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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quality comic book adaption with a terrific lead character, 12 Nov 2004
This review is from: Hellboy [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
Yet another comic book adaptation comes to the silver screen, this time in the form of Hellboy. But this is different. Firstly the comic from which this originates is not that well known (I'd never heard of it before this movie came out), certainly when compared to Spiderman, X men etc. Secondly its main protagonist is not a human/mutant with deep psychological issues but a demon raised by humans, which helps put those nurture vs. nature arguments to bed.
In 1944 those pesky Nazis are looking to turn the tide of the war by utilising the powers of the occult. In case you're thinking this all a bit unlikely it's well documented that both Hitler and Himmler were interested in the occult and did indeed explore it as way of defeating the Allies. In cahoots with Rasputin for reasons that are never explained they attempt to open a trans-dimensional portal so hell can be unleashed on earth but their plan is foiled by an American Platoon (Surprise surprise) in conjunction with a paranormal expert Professor Bloom and all that passes through is a baby demon boy. This boy is raised as his own son by Professor Bloom and they both end up working at the top secret Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence. But Rasputin isn't finished yet and he returns 60 years later trailing fiendish minions and slobbering hell beasts in order to re-instigate his original plan. It's up to the Bureau to find a way to stop him. Fortunately help is at hand in the form of a psychic man -fish and a pyrotechnic woman who Hellboy..ahem has the hots for.
If all this sounds a bit silly, well it is, but then so is Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. This is in fact a supremely stylish film, entertaining, with a terrific central character. The real coup was made in the casting of Hellboy. Ron Perlman is a very under-rated actor and brings a cynical humanity to the character of Hellboy. Perlman radiates a visible personality through the makeup, making this unlikely hero the most believable part of the movie. In truth he acts every one else off the screen. Apart from John Hurt as the elderly Prof Bloom, who brings genuine gravitas and elderly insouciance to his role? Selma Blair is a little bland as the love interest Liz. Rupert Evans as Hellboys F.B.I. Minder Myers isn't given enough to do apart from stir up Hellboys carnal desires for Liz. Abe Sapien the man -fish is rather bizarrely voiced by David Hyde Pierce and his origin is never sufficiently explained. (The man -fish, not Hyde Pierce)
The production design is stunning throughout. And director Guillermo del Torro clearly has an eye for this type of dark fantasy . Apparently he turned down the latest Potter movie to make Hellboy. Good for him. MInor gripes could be made about the array of rather one dimensional foe Hellboys has to deal with. Multiple slimy tentacled beasties which although superbly integrated via the CGI lack variety and are a bit bland. Rasputin meanwhile lacks any emotional core to his evil so he just isn't convincing as an all conquering villain. His stitched up Nazi stooge is a genuinely interesting creation but isn't able to speak so is merely an excuse for some none the less visceral set pieces. Given that all the hordes of hell were presumably at the disposal of the production team I'd have thought some more radical and genuinely terrifying options would have lent the film a harder edge. But perhaps they wanted that 12A certificate more?
Still this is a tremendous film. Hellboy as an anti-hero is far more preferable to some pumped up uzi-toting oxo cube, spewing one liners faster than his bullets. Who can resist a 6 foot 5 inch demon with an enormous stone hand that files down his horns and goes through enormous stoogies like a well known European golfer? Yes indeed he, s one Hell of a guy.
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