it is a weakness in common to both that the split is never clearly manifest. Hellboy is one of the good guys, even if the public at large can't quite make up its mind about him. In any case Hellboy, while he works for Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense, is clearly his own man with a wild streak who enjoys chewing up the scenery.


The sequel introduces us to a legend about a war between elves and humans that ends with a truce (something akin to the Lord of the Rings, but not nearly as layered or poetic) in which a divided crown keeps the end of the world at bay. The humans get the cities and the elves and trolls get the forests. Humans, being the consumers we are, went on to build shopping malls and parking lots and generally gave the finger to the planet, which offends the sensibilities of Prince Nuada (Luke Goss). Nuada may be insane, but he has a legitimate complaint. Nuada wants to start the whole war all over again with the unstoppable Golden Army. To release them he steals the part of the crown from the humans who, typical of the species, no longer realize its value. With this and the second piece he obtains from his protesting father, he requires only the third held by his twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton). Nuala sees the big picture here and barely manages to escape her brother's clutches, eventually falling under the protection of – you guessed it – Hellboy and the fish-man, Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), who sees in Nuala a fellow spirit.

There is an important subplot between Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his now pregnant girlfriend, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) – I love how Liz catches fire when her passions are aroused and that Hellboy is immune to fire, couplings that X-Men need more of. Liz is not convinced that Hellboy is father material, given his irresponsible nature. Well, enough plot. Hellboy II may not a great movie, but it sure as hell comes alive with fantastical and grotesque creatures – the likes of which we come to expect from the mind that gave us Pan's Labyrinth. Hellboy II is fun and true to its comic book roots, if not the letter – a kind of X-Men meets the Men in Black - and, in this new high definition transfer, is given a look and sound worthy of its nature.


 

Image: 9/9  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The first Hellboy was one of Sony’s early
Blu-rays from June 2007; it received universally good reviews for both image and audio. As I watched the sequel, I recalled how sharp and crisp the original movie was, and well Sony preserved those elements. Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Universal’s rendering in high definition video, is subtler, grittier, grainier at times. But even in the darkest, but not yet blackest moments, there is no evidence of noise in Universal's sequel. It seems we can see all the way back to infinity no matter how dark the shadows. Nor are there any annoying artifacts, blemishes, enhancements or undesirable grain. In many scenes, there is manifest a subtle gritty filtration depending on the scene. Del Toro seems to not want things to be nearly as focused as his first film. Possibly because much of the story takes place in a kind of alternate universe - a world parallel to its own comic book reality – the image is not often razor sharp, though detail is very good.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 10/8
Once you have your playback volume set to a nominal level for dialogue, make sure the neighbors are invited or not at home. This is one rock 'em, sock 'em DTS HD-MA mix - the high definition audio analog to what Blu-ray was born for. The name of the game here is: scale, weight, and dynamic nuance - and Hellboy II has all of them. Dialogue is clear focused and located correctly. The surrounds are all engaged with directional cues that will make you duck for cover.

Operations: 9
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays I have seen so far – and they are all very clever, indeed. I like the arrows that tell you which way to direct you remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. I'm not entirely convinced by the idea of U-Control itself: it may be a case of a complex technical solution where a simpler solution might have served the user just as well. On the other hand, people who enjoy video games would probably find its multitasking interactivity familiar and engaging.

 

Extras: 8
At their best, extra features should be both entertaining and instructive. They should avoid self-congratulatory back-slapping and EPK (Electronic Press Kit) platitudes. A certain amount of redundancy is to be expected, especially when both a commentary and a making-of documentary are included. If the featurettes and documentaries are longer than a few minutes, I'd like them to be in HD or at least high quality SD. Even a well-made documentary can get tiring if not realized in a high quality image and clear audio.

The 2.5 hour documentary "In Service of the Demon" about the making of the movie is moved to a separate disc - which, by the way is DVD, not Blu-ray - where it occupies most of the space. As it happens all of Hellboy II's extra features, whether on the feature disc or the bonus disc, are in standard definition and, despite their being spread out over two discs, are thin and not at all crisp. This is a shame, really, since the documentary that supports visually what del Toro speaks of in his audio commentary is well organized and of great interest to film buffs. Also excellent is the Troll Market Tour guided by del Toro. Typical bit rates are around 3.5 MBPS, but even that low figure isn't enough to account for the weak image. I took off a full two points for image quality.

By the way, don't pass up the entertaining and truly interactive Comic Builder. You are given several choices from cover, frame, and text – and voila. You can even send what you've put together to friends via BD-Live. A clever diversion.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
One of the better comic-to-film adaptations in recent years, Hellboy II gets a solid transfer to video, and can stand alongside Universal's own
Incredible Hulk in every department. The Extras are of great interest, if weakly imaged. Even so, highly recommended.

 

Leonard Norwitz
November 3rd, 2008

(revisited) July 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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