Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs; based on the comic books by Mike Mignola
Cast: Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Jon Hurt, Karel Roden, Brian Steele, Rupert Evans, Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair, and Ladislav Beran.
Length: 2 hours and 2 minutes
Genre: Action, fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Description from IMDB:
“A demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.”
Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is a paranormal investigator for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a branch of the F.B.I. that specializes in neutralizing hostile entities that are not of this earth. A demon from another dimension, Hellboy fights with the aid of Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), an aquatic fish-man, and human agents of the bureau. The team is under the command of Professor Trevor Broom (Jon Hurt), who was there the day Hellboy was summoned by Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) during World War II. Rasputin tried to turn the war in the Nazi’s favor by summoning the Seven Gods of Chaos, and was thwarted. He has returned to the present in order to try again and unleashes the demon Sammael (Brian Steele) in order to lure Hellboy into his schemes.
The world of Hellboy is different from ours and includes its own alternate version of history. In order to explain this, the exposition in the film is shown through the character of Agent Meyers (Rupert Evans). By following the newcomer, explanations are given through dialogue that helps not only the character gaining the information, but the audience as well. There isn’t much development for Meyers, and he really is a tool both for the story and within the story.
Even though this is a film about monsters, demons, and the threat of the apocalypse, funny moments are present. One of the best is when the director of the B.P.R.D. (Jeffrey Tambor) states on television that there is no such thing as the bureau, and then the movie cuts to the headquarters and names it as such. Del Toro injected a love story into the script between Liz (Selma Blair) and Hellboy, which helps to humanize him. He wants to fit in with humanity, sanding down his horns in an attempt to look more human, but is constantly reminded of his origins since he looks so different. He also has a bit of a hero complex, preferring to face his adversaries alone rather than with the help of others.
Del Toro’s signature clockwork motifs can be found throughout the film, especially in the evil assassin Kronen’s (Ladislav Beran) lair and the booby traps of Rasputin’s mausoleum. There is a combination of practical and digital effects that transition seamlessly, especially for a film that is 14 years old. Some of it is a bit blocky, but that can be chalked up to the technology available during the time in which the movie was made. He also doesn’t use an abundance of quick cuts during fight scenes (though they are used), and opts for a long-take when Hellboy is fighting multiple enemies at once later in the film which shows how impressive of a fighter he is.
Hellboy is based on the character created by Mike Mignola, who was present for the production of the film. His comic is a bit darker, and I hesitate to give this movie more than a 3 because there are some tonal issues; the Liz/Meyers/Hellboy love triangle that, while bringing the story of halting the apocalypse to a more personal level, does cause a bit of an awkward shift. Overall, the film is successful in that it delivers entertainment, action, and allows a human audience to connect with a demon. Hellboy is book-ended by the question, “What makes a man?”, and this is the main theme of the film. Despite the monsters, paranormal investigators, technology and government secrecy, this is ultimately a film about people.
Verdict: 3 puns made during fight scenes out of 5
Recommended for: Children 13 or above, fans of the comic book, fans of Guillermo del Toro, those who enjoy action movies with humor in them, people that like monsters, and fans of entertaining movies.
Not recommended for: Things that go bump in the night, children under 13 unless accompanied by an adult, people who like overly-serious action films, or those looking for a direct adaptation of the Hellboy comic.