Updated: Jun 26
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
David Harbour of "Stranger Things" plays Hellboy in the 2019 reboot from director Neil Marshall.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2019; R for strong, bloody violence and gore throughout, (disturbing images) and profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Tales of the Wild Hunt: ‘Hellboy’ Reborn,” a three-part making-of
IF IT were only a matter between interpretation and preference “Hellboy” 2019 might have been a success.
Back in 2004, Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed a film about a demon baby born at the close of WWII that was raised to become a champion against the forces of evil. Enter classically trained Ron Perlman, who first made viewers appreciate those who lived outside the norm in TV’s “Beauty and the Beast” from George R.R. Martin. Then he became del Toro’s Hellboy.
It was a perfect fit. A sheer delight with star crossed sweethearts, rescued kittens, and a Breakfast Club of oddballs taking on the bad guys. Del Toro and Perlman made one more film, “Hellboy: The Golden Army” in 2008, and four animated films with the original cast members.
They were great and, over the years, Hellboy’s popularity kept growing. The big hook at the end of “Golden Army” left us dangling, waiting for a sequel. Eleven years later, fans reeled learning a new film was coming, but del Toro and Perlman were out. That’s the politics of Hollywood.
An opening sequence shows the final confrontation between King Arthur and evil sorceress Nimue, The Blood Queen. She cannot be killed, so her body is dismembered and buried in various secret locations.
So now there’s this reboot directed by Neil Marshall of “Dog Soldiers” (2002) and “The Descent” (2005). The plot is a composite of stories from Mike Mignola, creator/writer/artist of the Dark Horse comic book series. Mignola is the new co-writer and executive producer for “Hellboy” 2019. Andrew Cosby, writer/creator of Syfy’s “Eureka,” wrote the script. David Harbour, who plays lovable Sheriff Jim Hopper on “Stranger Things, takes on the role of Big Red, and Ian McShane becomes Hellboy’s dad and mentor, Professor Broom/Buttenholm. It’s nothing close to del Toro’s vision, nor was it intended to be.
“This one feels very different than the others films. While it’s not a direct adaptation of one of my stories, it’s taken so many pieces of so many of my stories and fit them together in a way that really works.” — Mike Mignola
That the original author is on board is usually a good thing, except “Hellboy” 2019 got no love from critics or fans. Its box office flatlined. The film is dark, brutally dark, and while the quips are there, they're buried beneath effects and buckets of gore. If del Toro delivered scary-beautiful fairy tales, Marshall took his cue from H.R. Giger’s “Alien.” They burst from the ground in shades of black, white and gray to skin and shred people alive. Baba Yaga played by “Twisty” Troy James has more color, but is exceptionally disturbing. Bodies of slaughtered children hang in the background of her hut; tiny body parts are seen in a steaming broth. And our new Hellboy doesn’t even flinch. Isn’t he supposed to be our champion?
So, not for children. Filmmakers of “Hellboy” 2019 are proud of its “R” rating.
The plot is a rehash of standardtropes. A terrible evil, Nimue, The Blood Queen, formerly of King Arthur’s court, returns to rule the world. Played by Milla Jovovich, she’s a one-note character. The folks at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) try to stop this from happening, but no luck. Once the Blood Queen collects her previously dismembered body parts, she proceeds with her plan, part of which is to make Hellboy a king of Hell to rule by her side. Big Red, still angsting over his role in the world, is sent to stop her. He is joined by two new interesting characters, Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), a powerful young psychic Hellboy rescued as a baby, and Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), a closeted were-jaguar. Daimio has an intense distrust of all things supernatural, and has a special bullet designed to kill Hellboy if he turns to the dark side.
(1&2) Members of Hitler's Third Reich summon a baby demon - a creature they deem controllable - to win World War II. American soldiers and Lobster Johnson foil their plans. (3) Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church), another member of the BPRD - and a spinoff character in Mike Mignola's "Hellboy" universe - helps win the battle with Nazis. He burns his trademark claw from his glove into his enemy's forehead.
“It’s a darker ‘Hellboy.’ It’s a ‘Hellboy’ with more internal struggle, and with more torture … It’s also a more horror or gothic ‘Hellboy.’” — David Harbour, actor
Dolby Vision and HDR10 toning in “Hellboy’s” 2160p transfer makes a huge difference in enjoying the film. It was digitally captured by Arri Alexa cameras at 3.4K and upconverted to a 4K digital intermediate. Both 2160p and 1080p transfers are in 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
Frankly, the 1080p looks as if it’s been dipped in mud. Colors and detail are flat. Harbour frequently looks as if he’s wearing a demon-suit. An early scene shows Hellboy filing off his horns, which look a lot like plastic. His yellow eyes are flat. The character with the glow, even in dark scenes, is Ian McShane’s Professor Broom/Bruttenholm. Then again, McShane improves a film simply by walking on set.
Switch to Ultra 4K and it all changes. Contrast improves dramatically. Hellboy looks like a living creature as do the other demons in Marshall’s production. Colors are bold and rich against layered shadowy-backgrounds. Items have much more dimension and detail. Alice and Daimio have a more dynamic presence, as does Baba Yaga and other monsters. Scarring and veins on Hellboy and Daimio look more realistic. McShane still glows.
Like the Ultra 4K presentation, the eight-channel Dolby Atmos is a winner. First off, sound is perfectly blended, balanced and immersive. Special effects from creepy graveyard to Apocalyptic battle travel all around the room. Dialogue is basically clean, although it sometimes sounds as if Harbour has trouble speaking through the prosthetics. Audio defaults to a very good Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel track.
Benjamin Wallfisch, who composed the scores for “Shazam!,” “It” Chapters One and Two, and “Blade Runner 2049,” provides hard-rockin’ action-adventure music. Classic hits “Welcome to My Nightmare,” Alice Cooper; “Kickstart My Heart,” Motley Crüe; “Cuts Like a Knife,” Tony Lewis; “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” Cilla Black, and “Cumbia Raza,” Los Lobos, punctuate various scenes.
Hard of hearing? Forget subtitles for the extras; they aren’t there, and that’s just not right. Bonus features are found on both the Ultra 4K and Blu-ray discs, with “Tales of the Wild Hunt: ‘Hellboy’ Reborn”leading the pack. It's a three-part making-of running over an hour. With interviews from the cast and filmmakers, we learn how the film was made and the concepts behind it. It’s interesting and well-presented.
There are three deleted scenes. “Previsualizaton” shows animated storyboards for three scenes.
“Mike Mignola’s involvement in this was massive because we really wanted to reconnect with the source material in order to relaunch the franchise and create something new and something that hadn’t really been represented the same way on screen before.” — Producer Carl Hampe
“Hellboy” 2019 isn’t all that bad … it’s just not all that good. Still, while del Toro’s films did well at the box office, they weren’t blockbusters. The big revenue came when his films hit home theaters.
Millennium Media took the character in a new direction. With its creator, Mike Mignola, on board, it should have been great, but isn’t. For all its quality effects and tech, this Hellboy leaves us – if not cold, then very chilled.
— Kay Reynolds