Sony // 2004 // 132 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // November 15th, 2004
If a two-disc special edition wasn't enough for you, now here's a three-disc release that offers 10 more minutes of cut footage, more special features, and a little comic book to boot. Don't fight it; just surrender your wallet.
Although quite a buzz of anticipation had built for the Spring 2004 release of yet another comic-turned-cinematic-outing, Hellboy, the opening weekend's take was much less than hoped for. Opening on April 2nd, the film topped the weekend's take, yet only managed to gross a paltry $23 million, ironically battling the resilient The Passion of the Christ, which had swiped $10 million from the red renegade's potential box office tally. When finally pulled from its big screen engagement (June 27, 2004), the picture had barely collected a profit on its reported $66 million production budget and $30 million marketing cost; total receipts only added up to $99.2 million worldwide. Even though all the pierced-face, goth-geek "hellions" turned out in force to support their favorite Dark Horse Comics hero, there simply weren't enough around to catapult the picture into the coveted realm of "big-money bonanza." No matter; there's always the DVD market to be mined.
Seemingly now the rule instead of the norm for this sort of film, DVD releases abound, each new batch released quarterly and arriving in assorted flavors of widescreen, full screen, special editions, director's editions, and trinket-bearing collector's editions. This has become the modus operandi of studios trying to find some way to sell the same DVD again and again, intent upon teasing the last dollar out of fans' wallets and turning a multi-million dollar miscalculation into a point-of-sale success. And so, in bottom-line-boosting fashion, here's another release of Hellboy that you may want to add to your collection. Unless, of course, you opt for the Director's Cut Giftset that comes with the limited Hellboy sculpture. This one, on the other hand, comes with a limited Rasputin's Diary comic. Which to buy, which to buy? (Sony hopes you'll buy both, or three, or more. Spend, hellions -- spend!)
As for the film itself, it's an entertaining jaunt in a world of Nazis and the Netherworld. Enlisting the services of Rasputin (Karl Roden), the Third Reich seeks to blast a hole into the anti-world and unleash the Seven Gods of Chaos upon the Earth. U.S. soldiers thwart the effort, and retrieve an imp-like creature that has crossed over from the other side. Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), personal psychic to President Roosevelt and head of the clandestine Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, pacifies the creature, adopts him, and affectionately names him "Hellboy."
Forty years later, we find the professor's bureau hard at work defending the Earth from all manner of sinister doings and otherworldly offenders, led by the hulking Hellboy (Ron Perlman). He's an unlikely hero who, partnered with the psychic amphibi-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, with a voice looped by David Hyde-Pierce), and dragging along bureau rookie, John Myers (Rupert Evans), brandishes a big gun, a monstrous stone hand, and a hellacious attitude. The stakes are raised now, as it appears Rasputin has risen again. With the Seven Gods of Chaos again at Rasputin's command, Hellboy and the rest of the bureau are in for a battle for the ages to determine if good or evil will reign over the Earth.
Alright, once again this is a review of a DVD product and not so much of the feature film. If you want to know more about the first-issue two-disc Hellboy DVD, please click on over to that judgment. This review is about the new 3-disc director's cut release and its hellspawn of special features. Start with a spiffy new foil-enhanced slipcase that houses three discs, each in its own slimline keep case. Comic fans will certain wrest out the special mini-comic rendition of Rasputin's Diary, looking all too much like the Book of the Dead featured in Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.
Beginning with Disc One of this set, you'll find a brief new introduction from director Guillermo Del Toro, who briefly explains some of the new features on this extended edition set. ("Pork out. It's cool," the portly pal encourages.) This "extended director's cut" of the picture includes about 20 minutes of extra footage held back from the theatrical cut -- 10 of which were included with the version on the first-issue DVD; the next 10 finally offered in this version (Columbia Tristar greedily coercing fans to buy each release). Thankfully, the added footage (none of it truly pivotal or plot-altering) is interspersed seamlessly within the transfer (the same excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer you saw in the first-issue DVD). To help you detect where the new footage occurs, the scene selection menu indicates the new sequences (that's actually a pretty useful inclusion). The audio is the same Dolby Digital 5.1 mix previously released; it's a disappointment that this trumped-up package doesn't deliver a DTS track for the money. There's a new commentary track hosted by Del Toro in which he offers even more information about the film, including explanations about why some scenes were cut from the theatrical print. You'll also find a new isolated score track that accentuates composer Marco Beltrami's excellent work. The rest of the content here -- the branching comics, the "Right Hand of Doom" set visits, the storyboard track, and the DVD-ROM content -- are all carryovers from the original release set.
Disc Two is a bit-for-bit repeat of the second disc of the original release (including the longer-than-the-actual-feature documentary) so no need to discuss any of that here.
Disc Three is about 90% new material exclusive to this release. It begins with a brief introduction by actor Ron Perlman, then jumps into a variation of the cast commentary found on the first release DVD. This time, however, we see the film in a sort of picture-in-picture format, and watch the four actors -- Perlman, Evans, Selma Blair, and Jeffrey Tambor -- in a screening room setting as they record their running comments. It's sort of a weird situation, really; similar to watching Congressional sessions on C-SPAN. The actors are given only folding chairs and seem relatively stiff (almost uncomfortable) throughout the feature. Next are production workshops that include makeup and lighting tests, plus some visual effects info. These include optional commentary by Del Toro. Then there's about 25 minutes of coverage from the 2002 Comic-Con where Del Toro, artist/creator Mike Mignola, and Perlman submitted to a Q&A session prior to the film's production. If you're new to the world of comics (we used to call them "funny books"), then the "Quick Guide to Understanding Comic Books" will give you a crash course in pulp fiction. Next up are new image galleries, a director's notebook, Hellboy pin-ups, and previews from upcoming Columbia Tristar productions. In all, it's generally entertaining information, but not what I'd consider "must-have" content that would convince me to buy this after already shelling out for the satisfying two-disc release. But, if you want that little comic diary for your Hellboy shrine (and remember the same set is offered with the limited Hellboy statue in the Giftset release)...Ka-chinnnng!
On its own merits, this new director's cut release is certainly a nice package and boasts a great transfer of the film plus plenty of extra goodies. However, when compared to the already impressive two-disc release, it's difficult to find justification in this set as a follow-on purchase. Of course, the hellions will prove me wrong, will insist no respectable Hellboy collection would be complete without it, and will help Columbia Tristar hit their profit point. Hey, that's capitalism at its finest; and what you choose to spend today will certainly go into the funding of 2006's Hellboy sequel.
Review content copyright © 2004 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2004 Nominee
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* New Director's Commentary
* Video Introductions
* Isolated Score Track
* Branching DVD Comics
* "Right Hand of Doom" Set Visits
* Storyboard Track
* DVD-ROM Content
* "Seeds of Creation" Documentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Character Bios
* Motion Board-A-Matics
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Maquette Gallery
* Promotional Materials
* Production Workshops
* Makeup and Lighting Tests
* Comic-Con 2002 Q&A
* Guide to Understanding Comics
* Director's Notebook
* Image Galleries
* Official Site