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Blu-ray Review: Hellboy II – The Golden Army

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Hellboy II is a sequel that does exactly what sequels should do. It’s bigger, louder, more entertaining, and loads of fun. It’s in every way an improvement over the original, offering up a stunning array of visual effects along with character development worth watching. It’s hard not to enjoy Hellboy’s goofy sense of humor and large-scale action.

Hellboy does a lot with the title character, including building his non-conformist attitude, his “home” life, and his relationship with humans. Luke Gross plays the villain this time out, Prince Nuada. While he may be a typical movie sword-flinging, athletic bad guy who kills his father, there’s more to him. His attempts to help Hellboy see that the humans will never accept him, plus the ending dialogue are admirable to build more than a simple killer. While it may weaken his overall villain-cred, Nuada still gives Hellboy a run.

With the exception of the cringe-worthy (yet laugh-inducing) child Hellboy at the start, most of the technical wizardry on display here is staggering. Most importantly, much of the effects are traditional, using incredibly elaborate suits. The troll market scene is a stunning achievement in how far the art has come. CG is sparingly used, although the finale unfortunately becomes another CG-fest that weakens the film as a whole. It’s still impressively choreographed, but feels familiar and lifeless.

Despite the attempts at dramatically building Hellboy, there are countless laughs to go around. The scene of Hellboy and Abe Sapien drunkenly singing Barry Manilow’s "Can't Smile Without You" is an absolute classic. German newcomer Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is more of an alive spirit than a living being, but when he’s blasting Hellboy with lockers, a lighter side of the otherwise by-the-book character is allowed to come through. Also, one can’t forget the film’s best line, “I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor.”

Despite some minor shortcomings, director/writer Guillermo del Toro’s take on Hellboy deserves a few more sequels, assuming the quality holds up. It’s a summer-movie blast, loaded with everything you expect walking into it. It oozes quality, humor, and visuals from the early sequences to the finale.

The first Hellboy featured a stunning Blu-ray transfer, meaning this sequel has quite a bit to live up to. For the most part, it does. Colors are rich and bold. Details are incredible, especially on the Hellboy suit. Individual pores can be seen. Long shots perform equally as well. Where the transfer falters are the black levels. While they’re rich, deep, and create an amazing contrast, at times they’re too dark. Just before the adult Hellboy’s intro, they dilute the scene to the point where barely anything other than the blacks can get through. It tends to get better as the film moves, but these early scenes are shaky.

A loud, overwhelming 7.1 DTS-HD mix is the stuff you buy Blu-ray for. This one mixed several notches higher than your usual settings, so be aware. The low end of this mix is amazing. Every footstep of the big creatures, every explosion, and every gunshot resonates with an effective boom that you’d expect with the best summer efforts. Separation is incredible, filling the room with specific audio cues in every channel. At times, it can become somewhat muddy when the action becomes hectic (as stated earlier, it’s loud), but rest assured every speaker is receiving the expected amount of work at the same time purely because of the on-screen action.

Hellboy II comes packed inside a two-disc set. Disc 1 begins with a commentary from del Toro, and another one from Jeffery Tambor, Selma Blair, and Luke Gross. There’s enough details in there to keep you going, yet there’s still an impressive set tour of the troll market, six deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons, epilogue comic, and a somewhat fun comic book creator that lets you use stills to create your own story.

BD-Live features offer only one specific featurette on Hellboy. The rest is promotional. Del Toro hosted a live chat via the menu which has since passed. U-Control featurettes run via a picture-in-picture window, and remain the most annoying way to access content on these discs. Just give them a separate menu so viewers don’t need to watch the entire movie for a few features.

After all of that, disc 2 must be packed, but it exists purely for one feature: Hellboy: In Service of the Demon. This nearly 160-minute documentary is simply awesome. Nothing is left to the imagination, and to see the creation of the countless suits is incredibly informative. Sadly this isn’t in HD as it’s presented on a standard DVD. There’s a still gallery of posters on this disc as well.

Del Toro was determined to direct this sequel, turning down numerous projects. On that list were I Am Legend, One Missed Call, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Peter Jackson even approached him to helm the much discussed Halo film, which he also turned down.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.