- Guillermo del Toro
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The movie takes off in October 1944, when a group of Nazis tries to help Hitler by recruiting supernatural forces. Their intent fails, but not before a baby demon crosses the open portal. American Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) immediately adopts the baby. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) then grows up as an agent of the FBI Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, battling every type of evil non-human presence in the nation along with Liz (Selma Blair) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). It is until Rasputin (Karel Roden) resurrects that Hellboy faces his biggest challenge, as he wants to destroy the world.
Guillermo del Toro directed from his own screenplay, based on the comic book created by Mike Mignola. Del Toro had had Hellboy as his pet project for years, refusing to shoot it until a studio would accept previous Cronos collaborator Perlman in the lead role. No wonder he was so relentless, Perlman is a perfect hit for the character.
What sets Hellboy apart from other superhero movies is its tone. It doesn’t take itself seriously, as the continuous mentions of the comic book it is based upon prove, and if you took out all the fights here and there, the movie could be considered a comedy. Every character in the movie is grim, except for one big red fellow who keeps delivering funny one-liners and behaving in unpredictable ways. Just watch how he reacts when he gets jealous and decides to spy on Liz; priceless.
And yes, there’s also a love story thrown in there for good measure. Liz is a fire starter; she starts fires when she gets angry or excited. And Hellboy is immune to fire. You could say they’re made for each other, but it’s far more complicated than that. And scenes dealing with this subplot are quite touching.
One of the movie’s best assets is its visual grandeur. The atmosphere is accentuated by dark photography (courtesy of Guillermo Navarro) and gothic sets. Hellboy itself is a work of art courtesy of make-up artist Rick Baker; amazing job there. The evil monsters Hellboy has to battle are way over-the-top in terms of design, just as Del Toro likes them, but they work within the realms of the world that is presented from the first frame. Abe Sapien is particularly peculiar and quite the creation. Only technical flaw: some special effects look really fake, especially those that deal with fire; and there’s a lot of it in there.
Ultimately why I didn’t love the movie is because I never really got into it. Hellboy fights a lot of bad guys, but I never got that sense of excitement I should get from this sort of material. I didn’t really care about the characters and even when one main character died I wasn’t that moved. The movie also gets repetitive towards the end, and the big finale is too much for my taste. Fortunately it doesn’t last too long.
As I said before, Ron Perlman owns the character and makes of Hellboy a truly charismatic and unique hero. He has a blast and it shows. I’m glad a character actor got the chance to be front and center in a mainstream film like this, and even more glad that it paid off. John Hurt, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor and all the supporting cast are solid.
“You should be running.”
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