Hellboy Logo Designed by Kevin Nowlan... Copyright Michael Mignola! (2004)
(Release Date: April 2, 2004)


3.5 Stars... A Hell of a good time, but not so smart!3.5 Stars... A Hell of a good time, but not so smart!3.5 Stars... A Hell of a good time, but not so smart!1/2

Should have been a Hell Yes! As it stands, it's still a bit of Heaven!

Paranormal Researcher Extraordinaire!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!


The popularity of Comic Book Movies have allowed even some of the more obscure titles to make it to the big screen... most surprisingly, that X-Files meets Buffy hero named Hellboy! Michael Mignola's Hellboy, the comic book, is just shy of completely brilliant on the level of Neil Gaiman's Sandman! It's the ultimate Nature versus Nurture story about a literal hell spawn brought to Earth by Nazis to turn the tide of World War II against the Allies. By a bizarre twist of fate (or six) this diminutive demon was captured and raised by these very allies to do good throughout the world. And good he does world-wide as a member of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense... a sort of mystical X-Men)! Mignola's deceptively complex unashamedly 2-D art has the tendency to make one say "I can do that!" before sitting down with pad and pen and realizing just how wrong one actually is! He's too unique for the mainstream (though he's drawn everyone from Aquaman to Wolverine to Aliens), and his surreal, oft humorous and scary stories and art fit perfectly into his own universe, much more than Stan Lee's or Julius Schwartz'!

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Hellboy simply HAS to be Watched!


If Hellboy the Comic Book is Prime Rib Steak, Hellboy the Revolution Studios Movie Adaptation is a Big Mac! Oh, it's fun and tasty all right, but it's lacking in real substance or nutritional value. What's missing in the film version isn't so much surface texture or even accuracy, but instead it's the overall mood and depth of the product. Hellboy's good all right, and it's more fun than it has to be, but it's also somewhat shallow and sanitized for the Popcorn crowd. Judging from the size of the crowd around me (every Jackass in Orange County crawled out of their parents' basement for this one) I'd say the gamble worked (at least for opening weekend)! Cash in or not, like LXG before it, Hellboy could have been so much more!

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!

 

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On the other side of the bridge, we have a couple of completely unnecessary characters. Either by del Toro intent or by Whoreywood suit demand, the popcorn cliché of having that one normal guy thrown in to the mix for the audience to identify with is used to annoying excess. To this end, we find Agent John Myers (played by Rupert Evans) on the light side and governmental higher-up Dr. Tom Manning (the always watchable Jeffrey Tambor) on the dark side. Both are fine actors, but the inclusion of these characters illustrates a mild lack of respect for audience intelligence! It felt like no one trusted the audience to appreciate the story without someone to explain everything to. There's nothing innately wrong with the actors or the characters, save their presence. Sort of like that "Jerry" character being completely unneeded on that show with Kramer, George and Elaine.

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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Hellboy (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for his own views and for his X Files Tattoo!!!
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