STUDIO: Sony/Columbia Tri-Star
MSRP: 29.99 RATED: PG-13
Buy me!RUNNING TIME: 122 Minutes
• Video introductions by Guillermo Del Toro & Selma Blair
• Del Toro/Mike Mignola commentary
• Cast commentary
• Mike Mignola DVD Comics
• Right Hand of Doom Set Visits
• Storyboard track
• “From The Den” – Hellboy Recommends…
• The Seeds of Creation 2 ½ Hour documentary
• Deleted scenes with Del Toro commentary
• Del Toro character biographies
• Animatics and pre-visual material
• Trailers and TV Spots
• DVD-Rom Screenplay, Script Notebook and Director’s Notebook

sad that it’s come to this, having to start
a DVD review with a disclaimer rather than a
joke about jazz saxophonists, manatee testicles
and Ernest Borgnine but here we go…

do not know Guillermo Del Toro. Never met the
man. Never spoken to him. Never pitched him
my fantastic screenplay about a giant ham that
threatens Chicago. I enjoy all his movies so
far, though some more than others. I always
find his work interesting, but he’s not yet
made a movie that I’ve utterly loved at first
sight (though Devil’s Backbone comes
tantalisingly close). I’m a fan of Mike Mignola’s
Hellboy comic book, but with some reservations.
It’s a fun confection, but there’s lots of room
for a movie version to flesh things out. At
the time of writing this intro, I haven’t even
seen the movie yet – here in the UK, it’s not
due to hit theaters for another month and change.
Yes, I’ve had “DVD quality” bootlegs dangled
in front of me since April. Yes, I’ve resisted
temptation – though many haven’t. The 2-disc
Hellboy edition I hold in my sweaty claw-like
appendages is the one I pre-ordered online,
paid for with my own sex money and just this
minute unwrapped with my tongue.

that? Good. Let’s cock.

hordes of naysayers, torrential rain and technical
problems with the Crucifixitron ride, Mel Gibson’s
Caviezel World opened its gates just
in time for the Lent holiday season.


there’s this big red guy, with filed-down horns
and a tail. Friends call him Hellboy. See, the
mad monk Rasputin, working in conjunction with
the Nazis, summoned him forth from another dimension
to bring about Ragnarok – the end of the world
– but the ceremony was interrupted by the good
guys, and the demonic catalyst appeared in the
unexpected form of a baby. The Allies, led by
young paranormal expert Professor Trevor Bruttenholme
(pronounced “Broom”), found him, nurtured him
and raised him to fight against supernatural
threats. He’s now been around for sixty years,
but thanks to his infernal body clock, mentally
speaking he’s got the mindset of a petulant
teen. He works for the BPRD, the secret Bureau
for Paranormal Research and Defense, alongside
a handful of other…unique individuals,
tracking monsters and ghosts around the world,
and then smashing them to crap with his stone
right hand. It’s not much of a life, but it’s
the only life he’s known. And now Rasputin is
back, along with his doting mistress Ilsa and
Hitler’s favored clockwork assassin Kroenen,
to fulfil the prophecy and free the Ogdru Jahad
– the seven Gods of Chaos – from their pan-dimensional
crystal prison. And to do that, they need Hellboy…

Mignola’s cult comic series is an acquired taste.
An artist who turned to writing, he paints with
broad strokes – both visually and narratively.
From an artistic point of view, this results
in a bold visual style, all heavy blacks with
bright colors popping from the page. To see
him illustrate a wordless sequence in which
Hellboy investigates, say, a haunted house is
a thing of beauty. Plot-wise, his broad sweep
approach results in some rather thin characterisation,
with backstory scattered loosely across a bunch
of graphic novels and short stories, and plots
driven forwards by mood and atmospherics rather
than exposition and event. In comic-form, it
works – once you get used to it. The pleasure
comes from the little details, the playfully
gothic universe in which Hellboy plies his trade.
For those used to the densely contrived plots
of the superhero genre, it’s a slow and sometimes
confusing book to get into. It’s silly, and
a little shallow, but that’s where the beauty
of it lies – there’s ample space here for a
visionary director to fill in the blanks, and
pull the sprawling character arcs into something
more concise and satisfying for the three-dimensional

Gag Part 1:
"How many time I tell you?
My first name is not Rah Rah. Russia’s greatest
love machine? Da, that part is very true. Come,
I show you…"

Del Toro is that director, and he’s delivered
one of the most completely faithful adaptations
in the annals of comic-to-movie history. It’s
faithful in terms of look, character and tone…and
it’s also inherited some of the woollier aspects
of Mignola’s early plotting. But we’ll come
to that later.

confess my first hour or so in the film world
of Hellboy echoed my feelings when I closed
the first Hellboy graphic novel (Seed of
– on which this movie is loosely
based). It’s that old disconnect between what
you’re expecting, what you’re wanting and
what’s actually being served up. The Hellboy
property spans so many genres – a heap of
horror, superheroic action scenes, offbeat
humor – that it can take a while for the viewer
to get in sync with what the creator has in
mind. And even knowing the comics, it took
me some time to gel with the tonal shifts
of the movie. After much reflection, I think
it all comes down to the rapid condensing
of genres in Hollywood. These days chances
are, if something isn’t a comedy, it gets
slapped with the all-encompassing “action”
label and punted out dressed up as a generic
“blockbuster”. Most times – and especially
in this case – it’s a label that is ill-fitting.
Hellboy is really something more old-fashioned
than that. It’s an adventure story,
with laughs, scares and no small amount of
romance wrapped up in a series of clashes
between good and evil.

bio-tech engineers, using state of the art electron
microscopes to study at a molecular level, finally
discover the secret ingredient in Powerade –
the screaming remains of Dr Henry Pym.

I’d figured that out, and found the film’s groove,
I was able to do much the same as I do with
Mignola’s comic – enjoy the finer details, appreciate
the artistry, drink in the quirky character
beats. Ron Perlman’s performance, for instance,
is one so in tune with the source material that
it appears effortless. You forget that it’s
only his eyes and left hand that aren’t touched
with make-up magic, so complete is the illusion.
Ditto for John Hurt, who fleshes out the briefly
seen Broom of the comic into a mentor and father
figure who has real resonance in Hellboy’s story.

and John Myers are the two most obviously human
characters thrown into this weird stew, and
they can’t help but suffer by comparison. Myers
is the quintessential nice guy – and he plays
a vital role in Hellboy’s character arc – but
surrounded by such colorful creations, it’s
hard to feel much for him. Manning’s character
is changed from the comic, in an interesting
way. In the comics, the BPRD is out in the open
and are called upon, much like Ghostbusters,
to tackle hauntings and infestations in
a very public way. The movie falls back on the
old government cover-up angle, fairly tired
territory these days but it turns Manning from
bland bureaucrat into someone who adds yet another
layer of interaction with Hellboy and the BPRD
menagerie. His final act transition from outright
hostility to chummy ally is a bit rushed, and
therefore less than convincing, but Jeffrey
Tambor brings enough acidic wit to the role
to make it work.

yeah, I spent most of the 80s working for Zuul.
Weird chick. I think she’s working as Sheena
Easton’s stunt double now. What? No, I got Moranis
unfortunately. Still, fun times. Ackroyd knew
how to party…"

from Hellboy himself, if there’s one true star
of this show it’s Abe Sapien, the mild-mannered
and analytical amphibian with mysterious origins.
He’s an enjoyable character on the page, but
on-screen becomes a thing of beauty. Doug Jones
provides the balletic physical performance,
all twitches and bird-like head movements, while
David Hyde Pierce supplies the voice. It’s a
good (if obvious) match, although the vocals
sometimes sound too much like Niles Crane for
my tastes. Sadly, Abe’s nuanced relationship
with Hellboy is glimpsed only in a handful of
scenes, where it feels like some bizarre Threepio
and Chewbacca team-up from an alternate reality
where fan fiction is actually good. He’s a memorable
foil to Hellboy’s grouchy curmudgeon, seemingly
accepting his place in this world with a shrug,
and it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of
him. Liz Sherman is another character who took
several graphic novels to even begin to show
personality, yet here Selma Blair brings her
to damaged life from her very first scene. The
romantic tension between her, Myers and Hellboy
is a weird one to pull off – how do you sell
an audience on a love triangle where one of
the potential suitors is a grumpy red monster?
– but thanks to focussed work from all three,
I never found myself questioning it.

GSOH, seeks disfigured Nazi for friendship,
maybe more. Interests include thai cooking,
the work of John Steinbeck, romantic walks on
the beach and piercing.

in all, It’s a dependable and watchable cast,
free from any celebrity clutter and straddling
both drama and comedy with appropriate ease.
Though some of the roles are a tad underwritten,
all the actors are able to take the seeds from
the script and help them bloom into a believable
ensemble of unbelievable characters. There’s
really not a single weak link in the line-up,
which is rare for this type of movie.

of the easter eggs from the upcoming Van
DVD – a picture-in-picture video
track of that guy from City Slickers
silently and solemnly pointing an accusing finger
at the viewer for the duration of the movie.

especially nice about this set-up is that the
movie resists the obvious trappings of the “super-team”
concept. Eddie Izzard has a joke about James
Bond, and how he never brings back a gadget
unused. No matter what Q gives him, he finds
himself in a situation where he just happens
to need that exact gizmo. Gather together
more than one character with special powers,
and much the same problem occurs – abilities
that are set-up in Act One turn out to be conveniently
vital to the climax of Act Three. Not here.
Abe may be psychic, but at no point does the
plot hinge on him reading anybody’s mind. Despite
her raging capacity for destruction, Rasputin
is not defeated by Liz and her explosive pyrokinesis.
Their powers are ultimately just another part
of the characters, used when they make sense,
and serving as the springboard for character
development rather than action. With little
or no explanation as to why these creatures
exist, or how these powers came to be, the BPRD
roster never feels contrived or forced.

a mystery how one director can splurge over
$200 million on a movie and end up with something
that looks like a PlayStation intro sequence
(Hello Stephen Sommers!) while another can spend
less than half that amount and deliver something
that looks almost seamless. Actually, it’s not
a mystery at all. It’s all down to knowing what
you want to do before you start signing the
cheques. What I’m trying to say is that the
FX in Hellboy are pretty damn impressive.
That there’s a ton of practical work is deserving
of praise, as is the fact that even my trained
eye couldn’t spot some of the transitions between
live action and CG. There are several scenes
and effects that I swore must have used CG,
only to discover they were achieved practically,
while scenes and characters that I assumed were
physical FX turned out to be completely CG.
Sure, you can spot a couple of clunky virtual
stuntmen, but then those are always easiest
to spot – we know how the human body moves and
looks too well to be fooled by even the best
computer graphics. Throw in the stunning and
subtle make-up work on both Hellboy and Abe,
and you’ve got a movie that delivers megabucks
spectacle on a mid-range budget. Never a bad

with so much attention spent on demonic love
triangles, city-spanning monster battles and
a barrage of deadpan quips, the actual plot
often suffers from the same vagueness that had
me flipping back a few pages in the graphic
novels to see if I’d missed something. It’s
not what I’d call bad writing, nor is it ever
incoherent. There’s just a less than urgent
emphasis placed on the “why” of the storyline
when the “who” and “what” is more interesting.
As such, Rasputin’s plot may make sense in the
big picture, but the actual reasoning behind
his actions can get swamped amidst everything
else that’s happening.

this happens every time you think of Dave Davis?
Believe me sweetcheeks, you’re not alone…"

doesn’t help that his only cohorts are the mute
Kroenen, who gets some great fight scenes (plus
the most nauseating face ever seen in a PG-13)
but little else; and Ilsa, who hints at a romantic
subplot with Rasputin to mirror Hellboy and
Liz, but she has so little screentime – and
so little to actually do other than smashing
open cabinets with a hammer – that her impact
on events is negligible. The ranks of evil are
filled out with Sammael, the tentacled amphibi-beast
who respawns more often than a Quake
player. Personally, I liked the regeneration
idea. I know some felt cheated that Hellboy
essentially fights the same monster for the
whole movie, but it makes sense in terms of
the story and – frankly – this movie is so stuffed
that even more monsters would only water things
down. Even so, while Sammael supplies plenty
of the mano-e-mano slugging that Hellboy is
famous for, it’s never entirely clear why Rasputin
needs this Guyver-esque brute to achieve
his aims. He’s a cool-looking, slobbering MacGuffin.

now seen the film four times in one week, what
with commentaries and such, and I’m not getting
tired of it. Each time, another little detail
makes me smile. There are so many cute touches
throughout this movie – fun gags, cool character
beats, quotable lines – that it’s been a breeze
to sit through multiple times. The red-hot horns
after the train chase. “Finally got them implants,
huh?” The plastic-wrapped trees at the sanitarium.
The box of cats. “Pamcakes”. Abe’s Rubik’s cube.
Kroenen switching himself off. The tentacle-riddled
skies of post-apocalypse New Jersey. “I wish
I could do something about…this”. Just like
the original comics, the broadly functional
strokes of the movie storyline are really the
foundation for dozens of these pitch-perfect
“moments” and – hey – that’s fine with me.

with any comic movie trying to juggle a bunch
of characters in a two-hour movie, away from
the luxury of one-shot issues and limited series
comics, there are some casualties. Sadly, one
of the movies best creations is one of them.
That Abe Sapien pretty much vanishes from the
narrative just before the climax is, to my mind,
a glaring omission. I wanted more scenes of
the pair in action together, two freaks
investigating the freakish, resigned to their
fate. There are other minor complaints – such
as making a big deal about Hellboy being a secret,
and then having him fight most of his major
battles in very public places with no apparent
comeback, the half-hearted use of the great
corpse character or choosing to play off the
most tragic scene against one of the most frivolous
– but I’d really have to dig deep into my bag
of nitpicks to continue with any sort of negative
criticism. The movie makes more of an attempt
than most to deliver a convincing world for
events to play out in, so I can easily let the
small subjective complaints slide – these aren’t
clumsy errors born of incompetence, they’re
the inevitable side-product of cramming so much
into one movie.

I was more than a twadge concerned about reviewing
this movie; so much expectation, so many polarised
views floating around. Having finally seen the
damn thing, it’s certainly not perfect, but
it baffles me that some have proclaimed it to
flat out “suck”. For all its flaws, Del Toro
has delivered an eminently likeable movie. You’d
have to have a cold heart, or be a deliberately
contrary bastard, to deny the fun of this oddball
experience. It’s a blast. It’s what marketing
devils would call a “romp” or a “roller coaster”
– and for once, they’d be right. It takes aim
at a bold array of targets, and hits most of
them around the bullseye. It may lack the extra
“oomph” that would nudge it into the “classic”
bracket, that hard to define magic which marks
a movie as something truly special rather than
simply a great piece of entertainment, but is
no worse for having some goals still to achieve
in the sequel.

the end, it’s actually been pretty simple to
review. Haters be damned, Hellboy is
that lynchpin of an enjoyable movie year – a
solid and rousing eight.

out of 10

going to eat one of these kittens every minute
until someone tells me where Linda Hamilton’s


Two Guillermo’s – writer/director Del Toro and
director of photography Navarro – have served
up a visual treat of a movie, and the anamorphic
transfer doesn’t let them down. You can tell
by the witty use of color and light, from the
framing and the movement of the camera in-shot,
that this creative team that knows exactly what
they’re doing. They apply the same level of
visual depth and meaning to this pulpy source
material as Scorsese would to one of his pet
projects, and it pays off. Deep reds signify
the things that are central to Hellboy’s arc,
high contrast shadows announce the presence
of Rasputin – or the machinations of his scheme.
Blues, greens, browns, all are deftly chosen
from the comic palette and used for reasons
beyond “looking cool”. Rest assured, cinematography
buffs will give their “Pause” button some serious
attention with this disc.

out of 10


healthy Dolby 5.1 track gives the speakers a
workout during the fights and other action scenes,
but gets the thumbs up for remembering that
it’s the use of ambient sound during the quieter
moments that really sells the surround experience
and pulls the viewers into the world of the
movie. Marco Beltrami’s score fails to grab
the attention though, which is a shame. It’s
not a bad score, per se, but the movie deserves
music that better suits it’s eclectic and offbeat
content. Maybe it’ll grow on me, like Elfman’s
Spider-Man score, or a virulent groin-fungus.

out of 10

Shane Black Tribute Gag
: "I said…I’d
like a little pussy"


no shortage of extra material here – you have
to wonder what they’ve left for the extended
edition later in the year – but despite the
amount, I feel it would have benefited from
a bit more organisation before being committed
to the silver disc. Disc One contains the most
fun, with Disc Two providing somewhat stodgy

commentary with Mignola and Del Toro is a gem,
enthusiastic and warm, loaded with information
on everything from the evolution of the project,
the creative choices made from scene to scene
and a wealth of technical insight. The cast
commentary is less digestible, featuring Perlman,
Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans.
For all their personality, it’s over-crowded
and suffers from an improvisational nature which
results in them all talking over each other
for much of the time, a tendency towards goofing
off and more than one occasion where they get
basic production info wrong. Personally, I’d
have preferred to hear Perlman in with Del Toro
and Mignola as he’s obviously the one with more
of interest to share and his contributions are
often lost amid the babble of a more silly group

worthy of note is the “From The Den” section,
which contains the cartoons playing on Hellboy’s
TV sets in the movie. From the 60s surrealism
of Gerald McBoing Boing to a creepy animated
take on Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, these
are the sort of weird-but-welcome additions
that show the affection and detail that went
into this endeavour.

on the second disc you get a hard-to-swallow
lump of documentary footage in the shape of
The Seeds of Creation. Really a series
of shorter featurettes which can be watched
in one sitting, it’s not so much that there’s
nothing of interest in this marathon session
– there is, and lots of it – it’s just crudely
stitched together in a way that leaps about
throughout the production forcing the viewer
to grab whatever morsels they fancy as it trundles
along. For all the data crammed in here, it’s
crying out for the sort of intuitive and sensible
arrangement that makes the Lord of the Rings
extended editions such a benchmark.

deleted scenes number a disappointing three
in number, though Del Toro’s optional yakking
over them explains that most of the excised
footage will be used for the longer cut, so
including it all here would defeat the purpose

usual bonus stuff fills things out. Those with
a desire to dig even further into the making
of the movie will enjoy some of animatic work,
the 3D maquette gallery and other unsullied
technical side dishes. It’s a robust set, one
that delivers a rounded picture of what went
into making the movie happen, it’s just a shame
that it doesn’t always feel cohesive as a package.

out of 10

Gag Part 2 (slight return)
: There was a
cat that really was gone…


Buy me!It’s
the same as the poster. Not a bad image, but
there’s so much great visual material to play
with here that I can’t help feeling it’s a rather
bland and safe choice – a line-up that says
“comic movie marketing by numbers”. The cardboard
slipcase pulls away to reveal…exactly the same
image inside. Lazy? Or just cautious? Hopefully
the extended cut with provide something more
innovative – something making better use of
red, black and gold would be nice.

out of 10

Overall: 8.0 out of 10