2.20.2006

REVIEW: Hellboy (Guillermo Del Toro, 2004)

When Hitler becomes keen on the supernatural, he forms a new branch in his regime to open up a portal in space to summon a hibernating evil into the world. Something does slip through, but is intercepted by Hitler's opposition. It is an odd, red, demon-like creature... Hellboy. At least I think that's how it goes. Guillermo Del Toro directs a recurring actor in his films, Ron Perlman, in the title role of this comic book adaptation.

From opening to closing, I just could not get into Hellboy. What was I hoping for? I'm not sure... the only other Del Toro film I've seen is Blade II, which I love for what Del Toro did with it, but his efforts here fall dead quickly. It took me three sittings to get through the film in its entirety.

Nearly every performance is wooden, especially from Perlman. I can see where some of this was intended, but it goes too far and makes for a more boring experience a la Pirates of the Carribean, although at least Pirates' humor worked on most levels. The inclusion of Jeffrey Tambor, playing a staunch politician, distracts us from the potentially (the word 'potentially' is key) interesting things going on otherwise. In fact, the only performance I cared for came as a nice surprise. Selma Blair plays Hellboy's weak spot, a sweet girl important enough to him that he'll sneak out to see her, even if it means getting caught on camera, and she delivers a believable performance that makes for a nice beacon of goodness amongst the bland juggernauts.

I know that comic books can have far-fetched storylines, especially when it comes to the subject of outer space, but the plot that Hellboy follows is utterly ridiculous. I would imagine that only fans of the source material would find enjoyment in seeing their formerly still-life hero come to life on screen. Only people who are familiar with the characters could have found the primary villian ominous - to me he looked like a well-dressed bum. Furthermore, on top of entertaining a silly story, the film goes anticlimactically over the top with special effects from the creation of a leaden behemoth monster to the random burning of the moon.

Hellboy is a well-intentioned and relatively unique take on the superhero flick, but after the first Blade sequel, I expected more from Del Toro, especially considering he is ready to drop his name from the Halo video game adaptation (which would assuredly be exciting under his direction) in order to more quickly conjure Hellboy 2... Guillermo my man, let it wait! All things considered, however, I still have relatively high hopes for what Pan's Labyrinth could be.

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