We know del Toro is fascinated with fantastical creatures, as he proved in his Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth. But part of the allure of that film, and the same can really be said about the first Hellboy installment, was that we were seeing something new, different and innovative. His vision was truly something we'd not seen in Hollywood in quite some time. It was really special when the pale man, a particularly gaunt, skeleton-like anthropoid with long arms and eyes in the palms of his hands first appeared in Labyrinth. Not to mention many of the other creatures in that film. But with Hellboy II, del Toro is nearing over-exposure territory. The film feels like a better version of the Mos Eisley cantina scene in Star Wars, but one that runs for the entire length of the film. It's as if we've stumbled into a make-up effects industry trade show.
That's not to say there aren't plenty of good things going on too, however. This second installment picks up with our hammer-fisted hothead (Ron Perlman), first envisioned in the comics of artist Mike Mignola, still living hidden away from public scrutiny in the bowels of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.), a clandestine bureau created by President Roosevelt to battle otherworldy powers and beings. He's a cigar-chomping, candy-loving, Tecate-drinking hulk of a man with red skin and a face that closely resembles Ted Danson on steroids. He's four years later into his relationship with his highly combustible girlfriend Liz, played by Selma Blair. They hang out with a group of other mutants including Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), an amphibian mind-reader and Johann, a protoplasmic mystic who takes form in a sort of deep sea diving get-up.
There's supernatural trouble a brewin' when it's revealed that Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a dead ringer for Edgar Winter, plots to awaken an indestructible army of golden metal marauders put into a deep sleep centuries ago by a truce between humankind and the forest trolls. With hopes of reawakening the army, the Prince plots to unite three pieces of a mythic crown while his twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton) sides with the heroes of the B.P.R.D. Aiding Nuada in the search are Wink, a monstrous troll henchman with a mile-long mean streak, and a horde of ant-like tooth fairies with a ravenous appetite for calcium.
Game on, as Hellboy and his gang set out to stop the mayhem. Phantasmagorical elements begin to meld with truckload after truckload of TNT and CGI as the two sides of good and evil clash on both the streets of Manhattan as well as in northern Ireland. It's a very noisy film. Sure to roust those patrons in the next theater over, chuckling at Eddie Murphy's latest. There are never any dull moments but we're often overcome by the feeling of being stuck in a hellish video game with the volume pegged on 10. What happened to the independent imagination of the artist who created Cronos and Pan's Labyrinth? It seems to have been covered up with all things Hollywood blockbuster. With the shiny, exciting freshness of the Mexican filmmaker's legacy now thrown in the same tub of wash with every other summer release, we're left wondering if the forthcoming vision of The Hobbit is in good hands. I suppose so, if we're OK with mayhem over genius.
On blu-ray, though, the film really shines. This is the version to own; with the U-Control the film experience is heightened to a much more interactive and immediate level. With one click of the remote, you can access the concept art gallery as it corresponds with the action of the movie. Guillermo del Torro's personal notebook, full of sketches, thoughts, and scene scribbles is also available through this special access (and it is quite interesting for ANYONE interested in film and art). This feature also is filled with interviews with the cast and crew about specific scenes and questions about the world of Hellboy.
There is also a popular four angle scene shuffler feature that allows the viewer to see the movie (and specific scenes) from four different angles. This is an incredible feature that was much-hyped in the early marketing stages of the blu-ray player, but has rarely been utilized to its full potential. It is great to see it finally in use in such a magical and charming universe as Hellboy's and del Torro's imagination.
The blu-ray has so many special features that one could spend a day lost in the world of the special features and only a couple of hours focused on the actual film. They are fun, relevant, and more than enough for one movie. This is the version to own and this is the only way to fully experience the role of blu-ray as the future of home theatre entertainment. If you are new to the blu-ray revolution then Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is the disc to own.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; behind-the-scenes featurettes; making-of featurettes; deleted scenes.
* Commentary - Feature-length audio commentary with Guillermo Del Toro
o Hellboy: In Service of the Demon
o Production workshop puppet theater
o Troll Market Tour with Guillermo del Toro
* Deleted Scenes - with optional director's commentary
* Image Galleries
Number of discs: - 2- Amaray Packaging
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