Hellboy: 15th Anniversary Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of Hellboy, which is based on Mike Mignola’s popular Dark Horse Comic which tells the story of a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, who grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

96

Details:

Studio and Year: Sony Pictures – 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13/Unrated
Feature running time: 121/132 minutes
Genre: Fantasy

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/ Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, Karel Roden, Rupert Evans, John Hurt
Written & Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: October 15, 2019

“From the Dark Side to Our Side”

Synopsis:

“Hellboy is based on Mike Mignola’s popular Dark Horse Comic and tells the story of a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, who grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.” – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

My Take:

From visionary writer/director Guillermo del Toro comes HELLBOY, a supernatural action adventure based on Mike Mignola’s popular Dark Horse Comics series of the same name. Born in the flames of hell and brought to Earth as an infant to perpetrate evil, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) was rescued from sinister forces by the benevolent Dr. Broom (John Hurt), who raised him to be a hero. In Dr. Broom’s secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy creates an unlikely family consisting of the telepathic “Mer-Man” Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), the woman he loves who can control fire. Hidden from the very society that they protect, they stand as the key line of defense against an evil madman who seeks to reclaim Hellboy to the dark side and use his powers to destroy mankind.

So, I haven’t read Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse Comic series but, as a fan of its genre I was all in when I first saw Guillermo Del Toro’s big screen adaptation of Hellboy. I love the conceptual approach that involves this Hell spawned demon that is adopted and raised by a human that teaches him the meaning of humanity, more specifically his own and, how that comes to define him. The story, co-written by Del Toro, depicts the main character as someone struggling to find his place, which he sees as something quite different than what his true purpose is.

Despite that, he seeks only to preserve what’s important, those around him that have become his family. When the chips are down and the cost is high, that is when we truly come to see what Hellboy is made of. This is such a fun film to watch. The balance of humor, action and story plus, Ron Perlman’s excellent turn as the vulnerable hero and, Director Del Toro’s steady hand at the helm, elevate Hellboy from a goofy, one note homage to an entertaining and eclectic fantasy film that has excellent replay value.

Note: Both the theatrical and director’s cut of the film in Ultra HD are included.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sci-fi action violence and frightening images.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Hellboy comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

According to the press documentation Sony remastered Hellboy (both the Theatrical and Director’s cuts) and, the Ultra HD rendering is derived from the 4K Digital Intermediate.

This is a rather dark film that strives to recreate the look and feel of Guillermo Del Toro’s vision. The restored video quality in Ultra High Definition looks terrific. Hellboy is not an overtly bright film, although there are bright elements. The cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The opening sequence during World War II looks great, providing a glimpse of what lies in store.

Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, using anamorphic lenses, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling water or underground labyrinths.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of moody visual cues that can be offset by gleams of brilliant light. The arcing sparks from the German machinery in the opening scene stand out in stark contrast to the gradational blacks and grays that made up the exterior war-torn village. When present, primary colors are beautifully rendered. Things such as the deep red in the Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper or the icy blue flame from Liz’s pyrotechnics, sparkle. The film’s plethora of shadow laden environs offer increased resolve in terms of interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

The finale brings all of the presentation’s best elements together and looks terrific. I found that this Ultra HD presentation took this film visuals to the next level, allowing its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Kudos to Sony. They have, and, continue to set the bar for high quality Ultra HD Blu-ray releases of their catalog titles.

Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound:

Like the video presentation the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround mix improves upon the previous 5.1 channel mix and sounds superb. This soundtrack runs the gamut between subtle passages of spoken dialog to dynamically charged sequences that deliver engaging surround sound. Dialog rendering is excellent. Detail is first rate which brings out the finely articulated nuance of background elements within the mix. The recording’s excellent dynamic range accents the soundtrack’s varying elements during transitions from subtle to more aggressive active moments which highlights the potency of gunfire, explosions, or musical crescendos. Low frequency effects don’t reach subterranean depths, but this mix digs deeper than the original, as its palpable presence is never in question, providing rewarding and ample bass response that resonates with authority. Surround use is prevalent and achieves a high level of envelopment that is appreciably involving as sounds and effects are seamlessly blended to create a stable and detail rich sound field.

The comparisons between this 7.1 channel mix and the new 5.1 channel mix (see below) are closer however, this presentation edges that one out, sounding fuller and ever so slightly more dynamic.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. During the first act there are several instances where the mix generates a noticeable improvement in dimension and depth of field. The opening scene provides an idea of what the mix has in store. Audio object placement from both above and in the ear listening plane are put to effective use.

The sequence that begins in the museum where Hellboy and company encounter the hell beast for the first time sounds great, as the various effects move in and around the room as dictated by what you see onscreen. While this scene sounds very good in the standard mix it’s taken to another level in the Amos mix. This continues with the film’s action-based sequences as well as those that convey the breadth/expanse of interiors such subway and labyrinth where the team stumbles upon the nesting location. As a whole, the track bristles with enveloping ambience and discretely placed effects. Overall, I would say that viewing Hellboy in Ultra HD with the new Dolby Atmos mix made for a heightened home theater experience.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Hellboy comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

Hellboy recently underwent a 4K restoration and this 1080p rendering was derived from that process. Additionally, this 1080p release includes a new lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround mix (not sure why the new Dolby Atmos mix wasn’t simply ported over to the new Blu-ray) that takes the place of the 5.1 channel PCM track found on the original Blu-ray version.

The film utilizes a stylized visual design comprised of various elements that represent the differing environs featured in the story. The color range is limited to shades of dark blue, grays and black with splashes of broader colors and muted sepia tones. Warm golden accents are used to break up the monochromatic essence as uneven light and shading are prevalent. Contrast is spot on which empowers whites and grays without washing away detail. Whites are snappy and crisp and grays are multi-staged and layered. Blacks are dynamic and gradational and detail in shadows is just as strong. The various effects featured in the film softens some of the background elements but I didn’t find it to be excessive or distracting as the quality of the video is high. It isn’t always razor sharp but it is cleanly rendered with revealing refinement that increases the perception of fine detail.

The 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA track sounds terrific. This recording has wide dynamic range and boasts opulent clarity and high-level detail. Dialog is appreciably lucid through the center channel as it penetrates well into the room. Channel separation and imaging is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable. The mix makes effective and often aggressive use of the surround channels to reproduce the spatial and discrete sounds contained in this soundtrack. Where called upon the combination of discretely placed, near field, and panning sound effects is spot on. Low frequency effects are applied with authority and occasionally provide room coupling bass.

This is a noteworthy upgrade of the film’s 1080p Blu-ray elements which combine to make for an involving home theater experience.

** NOTE: This new 1080p Blu-ray is only available as part of this Ultra HD Combo Pack.**

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Hellboy (Theatrical and Director’s Cut) Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Hellboy Blu-ray (Theatrical version)
    SPECIAL FEATURES ON 4K ULTRA HD
     Includes Both Director’s Cut and Theatrical Versions of the Film
     ALL-NEW: Introduction by Guillermo del Toro
     ALL-NEW: “To Hell and Back” Retrospective Featurette
     Three Audio Commentaries Featuring Director Guillermo del Toro, Creator Mike Mignola and the Cast
     “The Seeds of Creation” Documentary
     Theatrical Trailers

    SPECIAL FEATURES ON BLU-RAY
     Remastered Theatrical Version of the Film
     Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
     Makeup and Lighting Tests with Commentary
     VFX How To’s
     A Quick Guide to Understanding Comics with Scott McCloud
     “Right Hand of Doom” Set Visits and Factoids
     Q&A Archive: Comic-Con 2002
     Mike Mignola Pre-Production Art
     Animatics
     Board-A-Matics
     Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparisons
     TV Spots
     Photo Galleries

  • Digital

Final Thoughts:

Written & Directed by Guillermo Del Toto based on the Dark Horse Comic by Mike Mignola, Hellboy needs little introduction among genre fans, and is the first, and best entry, in the Hellboy film franchise. I am pleased to report that its Ultra HD presentation from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a complimentary one that includes faithfully restored video, a new Dolby Atmos immersive mix that enhances the film’s home theater experience, new bonus material AND newly minted 1080p video/DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound. If you’re a fan, and are set up to take advantage of what this Ultra HD Combo Pack has to offer Hellboy is a must have for your collection.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems