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Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms (2006)
Directors: Phil Weinstein and Tad Stones

review by Ian R. Faulkner

I am a self-professed comic book geek and eagerly await and actively seek out the vast majority of comic book adaptations. I remember being like a kid on Christmas morning when it was announced Guillermo del Toro would be directing a live action version of Hellboy. I mean, after Cronos (1993), The Devil's Backbone, and Blade II, who better to pull off a faithful adaptation of Mike Mignola's classic comic book horror-fantasy hybrid..?

And was I disappointed? Hell no! Hellboy was and is a top film, and Ron Perlman is just perfect as the film's eponymous hero. So, when I found out the director planned to continue Hellboy's adventures, not only in a live action sequel (due summer 2008) but also as an animated series, voiced by the original cast, I was in geek heaven.

Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms is the first of the animated Hellboy projects to be released and opens with Hellboy (voiced and owned by Perlman), Abe Sapien (voiced by Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) kicking the snot out of a huge bat monster and a horde of zombie type acolytes. It then switches and drops our B.P.R.D. (that's the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) heroes in Japan investigating the disappearance and possession of Professor Sakai, a Japanese folklore expert who, after reading a forbidden scroll, has been taken over by two spirit demons, Thunder and Lightning. The demons want the professor to free them from the titular Sword of Storms, so they can summon their brothers, the Dragons, to put pay to us pesky humans.

To make matters worse, whilst Hellboy, the fiery Liz, watery Abe and new girl, Professor Kate Corrigan (voiced by Peri Gilpin), are supposed to be sorting things out in the real world, Hellboy goes missing. Transported by the cursed sword, Hellboy is lost in a mythological Japanese dream world, where he is forced to deal with floating, disembodied demon heads, a seriously creepy spider-woman, a mad turtle monster whose head is full of water, and the ghosts of two, long separated Japanese lovers.

Hellboy: Sword Of Storms is, as I've said, the first of the Hellboy Animated features to be released from the ensemble of del Toro, Mignola and Stones, and it is a good first attempt, but, even after repeat viewings, this small screen version is missing something, some crucial element, which I'm at a loss to quantify. 'Aw crap!' I can hear you cry. 'After all that he didn't like it.'

No, I did. Really. It's just, no matter how I view it, I still find myself thinking it could have been so much better. Maybe it's the fact that, whilst Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola are listed as consulting producers, the film is actually directed by Phil Weinstein (with supervision and direction by the Disney alumni Tad Stones), although both the direction and the story are competently handled. Maybe it's the animation style, which at first I found too childish, although I soon discounted this, as, with the exception of Hellboy's tail, which just bugged me, I did warm to the movie's attempted blend of Mignola's original comic art and the anime look so popular nowadays. Whatever the cause, I just felt Hellboy: Sword Of Storms lacked something, and that left me ever so slightly disappointed.

The special features on the other hand are truly excellent. Not only is there a great commentary by Mignola, Stones and Weinstein, but the DVD also contains six top-notch featurettes: To Hell And Back - How Mike Mignola Created Hellboy; A New Breed - Creating The New Hellboy; Conquering Hellboy - The Actors Role featurette; A View From The Top featurette on 'the heads' sequence; Hellboy Goes East featurette on the inspirations, back-stories, and secrets of Hellboy: Sword Of Storms; The Keepers Of Hellboy - a 2006 comic convention panel discussion; and, last but not least, it ships with a brand new 32-page mini comic created by Mignola.

To sum up, Hellboy: Sword Of Storms is a good first instalment in a planned animated series that will, hopefully, grow up to equal its live action big brother.
Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms

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