In the ongoing deluge of comic-book adaptations, Hellboy
ranks well above average. Having turned down an offer to helm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
in favor of bringing Hellboy
's origin story to the big screen, the gifted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro compensates for the excesses of Blade II
with a moodily effective, consistently entertaining action-packed fantasy, beginning in 1944 when the mad monk Rasputin--in cahoots with occult-buff Hitler and his Nazi thugs--opens a transdimensional portal through which a baby demon emerges, capable of destroying the world with his powers. Instead, the aptly named Hellboy is raised by the benevolent Prof. Bloom, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, whose allied forces enlist the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman, perfectly cast) to battle evil at every turn. While nursing a melancholy love for the comely firestarter Liz (Selma Blair), Hellboy files his demonic horns ("to fit in," says Bloom) and wreaks havoc on the bad guys. The action is occasionally routine (the movie suffers when compared to the similar X-Men
blockbusters), but del Toro and Perlman have honored Mike Mignola's original Dark Horse comics with a lavish and loyal interpretation, retaining the amusing and sympathetic quirks of character that made the comic-book Hellboy a pop-culture original. He's red as a lobster, puffs stogies like Groucho Marx, and fights the good fight with a kind but troubled heart. What's not to like? --Jeff Shannon
Based on the comic book series by Mike Mignola, Guillermo del Toro's gleefully eccentric film follows the supernatural adventures of Hellboy (Ron Perlman), a cigar-chomping, horn-filing demonic hero enlisted by an occult scholar (John Hurt) to fight evil in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. Along with the fire-throwing Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and the amphibious psychic Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, with the voice of David Hyde Pierce), Hellboy is joined by new recruit John Myers (Rupert Evans), a squeaky-clean FBI agent assigned to keep the big red devil's exploits in check. Things get out of hand, however, when a vicious monster is unleashed by the villainous Rasputin (Karl Roden), leading to events that may set off an apocalyptic nightmare for humanity. Echoing Peter Jackson's passion for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hellboy is a labour of love from del Toro, a long-time fan of the comic and its creator. The director's enthusiasm shows, since Hellboy is a wondrously strange slice of pulpy adventure, mixed with horror and humour, and enhanced by stunning visual effects. In the title role (and lots of red makeup), Perlman is pitch-perfect, giving the good-natured misfit a powerful yet surprisingly sensitive presence. Blair, Evans, Hurt, and other actors are similarly well cast, rounding out an ensemble intent on retaining the movie's dark yet superbly entertaining tone.