Review: Hellboy: Sword of Storms Animation | My Reviews 25 JUN 2008

Hellboy Sword of StormsRenowned professor of Japanese folklore, Professor Sakai is known for his thirst of all things antique, but this quest to chronicle all that has been is about to take a turn for the worse as he opens the forbidden scroll and releases the long-sealed demons of Thunder and Lightning. These fearsome demons, bested only once before, immediately set about reading the summoning of the all powerful Dragon, in an attempt to gain revenge and dominate this very Earth we stand upon.

Of course, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) can’t just ignore all of the strange phenomena that seem to now be occurring across the globe and it sends out its best agents to try and tackle the problem. So enter Hellboy, Corrigan, Abe, Liz and slightly nutty psychic Russell Thorne.

However, on the very first outing our nonchalant, unflappable, cocky, durable and very red demon finds that after touching a mysterious, discarded katana, he literally disappears into an alternate universe populated by all manner of Japanese monsters and folklore and is soon caught in the middle of a fight to fix the mistakes of the past and in so doing find his way back home and take down the twin demons while he is at it.

With Hellboy now gone and the phenomena getting worse across the globe, the rest of the BPRD can’t exactly sit on their backsides either and are currently scrambling to investigate the cause and stamp it out before anything worse raises its ugly head… but no one said anything about there being dragons!

2007’s Hellboy: Sword of Storms is the first movie of the Hellboy Animated series, based on Mike Mignola’s extremely popular comic book series Hellboy, a series that has even gone on to spawn a live-action film back in 2004. The film is written (with help from the original Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola) and directed by animation veteran Tad Stones, known for his stellar service to Disney where he produced and worked on Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers and even Gummi Bears!

While Hellboy is a work of pure fiction and tells the story of a demon brought to this plane of existence by Nazi Occultists and then freed by the Allies and now working side by side with the humans of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, the story is infused to such an extent with the rich tapestry of Japanese folklore and mythology that it becomes a little more than just your ordinary, ungrounded animated movie and in doing so becomes an absolute treat to watch.

The backdrop for the epic story is pretty much your usual stuff in that demons are released who wish to wreak havoc on the Earth and pretty much need to be stopped, but it is the inclusion of the three duel running storylines that eventually lead to the film’s singular conclusion that brings it above mediocrity and adds that little sophistication that makes it more than just a kiddies movie.

Everything that is classic Hellboy is retained and the movie works within the comic book universe instead of in the live-action movie world, a touch that is sure to please long time Hellboy comic book fans.

Visually Hellboy: Sword of Storms thankfully strays away from the original Mike Mignola’s heavily styled and shadow-heavy art and goes for a more standard animated production look which isn’t to say it looks bad – it just looks normal. Both the character and background designs are pleasingly simple but animated beautifully and everything flows together like a well oiled machine. Little inserts of CGI (like in the floating leaves/petals scene) can be seen here and there, but it is never intrusive and you hardly know it is there, a sign that animators are finally getting to grips with combining the two mediums at last.

The action sequences are particularly well animated and you can literally feel every blow as it lands, the hallmark of good animation techniques. Also of particular note is the superb colouring effects that brings everything to life and literally takes your breath away with its beauty in certain scenes. To sum it up, Hellboy: Sword of Storms looks and feels about as polished and professional as what you can get from any other animated straight to DVD movie.

A great touch in terms of the voiceover cast is the fact that all the actors from the live-action movie are back to reprise their respective roles in this animated outing. Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman) and Doug Jones (Abe Sapien) are all back and do a sterling job behind the microphone as do the rest of the terrific voice actors who lend their skills to the show.

On the musical front, Hellboy has a rich orchestral score that reflects well the various locations the movie takes place in as well as upping the tempo as the situation calls for it. So often the music makes for the moment and as such, the music composer for Hellboy certainly didn’t disappoint!

I have to be honest and say that I thoroughly enjoyed Hellboy: Sword of Storms. True it is your standard action/adventure beat-em up but it carries a hint of sophistication around it and combining everything that makes Hellboy as interesting as he is with some authentic Japanese folklore makes for a great yarn, and with some stunning visuals this is one of those animated movies that makes for a great watch and should probably not be missed, particularly by those already converted Hellboy fans!

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.