REVIEWED
10/31/04

STORY



LOOK






Hellboy: Director's Cut
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Year: 2004
TRT: 2:02


Based on the kick-ass comic created by Mike Mignola, this is a kick-ass action flick that kinda picks up where the original Raiders of the Lost Ark left off. Fortunately it has some decent, mellower scenes that help develop these characters, as bizarre as they may be, to become more relatable than you may think. Plus the Lovecraftian overtones readily apparent in the source material is the best representation to date on the big screen. Definitely worth a look for those who were questioning whether or not to see it. The love story element is, well, what it is without becoming glaringly cheezy (usually), so chicks should dig at least that much of it.

In the final, desperate hours of Hitler's Third Reich, some less "conventional" methods are used to help turn the tide. Mainly, the summoning of an Ancient God through the dark arts to bring about Ragnorok (or Armageddon, for all you christians out there). The Allies are fortunate enough to be there due to the wisdom of the good Dr. Bruenholm, despite their severe skepticism of the "para-abnormal." Things get even more fucked up than they already are, a lot of soldiers are killed, and a gateway to a beyond is briefly opened. The result is Hellboy. Fast-forward 60 or so years, and the result of FDR's initial project of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is still going, with one of their chief "investigators" being none other than Hellboy himself. I really can't explain this any more without getting horribly drunk and over-explanated, so I'll just say that besides Hellboy, there is an evil Russian Monk named Rasputin, a fucking cool assassin/engineer called Kroenen, fish-guy Abe Sapien, Pyro-Girl, a bunch of creatures bent on human destruction, and some humans, just to make it, you know, accessible.

Being a fan of the comic (introductional props to Corey!), I'm biased both favorably and negatively towards this movie. Seeing it in the theater upon initial release, I left feeling both exhilarated because of seeing the realization of these great characters in a damn-fine looking film on the big screen and a bit jilted due to its somewhat frenetic pacing because of trying to jam so much shit into a single, 100 minute film. The Director's Cut helps with a bit more explanation and character exploration. Still, though, it could have easily been another 20+ minutes considering the amalgamation of like 3 stories from Mignola's original comic book series. Overall, definitely pick up the Director's Cut for a nice-paced, darkly humorous and very Lovecraftian story. I'm a sucker for those, don't you know. Most of the CG/models usually come off pretty good, but the look of the film itself is very well done, especially when you consider they only had half the budget of the big-time Hollywood Cockbusters. And, last but not least, Ron Pearlman is definitely the perfect casting choice, I'm glad Del Toro stood his ground against the studios saying this is the dude, despite the delay it took in getting the film finally made.

Great Scene: Fucking Armageddon, man! The fact that they not only included Hellboy's crown of of fire, but the brief glimpses of Cthulhu-esque destruction is, as I described things earlier, kick ASS!

DVD Notes: Holy Crap! I'll write it again. Holy Crap! 3-Disc set that really delivers the goods for all you fans out there, comic-book geeks or not. Minus the rather lame disc intros by Guillermo, Blair and Pearlman (and a rather sad selection for deleted scenes), there's plenty of extra detailed shite here to make the package worthwhile. I'll break it down for you:
Disc 1: New solo commentary by director Del Toro for this extended cut, and for good reason. The 13 or so minutes trimmed from the theatrical release make a significant difference in how this plays out. Knowing that this "Director's Cut" was forthcoming, I didn't bother picking up the abbreviated one. Del Toro rarely discusses what's going on unless it's an added or trimmed scene, using the rest of the time to talk mostly about the character development or comic and literary influences. Very geeky. Very cool. Also on the disc is a nicely done isolated score and commentary by Marco Beltrami. You can double up on the features and turn on the storyboard comparisons during this as well. Too bad the images put up are pretty tiny and short-lived as some of the scenes play out. There's video clips of varying lengths of set visits of while the film was being shot, plus also included is a gallery of Mignola's artwork, both from the comics and for the movie, with brief bios, descriptions, animation and audio background. But what really kicks ass is the inclusion of the short story "Pancakes" in its entirety. A must-read by anyone. Last but not least (and this is still just for Disc 1) is CD-ROM content that includes the original screenplay, script supervisor's book, and director's notebook.

Disc 2: The main feature is is really an incredible sojourn through the 116 day(!) production, utilizing daily diary footage intercut mostly with the technical people talking about what went into a particular scene. Lame-ass actor soundbites are minimal, really focusing in on the amazing attention to detail that went into making what is a extremely fantastic story. Being almost 2-1/2 hours long in itself, it's nicely balanced between the technical mumbo-jumbo and the personable reflections on what it takes to get through a very technically and physically demanding film from the pre-production stage to the initial premiere. The majority of the other extras show the almost excruciating attention to detail, from a presentation of numerous maquettes (miniature sculptures), storyboards and animatics, character bios by Del Toro including higlights in comic form, filmographies, trailers and a pretty wide variety of poster ideas they went through for the campaign, all presented in top-notch fashion.

Disc 3: The cast commentary here is a little different, you ask why don't they just put it on the first disc. Well, they do something a little different by actually showing the talent and having the movie play as a picture-in-picture. Entertaining in its own right. A section called "Production Workshops" that delves into some of the pre-pro stuff like lighting and make-ep with commentary by Del Toro, a cool little doc with the model makers, how they modelled the details of Behemoth, and what went into Liz's pyrotechnics. Also included is a 23 minute presentation of the panel of the San Diego Comic Con which we get a glimpse of during the doc on Disc 2. There's "A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. Don't know who the fuck the guy is, but apparently he's an expert, and does give a pretty interesting history of how comics came to be how they are, and how it pertains to Mignola's art. An extensive gallery section of concept art and production stills, a good breakdown of Mignola's pre-pro artwork that he created specifically for the movie with explanation by him (40 minutes worth, or you can just view the stills by themselves. I recommend listening to Mignola's explanations), really cool insight into some of the concepts behind what became set details (or the ones that didn't quite make it). A cool glimpse into the Director's Notebook, unfortunately just stills though with no commentary by Del Toro. Last but not least of the Gallery section is a Comic Book Artist Pin-Up collection of other artists doing their own rendition of Hellboy, from simple to very complex. My biggest complaint with this is due to the crappy resolution of regular NTSC television. Here, as with a lot of the Mignola drawings presented throughout the discs, a lot of the detail is lost. Looks like I'll have to hunt down some printed ones (though some of these pin-ups are actually included in the back of the "Seed of Destruction" graphic novel). Lastly are some trailers, most interesting of them being for Mirrormask, a pretty surreal-looking flick based on a script by Neil Gaiman and some effects by the Jim Henson company, and should actually be hitting theaters pretty soon, so check it out.

Whew! I usually don't spend so much time on the DVD shite, but this really is a top-notch production from start to finish. Takes awhile to wade through, but being a fan of Mignola's creation, you really get a unique look into his drawing, as well as into an incredible production that combines the latest in all film technologies. Icing on the cake with the 3 discs is a little printed "Excerpt From The Diary of Grigori Rasputin," a little mock-up that Mignola whipped out. Would have been cooler to have a mini-Hellboy episode, but this, even printed on faux-parchment, is still a nice added bonus to an already incredible DVD package. Not lightly given, I bestow it with an official DMR 6-pack: