In the ongoing deluge of comic-book adaptations, Hellboy
ranks well above average. Having turned down an offer to helm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
in favor of bringing Hellboy
's origin story to the big screen, the gifted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro compensates for the excesses of Blade II
with a moodily effective, consistently entertaining action-packed fantasy, beginning in 1944 when the mad monk Rasputin--in cahoots with occult-buff Hitler and his Nazi thugs--opens a transdimensional portal through which a baby demon emerges, capable of destroying the world with his powers. Instead, the aptly named Hellboy is raised by the benevolent Prof. Bloom, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, whose allied forces enlist the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman, perfectly cast) to battle evil at every turn. While nursing a melancholy love for the comely firestarter Liz (Selma Blair), Hellboy files his demonic horns ("to fit in," says Bloom) and wreaks havoc on the bad guys. The action is occasionally routine (the movie suffers when compared to the similar X-Men
blockbusters), but del Toro and Perlman have honored Mike Mignola's original Dark Horse comics with a lavish and loyal interpretation, retaining the amusing and sympathetic quirks of character that made the comic-book Hellboy a pop-culture original. He's red as a lobster, puffs stogies like Groucho Marx, and fights the good fight with a kind but troubled heart. What's not to like? --Jeff Shannon
two-disc set is as loaded as our hero's Samaritan handgun. On the first commentary track, director Guillermo del Toro offers a lot of interesting information on the filming and background of the movie. Mike Mignola, creator of the comic book, is also on hand but seems content to wear his co-executive producer hat in support of del Toro rather than provide deep insight. Perhaps even more listenable is the actors' commentary, with Ron Perlman particularly good. Also on the disc are eight DVD comics (most of which are merely a screen of panels accompanied by rolling text) and behind-the-scenes footage--both of which are accessible through icons while the movie plays, or (thankfully) through separate indexes--along with storyboards and some of the "Gerald McBoing Boing" shorts that Hellboy watches in the movie.
The second disc is highlighted by a huge 147-minute making-of documentary that covers the original comic book, stunt work, visual effects, and more, separated into 27 clearly titled segments (kudos to the organization structure of Javier Soto's supplemental features). Deleted scenes, 3-D sculptures, animatics--there's too much else to mention, and yet there's more on the horizon. Enclosed is a mail-in rebate coupon good for $5 off the purchase of both this two-disc edition and a forthcoming director's cut. Yes, it's another double-dip DVD release, but give it some credit for being relatively up front about the follow-up release and for offering a rebate to those who end up buying both. --David Horiuchi