Over the last twenty years, we have been able to continuously progress our technologies. In turn, that means that we have been able to progress our animation techniques as well. Push the medium to new heights. Ever since Disney’s 1937 classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we have experienced the evolution of two-dimensional animation. We’ve experienced a deeper and richer sense of depth as we have evolved with the medium. When you enter into the era of the mid-90s, the conversation starts to turn to Pixar’s revolutionary film, Toy Story. This groundbreaking approach to animation started to carry on, quickly developing and being done by more studios than just merely Disney. Quickly the art of two-dimensional animation has quickly died down. Even in our evolution, this medium offers us a platform for unique stories, visually stunning spectacles and wonderous adventures.
Nearly nine years into the three-dimensional animation revolution, Starz Media & Revolution Studios, gave us Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms. Sword tells the story of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. as they investigate an occult related murder only to be transferred into a spiritual variation of Japan. Hellboy has been tasked to kill the Japanese spirits of Thunder and Lightning. The journey of Hellboy throughout the film is beautiful and brilliantly crafted in every sense of those words. His arc throughout allows the mythos of Hellboy to navigate through a plethora of Japanese legends and folklore. It’s a real treat to get to experience another culture’s stories and visionaries.
The cast of the 2004 live-action, Hellboy¸ film return to their respective roles for this film. Ron Perlman is back to play the big-red himself. Perlman just has such a charm that he brings to the role. Even in animation form, he delivers such a lovable quality to the character. It’s almost as if Perlman was born for the role of Hellboy. Doug Jones and Selma Blair also return to their roles of Abe & Liz. Who, for the most part, I can’t figure out why they are even in this movie? The movie opens up on another investigation, separate from the film’s main plot, here both of these characters are beautifully used – especially Liz.
Through it’s when the plot starts to take shape, they become background noise and almost a waste of screen time. Throughout its’ 77 minute run time, Storms manages to set up two other arcs outside of Hellboy’s main journey through the Japan’s spiritual realm. On one hand, you have a medium and Professor Kate Corrigan who are trying to understand a bit more of the spiritual realm. On the other hand you have Abe & Liz who have gone rogue in pursuit of Hellboy. The latter, honestly, bring nothing to the overarching story. By film’s end, there’s not really a resolution to their arc. Viewers are left to wonder what happened with these characters. At least, the medium and professor arc, though random it shows up, manages to play into the climax of the movie.
Arcs aside, the animation as beautiful and specular as it is feels a bit misplaced. The world crafted by Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. deal with the paranormal, monsters and heavily with death and hell. The subject matter of the film feels like it should call for a darker color palette of animation. That’s not the case here. The palette for Sword of Storms is very bright and warm. When you’re dealing with a plot line of the apocalypse and death, those aren’t necessarily the colors you want to have. Swords feels very reminiscent of other early 2000’s animation that includes Static Shock and Braceface.
Overall, Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, is a beautiful take on the gothic creation known as Hellboy. Presenting brilliant direction and plot, fantastic voice casting and beautifully handled folklore – Storms is a treasure indeed to the mythos of the character. Though, it’s not without its’ wreckage. Somewhat busy subplots for its’ short runtime makes it feel crowded at some points. That crowded presentation is only weakened by the misplaced color palette of the animation. Even with its’ flaws, Sword of Storms still presents a fun time.
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