Hellboy Movie Review

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You can't help but dig Hellboy the character - born a demon, summoned by Nazis, saved by Americans, raised to fight otherworldly evil creatures, and played by Ron Perlman.

What you feel about Hellboy the movie is an altogether different topic.

Hellboy is the long-awaited adaptation of a cult comic book, with the unlikeliest of heroes (and thus the greatest level of appeal to introverted comic book fans). Hellboy files his horns down to fit in with society (although he's kept out of sight by his handlers, who run a secret government anti-demonic-creature agency called the BPRD), he loves cats, he eats an awful lot, and he's unfathomably strong. He's also fire engine red and, though he looks like a freak, he has managed to have a relationship (left strangely unclear) with a lovely girl named Liz (Selma Blair), who's recently left both the bureau and Hellboy.

The movie throws us into Hellboy's world by showing us his origins during WWII, then jumping into the present. Hellboy's mission today is to stop the evil guy that summoned him to begin with - none other than Rasputin (Karel Roden), the Rasputin, repeatedly reborn and/or reincarnated. With the help of a pair of psychic-powered friends - including the fire-blasting Liz and the half-fish Abe (played by Doug Jones, voiced by David Hyde Pierce) - and his adoptive father (John Hurt), we zip through a rather pedestrian progression of fights between Hellboy and a gaggle of sluglike demons en route to the fulfilling or foiling of a world-crumbling prophecy. (It's X-Men meets Ghostbusters. There's even a keymaster!)

Heady stuff, and it's too bad that director Guillermo del Toro doesn't make much out of the promising material. The story is straightforward to the point where it often feels like we're killing time as we wait for the final showdown between Hellboy and Rusputin. There's zero doubt how any of this will ultimately end, so we have to make our fun along the way.

Del Toro hits and misses in this regard, with the best moments in the film giving us Hellboy cracking wise over his insecurities (and longing for Liz), not to mention some masterful CGI work. Del Toro's fight scenes are fun for a while, but before too long they start to feel repetitive, as Hellboy does battle with an endless series of demons, all clones of each other. And the most interesting supporting character - Abe the fish man - spends half the film out of commission.

H.P. Lovecraft fans will get a kick out of del Toro's stunning visions of space demons and evil rituals, and it will be a travesty if the film's the makeup department doesn't get an Oscar nomination. Those familiar with del Toro's intricate metal- and model-work in Cronos will get a bigger-budget taste of it here.

In the end, del Toro's focus on the mood and the effects unfortunately causes the characters to suffer. Hellboy the character is a lot of fun, but the bad guys are never very interesting at all. Worse still are the henchmen of the BPRD, which gives us wave after wave of expendable FBI agents instead of unique compatriots. Without anyone to care about aside from an engaging title character, the prospect of Hellboy leading us during Armageddon doesn't sound half bad.

Red or dead, it's all good!

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Hellboy Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, 2004


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