|Dir:||Guillermo del Toro|
|Star:||Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Brian Caspe|
|Cert / Year:||12 - PG13 / 2004|
During World War 2 a group of Nazi soldiers lead by the legendary Rasputin visit a remote Scottish island in order to open a portal to bring forth the gods of chaos who will lay the world to waste hopefully on the side of Nazi Germany. They are interrupted halfway through by a group of Allied soldiers who manage to stop them but not before a small bady demon has passed through into the world. 60 years later the baby demon is all grown up to become Hellboy and is working for a secret US goverment agency whose job it is to deal with supernatural threats. However Hellboy must now face his past and maybe his destiny, as Rasputin has returned to finsh what he started.
Nowadays another month means another comic book superhero. In Hollywood success breed's imitation, and this is a genre that they are running a real risk of over doing it. It's not that these films are bad it's just that if we are not careful we will become bored watching yet another hero deal with his inner turmoil while saving the world. Luckily the Spiderman and X-Men franchises have packed in enough invention, slick effects and jaw dropping action to keep us gripped. However for every Spiderman there is a Catwoman, so at which end of the spectrum does Hellboy fall.
The best thing about the film is the excellent central character. Hellboy is not your clean cut goody two shoes hero, he turns out to be typical teenager. He pigs out on junk food, watches too much television, is insubordinate, and has a major attitude problem. This all adds up to an original and fun central character. Add to this some excellent makeup effects (thankfully the mistake wasn't made to fully computer generate him) and the perfect casting of the superb Ron Perlman and things are certainly looking promising.
This isn't a film that has a slow start as the characters are introduced using some stunning scenes including the Nazi filled rain soaked opening, and the destructive museum shootout. We get to see just who Hellboy is and what he can do. Guillermo del Toro has found just the right mix of exposition and action, with the script adding a nice touch of one liner humor that makes for a cool and impressive first half to the movie.
It is not often you can spot the exact moment where a film starts to lose its way but in this film it's glaringly obvious. The scene where Hellboy spies on John Myers and the girl he fancies Liz Sherman is far too long and leads to the less than satisfying second half of the film. You see while the central character remains excellent, and after the dull romantic interlude the action regains its previous form a couple of faults means the film never fulfills its earlier promise. One problem is the removal of a couple of the more entertaining supporting characters including Trevor 'Broom' Bruttenholm excellently played by an ancient John Hurt and the brainy fish man Abe Sapien perfectly voiced by David Hyde White. Yet while the lack of these characters is regrettable it isn't as damaging as the lack of impact the final battles have.
The way that these films work is that you build up the bad guys to the level of nearly invincible evil then unleash a monumental struggle as the good guys give there all to defeat them. Ok so the defeat of the multiple spawning betentacled hell hounds is suitable apocalyptic, but the battle with Kroenen the knife wielding clockwork Nazi is far too short and his defeat a major anticlimax. This again applies to Hellboy's showdown with Rasputin. Which instead of getting a cool battle to the death, we sit through a long talky build up as Hellboy finds his true self only for Rasputin to turn into a computer generated tentacle creature (which is farcical, and which it takes Hellboy only seconds to defeat). This proves to be a major let down and robs the film of the impact it so sorely deserved.
Hellboy has all the makings of a classic superhero franchise. The central characters are all very strong, they are well cast, and they are original enough to make them interesting. Only next time lets give them something else to fight other than computer generated tentacle creatures (the art designer really needs shooting for his lack of creative thinking here). Thanks to some neat plotting and direction Hellboy doesn't suffer from the plot exposition faults of other franchise starters, however thanks to a less than satisfactory second half it never delivers that all essential knock out punch that is oh so important for a superhero movie. This proves really frustrating, as this film so nearly got everything perfect first time. Oh well there is always the sequel which I for one will be looking forward too.
Give Evil Hell.
Hellboy: Look, Sammy, I'm not a very good shot...
(Hellboys wields a huge revolver) ... but the Samaritan here fires really big bullets.
Trevor 'Broom' BruttenholmIn: the absence of light, darkness prevails. There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that..... And we are the ones who bump back.
Following up his success on Blade 2, Guillermo del Toro turns his attention to another comic book hero, this time in the shape of the popular cult comic character Hellboy. As you would expect, there is plenty of action and some larger than life characters. In terms of comic book adaptations this certainly isn't the best, and for my money Ang Lee and Tim Burton have produced the best works so far with Hulk and Batman respectively. Admittedly, I was not a huge fan or collector of the HellBoy comic before watching this film, but from what comics I have read this isn't too far removed from the source material. The necromancy / raising the dead is ultimately pointless and is left unexplained, appearing surplus to requirements and 'tacked on' but there are plenty of other occult and horror references, which are bound to be appreciated by those of us who recognized them.... and the geeks and don't seem quite so out of place.
Hellboy starts off brilliantly, it sets out many of the elements of the comic, it introduces some of the primary characters including some of the later arrivals to the Hellboy universe without straying very far from the original source material which is for a comic fan, a major plus point. Unfortunately, the story deviates a little and you get a clumsy romantic angle shoved in your face in order to try and expand Selma Blair's bland and essentially minor supporting role, which wasn't the smartest idea for the film and is accompanied by some other small unnecessary elements. Frighteningly enough, Del Toro's direction is lacking something here and although in places (mainly the action scenes) it is excellent, once you get to the halfway point the film deteriorates and descends into dumbass-ville. The pacing, story and atmosphere suffer and where the film was a winner up to that point, it is now being carried by what went before. Basically, HellBoy suffers, like Blade 2 suffered, and they're major affliction is excessive CGI, as Del Toro sells out his art and opts for the 'quick, fashionable fixes' of showy CG work and cop out 'shoe horn in a love angle' to widen the audience. You can't help feeling that having all this money at his disposal and some Hollywood politics has corrupted Del Toro somewhat, as his early works, especially Cronos and Devil's Backbone were original, atmospheric and visually impressive not to mention very cool in spite of relatively low budgets. With his bigger and more mainstream projects the emphasis is no longer on the story or the art, but the money or the cheap spectacle in order to make a bankable profit for the studio.
The script is packed with glib, witty one-liners that come thick and fast with such regularity that it would stun James Bond. Future classic quips like; "Red means Stop" and "this is gonna hurt in the morning" all delivered by Hellboy I hasten to add, mostly just demand a laugh or a smile at least and are bound to stick with you for a while afterward. There is a good sense of fun and some good humour (if a little dark) in places and the glib remarks and one-liners prove it, especially when growled out so well by Ron Perlman. The teen crush and soppy romance guffins are lame and don't fit with the primary good versus evil, comic book monster mashing action story.
There are a couple of typical heroic comic book styling set pieces but more often than not the camera flicks along quite merrily letting the CG work carry it through here and there. Some of the action is pretty wild and nicely shot but there are only so many times you can enjoy Hellboy beating up the same monster in the one film, no matter how much witty dialogue he fires at it. Ok, so the idea of every time a creature dies 2 more shall be reincarnated, is interesting but grim here and suggests a lack of ingenuity on the part of the writers / filmmakers that they only had one real monster to generate in a computer to fight. I think it is a shame we don't get more fight action with this offering but they were too busy trying to sell you a love story angle.
The title character is strong and Ron Perlman was a perfect and an obvious choice for the role, even if he is probably better known as 'Vincent' from the eighties TV series Beauty & the Beast. Ron Perlman was perfect as Hellboy, Selma Blair was redundant and pretty ineffectual, much like her character in fact and only really enjoyed one good moment but getting to that point was a chore and after that she was a waste of space again. Abe Sapien or 'the fish guy' with an appetite for bad eggs was pretty cool and works rather well, if a little effeminate and the voice of David Hyde White (Niles Crane from Frasier) suits very him well. Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), the blade wielding, gas mask wearing Nazi assassin is a very cool character and quite the evil killer for the majority of the film and really kicks butt, but his finale is dashed by some poor staging and terrible direction, which sees a most unbefitting demise (or is it), which really is pretty dire all things considered.
Hellboy is entertaining but it is lacking innovation and we have all seen huge tentacled nasty beasties before and for me, there is too much CGI on show here. I think Del Toro has lost his way and the money has corrupted his art. It may be an idea for him to go and work on a low budget film again, where he can flex his artistic talents as opposed to taking the quick CGI fixes that is so readily thrown in here. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the CGI works well but there is an awful lot of it, much of it is redundant and unnecessary so you quickly become desensitized to it. As a big screen adaptation of a comic, I am sure Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is quite happy with this film but for those of us unswayed by flashy effects, it lacks any real screen depth and to be honest isn't much more than a stylish 2 dimensional rendering. But, that does leave plenty of room for improvement with the upcoming sequel. Hellboy has it's faults but the direction is stylish and pretty slick, with a few good action scenes but the film as a whole doesn't hit the mark or deliver the whole shebang that you would expect. Overall a little disappointing but entertaining nonetheless.
|1.85:1 Anamorphic||Excellent crisp image|
|Dolby Digital 5.1||Excellent soundtrack -|
|Very cool animated menus|
|Video Introduction by Guillermo del Toro|
|Audio commentary by director Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator / co-executive producer Mike Mignola|
|Audio Comentary by stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Evans|
|Branching DVD comics drawn by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola|
|Right Hand of Doom set visits storyboard track|
|'From the Den' Hellboy recommends - Gerald Mcboing Boing animated shorts Feature|
|DVD ROM content|
|DISC 2||Video introduction by Selma Blair|
|"Hellboy - The seeds of creation: Making of documentary|
|Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Guillermo del Toro|
|Multi-angle storyboard comparisons|
|Maquette 3-D Character sculptures Video Gallery|
|Trailers and TV Spots|
|Hellboy Merchandise Weblink|
|A superb 2 disc set with loads of goodies, in fact more extras than you can shake a stick at. Excellent presentataion and content, good value 2 disc set.|