Starring: Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, David Hyde Pierce
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
[originally written July 24, 2005… ]
I’ve never read any Hellboy, so I know nothing about the character as he was portrayed in the Dark Horse Comics that the movie is based on. The extent of my Hellboy knowledge going into this movie is that the character was created, written, and drawn by Mike Mignola. So I can’t judge whether or not it was a good or loyal adaptation of the character, and thus will be judging it solely whether or not it works as a sci-fi action-adventure flick. The good news is that I’ll be less likely to forgive crap just because it pushes my fanboy buttons.
More good news is that I didn’t need any fanboy button-pushing to enjoy this movie. It’s a high energy, special effects heavy, big action, comic book movie. I’m not usually won over by special effects heavy movies, because I feel they use them as a crutch to cover up the fact that they don’t have much to say as a movie. But, when done right, special effects can enhance a movie, providing the audience with a visceral, visual experience that is unlike most of what they’ll see in movies. Hellboy is one such a movie, a vibrant and unique experience that’s as exciting as it is fun.
Thankfully, one area they avoided using special effects is with the Hellboy character itself, instead choosing to outfit Ron Perlman with makeup and costume to inhabit the big red guy. This works fantastically, as Hellboy manages to feel real in the film, despite his other-worldly appearance. He interacts with his environments, be they gloomy subways, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or a snowy Russian cemetery. Perlman does an excellent job filling Hellboy out, creating a character with enough gruff charisma to carry the film throughout. It’s tough not to like the big guy, who fills the film with both humour and pathos, which is feat I don’t believe CGI is ready to accomplish (if it ever will).
The film feels like a blend of Indiana Jones, Men In Black, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Ghostbusters, while managing to stake out some original material for itself. It’s a truly fun adventure film that’s easy to like due to the nature of the character. But, the film isn’t without its flaws. The villains of the piece are fairly second rate, the dramatic portions of the film, particularly the love angle with Selma Blair‘s pyrokinetic character Liz Sherman, is merely adequate, and some of the subplots go unaddressed. But, what you should be looking for in such a movie is excitement and fun, and Hellboy provides both in excess.