It can't really be said that there isn't enough of the Comic Book surviving in the movie. It's refreshing how much actually survived, from the nearly in-tact origin story to the many subplots all that came from the source material. Primarily Hellboy is writer-director Guillermo del Toro's adaptation (with the help of Peter Briggs' pen) of Mignola's mini-series Seed of Destruction (upon which he collaborated with the legendary John Byrne) and sequel Wake the Devil (with a few others peppered in, like Mignola's The Corpse)!
While the textual reminiscence is welcome, the sheer number of ideas weigh down del Toro's film to the point of near collapse. It's hard to fault del Toro in this, however, as this was his true labor of love. Surely this is a Risky project (in the long haul) and no sequel is guaranteed. Del Toro seemed to be pleased with adding as much into the script as possible. It's a treat for the Comic Book Fan, but it also makes for a muddled script and a plot you need a metal detector to find.
There's also more Product placement in this film than in your average Target! At one point I thought I was in a Mall. Well, technically I was in a Mall, but you get my meaning!
Of the remarkable number of areas that this film gets right is the casting. Del Toro reportedly refused to make this film without Ron Perlman in the lead, and I can't imagine anyone doing a better job of the tortured, yet witty and wise-cracking Hellboy! Well, maybe Bruce "Ash Almighty" Campbell could have pulled it off, but previous names bandied about were Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson... hell no! The Rick Baker-created make-up on old Ronnie is a little softer than the angular and sharp face of Hellboy of the Comic, but it's just about perfect. It's clear that Perlman cared about what he was doing and he truly wanted to give the best performance he could. Folks, he's perfect! Enough said.
Selma Blair does a fine job of bringing a sorrowful beauty to Liz Sherman, the B.P.R.D.'s resident Human Torch. Meanwhile, fan-favorite Abe Sapien is brought to his most amazingly surreal life by Doug Jones (with the voice of David Hyde Pierce)! Our favorite amphibian investigator is both dignified and humorous here and del Toro does his best to show him as a necessary character. B.P.R.D. Patriarch Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (pronounced "Broom") is just about picturesque as brought to you by John Hurt! I can't really picture old Winston from Nineteen Eighty-Four thumbing through a comic book, but he seems to really know the character well enough to nail the mannerisms!
The bad dudes are well represented here with del Toro Alumnus Karel Roden bringing us the head villain of Rasputin (yeah, that Rasputin)! Not only does Roden give us a creepy and occult Rasputin, but he also looks and seems exactly like the Mignola version. Biddy Hodson is underused, but accurate as the quaking Nazi Ilsa Haupstein. Most strikingly, the enigmatic Mignola character of Professor Doctor Karl Ruprect Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) has made it at his most creepiest almost intact to the screen. While his Nazi Ninja Cyborg creep gets a little silly at times, he cuts a mean swath through the picture and manages to be a villain that you love to hate. Like I said, though, it's not the Actors or Characters that are lacking here.
Hellboy throws a lot of fun action on the screen at the sacrifice of the more cerrebral and surreal of the comic's moods. There's also a few what-the-hell moments that constitute plot holes, some even borrowed from del Toro's own entry into the Blade series. Some seemingly vital moments (and characters) fizzle into the air during the second half! Strangely enough a Love Subplot is given top-heavy weight and there are several lumbering attempts to make Hellboy cute and endearingly affable. On one hand it's really good that Ron Perlman gets the chance to show a little range (especially in that he's covered by more make-up than Tammy Faye), but on the other hand, Hellboy is amicable and likeable in the comic without such saccharine moments. There's also a rather annoying tendency here to make Hellboy into more of a trained animal complete with his own cage and jailers rather than the intelligent Paranormal Investigator he is. What the hell gives with this? This guy is Fox Mulder, red skin and devil horns or no red skin and devil horns! Don't treat him like a cross between King Kong and Snoopy!
Perhaps I'm being a little rough here, though, because Hellboy is a lot of fun, and it could definitely have had a lot more problems than it did! It's ultimately good and more fun than Star Wars Monopoly, but it's also a little lacking in depth and the character of the truly story-driven comic. Del Toro and Revolution Studios did have the PopCorn Masses to please too, and they had to make their budget back, no doubt. Not every movie has to be as tight as Shakira's ass, but taken as a movie alone it gets Three and One Half Stars out of Five!
Acting to spank the band, casting that can't be beaten with a filed-down antler and great laughs, action and fun elevate Hellboy above its muddled script and incognito plot! Del Toro's labor of love ends up being a little derivative, but Ron Perlman especially is on the top of his well-respected game. In spite of it's flaws, this guy's going to be first in line for the Hellboy DVD Release! See it if you love me! I'd love there to be a sequel on which del Toro can spend some more time, make some more cuts and take some more risks! I like it, I like it a lot, but I wanted to love it! YYY1/2
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