DVD Review: Hellboy: Sword of Storms

Hellboy: Sword of Storms
77 Minutes, Unrated

Story: Mike Mignola & Tad Stones
Writer: Matt Wayne & Tad Stones
Directer: Phil Weinstein
Supervising Producer & Director: Tad Stones

Revolution Studios/Starz Home Entertainment – $14.98

For us here at iFanboy, there were many great things about 2007. One of the best was that it was the year of discovering, or in some cases, rediscovering Mike Mignola’s wonderful world of Hellboy.

2004 saw the release of Hellboy, the live action film from Guillermo del Toro that met with relative, if not overwhelming, success at the box office. That film led to a live action sequel set to be released in July 2008, and two straight-to-DVD animated films, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, released in 2006 and Hellboy: Blood and Iron, from 2007.

Today, I’m going to take a look at the first DVD, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, and tomorrow my buddy Josh is going to examine Hellboy: Blood and Iron.

Straight from the get-go, you know this movie is going to be in good hands. Besides the names responsible for the writing, directing and producing of the film, the opening credits introduce the impressive voice cast, headlined by the actors from the live action movie. Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, and Selma Blair as Liz Sherman. That doesn’t always happen with these types of live action-to-animation projects and I wonder if it’s a reflection on the love of the characters by the actors. Or maybe it was in their contracts for the live action films. Who knows? I choose not to be cynical today.

At this point I should confess that I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot about Hellboy which I saw in 2005, two years before my rediscovery of the Hellboy comic books and my immersion back into that world. I remember enjoying the film and I remember having a good time and I remember thinking that Ron Perlman was perfect as Hellboy. But beyond that, I don’t really remember anything else. Rectifying this is on my ever expanding list of things to do in the coming months.

The first impression that I got from the animation was that it looked like a slightly more kiddified version of Hellboy. Gone were the dark, heavy shadows that give the books such a uniquely moody feeling. They were replaced by a more standard looking animation environment with character designs that are vaguely — vaguely — reminiscent of the DC Animated Universe (it’s possible that it’s my own issues that cause my brain to compare all comic book animation to the DC Animated Universe and that it’s not really similar at all, but I’m so far down that rabbit hole I can’t tell anymore. I might need to see an analyst). I was briefly worried that this movie would be a more “safe” and “vanilla” version of Hellboy but my fears were quickly dashed when almost right away fighting broke out and the violence and realistic guns and weaponry told me that this was no Saturday morning cartoon.

Hellboy's got a sword!The film opens with amphibious Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, the fire starter, skulking around an underground temple looking for a giant bat creature. It doesn’t take long for Hellboy to burst into the scene and everything about his entrance is perfect. The giant bat creature in question comes smashing through the wall of the temple, with Hellboy barely holding on to its back and getting flung about as the giant bat creature tries to shake its unwanted passenger. Hellboy is finally shaken loose from the giant bat creature by being slammed into a wall, hard. His first line of dialogue? “Oh, crap.” His second? “Screw this.”

Oh, Hellboy. How you make me laugh. 

Like the comic books, Hellboy: Sword of Storms is heavily intertwined with global mythology, in this case Japanese folklore. It seems that there was an enchanted sword that was used by a samurai to defeat two storm demons, Thunder and Lightning. He did this as an alternative to having the love of his life offered up to appease the demons. Hey, a much preferable solution, I say. Upon defeat, the two storm demons were trapped within the sword. Oh, but the girl’s father had her killed anyway and had the samurai turned into a statue. It was a matter of lost honor, you see.

Back in the present day, demons have come for the sword, now on display in the home of a Japanese sword collector. And when there’s demon trouble you call the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) and they send in Hellboy. And Hellboy being Hellboy he gets sucked into another dimension filled with creatures from Japanese folklore and a series of challenges, or quests, he must complete in order to protect the Sword of Storms from being broken and thus freeing the storm demons. Thus, Hellboy needs rescuing by fellow B.P.R.D. agents Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, who themselves get waylaid by demons of their own while in route to investigate Hellboy’s disappearance.

Abe Sapien & Liz ShermanThe Japanese folklore dimension that Hellboy spends much of the film in was a lot of fun and at times downright creepy. Hellboy isn’t one for high fallutin’ philosophizing and you tend to find a lot of that in in Japanese folklore dimension, and the juxtaposition was not only funny but many of the dangers he  faced were creep-inducing and exciting. While Hellboy is galavanting around in other dimensions, Abe Sapien and Liz had their plane taken out by a storm demon and spend most of the second half of the film fighting a sea dragon and tip-toeing into amphibian/human sexual tension.  

The C plot with B.P.R.D. agents Russell Thorne, a psychic, and Professor Kate Corrigan, left behind by Hellboy and investigating the entire storm demon incident didn’t really hold much interest for me. They served mostly an expository role and I felt like it was screen time that could have gone to Hellboy or Abe and Liz.

All of the plot lines converge into a pretty exciting extended battle intercut between Hellboy fighting hordes of zombies and a giant demon with only the Sword of Storms and his Right Hand of Doom, and Abe and Liz facing off against a sea-dwelling dragon. The aftermath of those two fights leading to the the climactic throw down between Hellboy and Thunder and Lightning, the storm demons who had been trapped in the Sword of Storms.

The voice acting from the main cast is pretty strong, on the whole. Ron Perlman and Doug Jones are excellent in their roles. Selma Blair was a bit uneven. In some scenes she was really good, in others the line readings seemed really flat. I don’t see any other voice acting on her resume and sometimes it’s hard for people without voice acting experience to get a hang of it. She will get better, I’m sure.

HellboyAs for the characters themselves, just like in the live action film, Ron Perlman is perfect as Hellboy and they just utterly nail him here too. What I love about Hellboy is that he isn’t your typical laughing-in-the-face of danger adventurer. He’s not doing what the does because he gets off on it. He protects the world from demons because someone has to and no one can do it better than he can. He’s resigned to that fact, even if he’d rather be sleeping than riding on the back of a giant bat creature.

Abe SapienAbe Sapien remains a mystery to me. Hellboy fans seem to love Abe. They looooove him. I don’t get it. I think he’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s got kind of a laid back, almost surfer charm, but I don’t find anything about him to be overly compelling either. Then again I haven’t read nearly as much Hellboy as most so maybe I just haven’t gotten there yet. In this film he’s done quite well and his almost romance with Liz is sweet.

Liz ShermanAnd that leaves Liz Sherman, the mopey fire starter. She started off this film rubbing me the wrong way, and I think that a lot of that had to do with the filmmakers wanting to establish her personality to people not familiar with the character so they really pounded on her feeling more like a freak than even Hellboy and Abe. Thus her early and annoying “woe is me” routine. She was much less grating by the end of the film.

I am really liking this trend of high quality, straight-to-DVD animated movies based on comic book properties. I was sad to learn that these DVDs were not necessarily successful enough to warrant more sequels. Perhaps the second live action Hellboy film will be popular enough to get the ball rolling on more of these films. It would be fun to see some animated adaptations of some of the comic book stories as well as stories of B.P.R.D. and Lobster Johnson. We already got a bit of an adaptation in this film: in one of the challenges Hellboy faces in the Japanese folklore dimension, he faces off against demons whose heads detach, which was a Hellboy story called “Heads.”

Overall, Hellboy: Sword of Storms was a really fun time. It’s a definite must see for Hellboy fans, and anyone curious about the Hellboy world could do with checking it out. If nothing else, this movie did its job. I really want to see Hellboy: Blood & Iron now (which I am told is even better) and I want to watch the live action movie and read more Hellboy books.


  1. I love the characterizations in these movies. They bring to life all the people we only glimpsed (or didn’t see at all) in the live action movie. And Blood

  2. I did like Blood

  3. I did like Blood and Iron a bit more than Sword of Storms, but I enjoyed both of them.

  4. I like the movies, but, like the live-action film, it doesn’t quite capture what’s so great about the comic.

  5. If you want to see a good Mignola-to-animation translation, watch

  6. You got a little cut off there; I’m guessing you were going with Amazing Screw On Head?

  7. I love this Hellboy movie, but I’m an even bigger fan of the Blood and Iron sequel;

  8. Doh, it cut me off–oh wells– still love this new site.

  9. Correctumundo, JFernandes.

  10. You know how this could have been better? Take that Tad Stone guy off the script, that dude is a real hack? 😉

  11. Joking Tad! (love ya man!) 😉

  12. It’s an honor to have this movie be the first review on the new, high octane, turbo-boosted for power, website. I hope Josh is as kind. It was a great experience. I would so love to do a third with what I learned from the first two. But although there’s no animated movie on the horizon, there is a possiblility of some more short subjects like Iron Shoes.

  13. I ilke this one better then the sequel because i like all the mythogy.