We’ve already had one Hellboy discussion, but we haven’t had a review.
Cast, Crew, and Other Info:
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mignola
Hellboy: Ron Perlman
Prof. Trevor Bloom: John Hurt
Liz Sherman: Selma Blair
John Myers: John Myers
Rasputin: Karel Roden
Tom Manning: Jeffrey Tambor
Kroenan: Ladislav Beran
Ilse: Biddy (Bridget) Hodson
Young Broom: Keven Trainor
Abraham Sapien: Doug Jones
Premise: A Nazi occult experiment brings a demon-child to earth. A kindly American scientist raises him to be a hero, who must prevent the apocolypse.
High Points : Any of the conflicts with Kroenan; he’s a prop rather than a character, but they use him well, and he exerts a morbid fascination.
Perlman’s quiet moments as Hellboy often work.
Low Points: Ilse basically comes across as a Nazi bimbo, and she does little that’s interesting or important. She has no character, just a series of poses and outfits. She would be tolerable as eye-candy, except she’s clearly supposed to be Ilse Koch (also Ilsa Koch), the warped wife of Buchenwald commandent Karl Koch. If you’re going to use Ilse, justify it. Roden’s Rasputin isn’t much like the historical figure, but at least using him as a sorcerer makes some kind of sense. Ilse’s use is gratuitous.
Also: the need to have a voiceover hammer us over the head with an already-obvious moral at the conclusion.
Originality: 3/6. The material works fairly well, but it’s highly derivative, the usual comic/gaming/fantasy mix of historical occult nonsense, Christian lore, Lovecraft, and pulp fiction and comic-book conventions. In short, this is Buffy or Angel with a really big budget.
Effects: 5/6 Excellent overall: especially the work on Abe and Kroenan. Some of the monster graphic work could have been a little better, but no one outside of The Lord of the Rings ever gets this as good as it could be.
Story: 4/6: Oh no! Someone’s planning the apocalypse! The main story’s not terribly original or interesting, but it propels the action along nicely. What intrigued me more were the multiple backstories at which the film hints: Abe’s mysterious origins, the Vatican statue, and so forth. Fans of this sort of thing will take these in stride, and even relish them. Others may be left confused, but it shouldn’t affect their overall enjoyment.
Acting: 4/6. Perlman makes Hellboy a sensitive and interesting figure, while Abe has a memorably quirky personality. Neither of these are deep, but they are appealing. The rest of the cast rarely gets more than one dimension. Myers has barely any characteristics at all.
Production: 6/6 Production values are high. Hell, boy, they had so much cash behind this film, they could afford to waste it on completely gratuitous sets and unnecessary effects.
Emotional Response: 3/6 Blunted. I couldn’t take Liz’s pain seriously because the movie never develops Liz as a person. Meanwhile, we’re invited to ignore the pain of large groups of people; the immolation of the psychiatric ward plays as a gratuitous effect. I did feel for Hellboy, however, and the film does deliver fun suspense effectively.
Overall: 4/6. If you’re looking for a fun comic-book movie, this works. If you seek some depth in your fantasy, this may not be the film for you.
Hellboy receives a final score of 29/42