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Hellboy II: The Golden Army(2008)
After an ancient truce existing between humankind and the invisible realm of the fantastic is broken, hell on Earth is ready to erupt. A ruthless leader who treads the world above and the one below defies his bloodline and awakens an unstoppable army of creatures. Now, it's up to the planet's toughest, roughest superhero to battle the merciless dictator and his marauders. He may be red. He may be horned. He may be misunderstood. But when you need the job done right, it's time to call in Hellboy. Along with his expanding team in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development — pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz, aquatic empath Abe and protoplasmic mystic Johann — the BPRD will travel between the surface strata and the unseen magical one, where creatures of fantasy become corporeal. And Hellboy, a creature of two worlds who's accepted by neither, must choose between the life he knows and an unknown destiny that beckons him.
For more about Hellboy II: The Golden Army and the Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray release, see Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 16, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Goss, Anna Walton
Director: Guillermo del Toro
» See full cast & crew
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray Review
Is 'The Golden Army' Blu-ray's new golden child?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 16, 2008
All that power...
Few directors can match, let alone best, the unique vision of Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro. His films amaze audiences with wondrous creatures and exotic locales, tied in seamlessly to a style of filmmaking that is both passionate and efficient. His camera captures the essence of each and every moment with unparalleled beauty, every frame awash in spectacle. His latest outings, the critically-acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth and the crowd pleaser Hellboy both serve as reminders as to what movie magic is truly all about as vivid, enchanting worlds, larger-than-life characters, first-rate action, and spellbinding story lines dazzle audiences for two hours of cinema delight. Hellboy II: The Golden Army continues the tradition, this film louder, bigger, bolder, incredibly refined, a treat to look at, and a rather good sequel to what seems destined to become a lengthy franchise. With del Toro at the helm, the franchise is in more than capable hands; his unique vision and flair for action make this a marriage too good to stop after two films.
After briefly recounting the origins of the Hellboy character, Hellboy II: The Golden Army begins with a pre-teen Hellboy hearing the story of the Golden Army, the war between man and mythical creatures led by the elf king, and the uneasy truce that resulted in the crown that controls the Golden Army being split into three halves, as told by his adoptive father, Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in a cameo performance). Years later, the elf king's son, Prince Nuada (Luke Gross, Blade II), decides the time has come to once again wage war on mankind, in his estimation the species having become too greedy and destructive. Meanwhile, Hellboy (Ron Perlman, Star Trek: Nemesis), Liz (Selma Blair, Cruel Intentions), Abe (Doug Jones, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer), and Manning (Jeffrey Tambor, Superhero Movie) begin an investigation of a paranormal occurrence that has taken the lives of the attendees of an auction where a piece of the Golden Army crown was to be sold. After a confrontation with a swarm of evil fairies, an uncooperative Hellboy breaks protocol and makes contact with the public-at-large. A level-headed agent, Johann Krauss (John Alexander, Men in Black) arrives to keep Hellboy in line and assist with the investigation. The heroes set out to track down where the fairies originated, leading them to a secret Troll Market filled with a dazzling array of creatures. It is there that the team meets Nuala (Anna Walton), sister of Nuada and perhaps the only hope that remains in preventing a full-scale war.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army can be whittled down to one word: spectacle. Though the film features plenty of character development, dramatic angles that heighten the impact of the action, and a dosage of humor, much of the film is all about big set pieces, captivating visuals, unique creatures, and, of course, several intense and spectacularly-shot action sequences. While heavily aided by CGI, the action sequences are generally seamless, each one outdoing the last. Both Hellboy's fight with the Elemental and the film's climactic showdown are awash in dramatic overtones that heighten the intensity of the action. Hellboy is depicted as vulnerable in this film, not so much physically but certainly emotionally and spiritually, open to suggestion and forced to examine his values and beliefs. Aside from the glitz and glamour, Hellboy II is also a film about love, trust, friendship, and loyalty. The film focuses on the relationships between two sets of characters, Hellboy and Liz and Abe and Nuala. Both relationships are plagued with difficulties, Liz's frustration with Hellboy's ways and Nuala's connection with her twin brother, and by film's end, both relationships will be put to the test as the characters must choose between their loved ones and the fate of the world.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is also a beautifully crafted film; its every detail, largest to smallest, never fails to impress. The film's sets, costumes, props, and creatures are as much a spectacle as the impressive action sequences scattered about the movie. In the Troll Marketplace sequence, for example, Guillermo del Toro has created a modern day Mos Eisley on Earth, replete with an incredible array of vivid and interesting characters, both visually and, for the ones that are provided personalities, psychologically. The sequence is arguably the strongest in the film. Not only does it see the origins of the Abe-Nuala relationship, but frame after frame is filled with one of the most painstakingly elaborate, lovingly crafted, and impeccably filmed locations in recent memory. Many viewers will appreciate the resolution and scanning ability of Blu-ray throughout the sequence as there is much to discover. Hellboy II's climactic confrontation is, again, a visual wonderland, both the environment and the film's namesake army on display with what can only be described as unparalleled grandeur. While these and virtually all of the film's characters and sets represent a visual tour de force, del Toro's fine direction never becomes lost in focusing on them. The direction remains steadfast, placing story first, with every set, effect, or creature playing second fiddle to the drama and underlying themes of the film.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hellboy II: The Golden Army comes to Blu-ray with a reference-quality 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer that retains the film's original theatrical aspect ratio. Detail is impeccable, even in the film's darkest scenes, of which there are many. This disc offers up one of the finest film-like qualities yet on Blu-ray; the exterior, nighttime, rainy scenes represent a remarkable home video achievement in recreating a high quality cinematic look. Take a look in chapter six as Nuada declares his intentions to revive the Golden Army and wage war on man. His flowing golden locks are reproduced with uncanny accuracy as every strand is literally distinguishable one form the other, a wonderful representation of the high quality presentation available on this disc. This same sequence features a highly detailed and visually stimulating environment with earth colored walls and old iron furnaces and equipment that offer sharp, larger-than-life, beautiful imagery. In fact, virtually every environment seen throughout the movie features incredible clarity, depth, and realism. The detail on clothing, uniforms, skin, and objects that adorn each character is equally impressive. Colors are amazing throughout; Hellboy's red skin and Abe's aqua blue are but two excellent examples of the rich color palette that manages to bring this otherwise dark world alive. Black levels are perfect, a key ingredient in recreating the generally dark world on display throughout the film. There aren't enough platitudes to discuss just how fabulous this transfer looks, and it is matched by the incredible soundtrack that accompanies it.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hellboy II: The Golden Army bursts onto Blu-ray with an incredibly loud and engrossing DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. Another masterful effort from Universal, they don't come much more active as this one. This is a completely immersive mix that never fails to engulf the listener thanks to the track's breathtaking use of the entire soundstage. Practically every scene, whether the robust and hard-hitting action sequences, or the more mundane and every day sequences -- such as a rainstorm, voice reverberation, crowd chatter, and other ambient sound effects in chapter two -- fill the soundstage with perfect fidelity. The battle with the fairies in chapter four is perhaps best described as intense. Gunshots explode all over the soundstage, hundreds (if not thousands) of the pesky enemies buzz through every speaker, and the sequence features an almost unprecedented level of bass, topped only by some of the finest soundtracks available, like Universal's The Incredible Hulk. The battle against the Elemental in chapter 11 is also an amazing sequence: bass rumbles incessantly with not just power but clarity and realism; surround speakers go berserk; sound spreads throughout every inch of the listening area, flowing seamlessly one speaker to the next, the end result a 360-degree sonic marvel. With pitch-perfect dialogue, massive levels of bass, monumental use of the surrounds, and a practically nonstop feeling of total immersion into the film, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is easily ranked with the best-of-the-best audio experiences Blu-ray has to offer.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hellboy II: The Golden Army arrives on Blu-ray as a solid-gold special edition. A feature commentary track with director Guillermo del Toro is first. The director offers up a video-based introduction (480p, 0:22) before diving into the track. Del Toro discusses the series' historical lack of performance at the box office, but his nevertheless receiving the green-light to helm a sequel, this time from a different studio. He goes on to discuss artistic decisions that were made in light of the film's limited budget (although the film looks absolutely fabulous despite a budget millions smaller, even smaller than that of lesser films), the films that influenced his visions, his "fetishes" for gears, exotic locations, and creatures, the film's color palette, and so much more. The track is an easy listen, the information interesting, and del Toro highly engaging. Every fan will want to check this feature out. Also available is a cast commentary featuring Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair, and Luke Gross. A surprisingly dull track, Selma Blair at one point recommends switching over to the del Toro track, which is a good idea. This track is slow, and while fans will learn a bit about the making of the film and the actors, this one is only for the film's die-hard fans.
Like many other Universal discs, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is U-Control enabled. Offering a series of in-movie featurettes that play over the course of the film, viewers will see four different features scattered throughout. Scene Explorer: Schufften Google View shows various effects-heavy sequences in several stages of completion; Director's Notebook allows viewers to go more in-depth with Guilermo del Toro as he discusses his inspirations for certain segments of the film; Set Visits offers behind-the-scenes video segments featuring some of the film's unique sets and characters in preparation for several scenes; Concept Art Gallery is simply a series of drawings and photographs featuring concepts for creatures seen throughout the film. This disc also features BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality. In addition to several previews under the "BD-Live Center" tab and a "community" tab where viewers may participate in adding favorite scenes or chatting with other users, there is an "Exclusive Content" tab which promises viewers additional features to be coming soon.
Troll Market Tour With Guillermo del Toro (480p, 12:22) is a walk-through of this remarkable set with an enthusiastic director. Production Workshop begins with a brief introduction (480p, 1:29) featuring del Toro discussing the film's epic opening battle featuring puppets. The feature, entitled Professor Broom's Puppet Theater (480p, 3:12), showcases the sequence in three stages of development, a crude storyboard, a more refined storyboard, and the film's final sequence. The feature also offers an optional commentary by director Guillermo del Toro. Six deleted scenes (480p, 5:04) are next, again provided with optional director commentary. Zinco Epilogue Animated Comic 480p, 5:14) is included next. Comic Book Builder allows users to grab screens from the film which will be altered to a comic book visual style. Users then may select from a list of texts to include over the images in addition to choosing a front cover. User-built comics may also be uploaded to the "Community" tab of the disc's BD-Live page. Concluding the supplements found on disc one is a series of four still photograph galleries -- Creature Design, Mike Mignola Creator Gallery (with commentary by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola), Production Design, and Production Stills.
Disc two of this set is a DVD that contains several supplemental features, all presented in standard definition, as well as a digital copy of the film. First on the disc is a prologue (0:23) with director Guillermo del Toro. The meat-and-potatoes of this disc is Hellboy: In Service of the Demon (2:34:51). Taking viewers through a detailed journey into the making of the film, this feature reveals a myriad of details, beginning with an examination of the strengths del Toro brings to his films. Broken into 19 chapters, the feature examines, in detail, everything from the characters to the special effects. The sheer length of the piece makes it more for die-hard fans only, but for anyone interested in learning more about how a major studio film is crafted, this feature is worth the time and effort. The disc also features a Marketing Campaign section, allowing viewers to access both Print Gallery and Poster Explorations. The disc also contains a printable version of the film's script, accessible from a personal computer equipped with a DVD-ROM drive. Finally, the digital copy of the film for playback on personal computers and select portable video devices is included. The quality isn't too bad for a digital copy. While it includes some rather heavy blocking, it looks solid enough with decent colors and detail. The audio is surprisingly robust and satisfying.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an entertaining film that accomplishes everything a good sequel requires. It enhances the characters on a psychological level, introduces one or two new primaries, features bigger and bolder sets, more intense action, and introduces a formidable opponent for the heroes to battle. Most importantly, the film sees the return of director Guillermo del Toro, whose impressive vision and eye-catching directorial style once again lend vigor, vitality, beauty, and grace to a Hellboy film. It should comes as no surprise that Universal's Blu-ray release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army is phenomenal. With an incredibly detailed and film-like transfer that shows just what Blu-ray video is capable of presenting, a lossless DTS track that is as good as they come, standing toe-to-toe with Universal's The Incredible Hulk soundtrack, and featuring a mind-boggling supplemental package, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a fine representation of what Blu-ray is all about. Fans of the film and/or its director will not be disappointed, and home theater enthusiasts looking to add the latest and greatest in video and audio presentations to their collections need pick this one up immediately. Hellboy II: The Golden Army comes highly recommended!
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