Wednesday, March 14, 2007

HELLBOY ANIMATED: THE SWORD OF STORMS

I’ve been a fan of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy character since his first comic book appearance a decade or so ago. It’s been gratifying to see the character’s success over the years in both print and other media. I enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro’s live-action feature film, and looked forward with great anticipation to the direct-to-DVD/cable feature, HELLBOY ANIMATED: THE SWORD OF STORMS (2006).

Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

SWORD OF STORMS sends Hellboy (voiced by Ron Perlman, reprising his movie role) and his fellow BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) agents – pyrokinetic Liz (Selma Blair) and fishman Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) – to the Orient, where they must face off against demons of Thunder & Lightning, a dragon, and a bunch of cannibalistic floating heads. The story incorporates elements from a number of Mignola’s stories, and successfully captures the tone and feel of the original comics (and live-action film).

The animation is quite nice – maybe not Disney quality, but very good for a direct-to-disc production. The character designs may not be 100% faithful to Mignola’s comic book drawings, but they are attractive and well conceived. The voice work – by most of the first film’s cast – is top notch across the board. Overall, it’s a very respectable effort by director Tad Stones and his crew, and I can’t wait for the already in-production sequel.

Anchor Bay presents SWORD OF STORMS in a crystal-sharp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, augmented by a vibrant Dolby 5.1 sound track. The disc is heavily loaded with a half-dozen slick featurettes covering all aspects of the production, and a commentary track by creator Mignola, director Stone and co-director Phil Weinstein. There are even teaser trailers for the sequel film and a forthcoming Hellboy video game.

Personally, I loved it, and can’t wait for the sequel. Highly recommended for fans of the character and animation buffs in general.

BUY: Hellboy: Sword of Storms (Animated)