Film reviews

Hellboy, Dir; Guillermo del Toro, Cert; 12A

Most comic book movies are anticipated a great deal because on top of the regular cinema goers is the very enthusiastic and usually large fanbase. High-profile superheroes such as Batman, Spider-Man and Superman are inevitably going to score high at the box office for obvious reasons but what of a superhero that not many have heard of? What of a movie based on a comic book that no one has read? Well here is such a movie. Based on the comic books (or graphic novels to all you elitists) by creator Mike Mignolia, and directed by the geek god Guillermo del Toro, it is a rather distorted, unconventional and superb slice of superhero action. 

Hellboy doesn’t take itself too seriously and actually feels like a comic book. It is full of vigor and throbs with a joyous sense of effortless and enthusiastic filmmaking. From this statement alone, I can safely say it is one of the best movies based on comic books of the last decade. My only hope is that it will find an audience beyond those who have already read the comics.

The preposterous storyline opens during the end of World War II. The Nazis (the most enduring of all villains), in a desperate bid to find new ways to attack the enemy open up a portal to Hell and attempt to summon the Seven Gods of Chaos. Unfortunately for them, they are thwarted by American soldiers, led by Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt). Meanwhile, Grigori Rasputin (Karl Roden), a zealot psychic who is working for the Nazis, is sucked through the portal and disappears into the realms of Hell. Fortunately for Earth, nothing slips through from the portal except a small baby with bright red skin, horns and a tail. The Professor embraces him with some chocolate and raises him up to become a warrior against evil. He is, of course, Hellboy.

We flash forward to the present day. Two of the professor’s oldest enemies, a Nazi called Ilsa (Bridget Hodson) and a seemingly invincible masked man named Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) travel to a snow ridden area of earth to summon Rasputin back from the other side.

In the meantime, the professor who is now in his 80s and has been told he will die soon is showing a young FBI agent named Meyers (Rupert Johnson) the building of a secret division of the FBI – The Paranormal Research Centre. He is being groomed to be Hellboy’s assistant. Here we meet an aquatic man with fish scales and gills named Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) who is a visionary with psychic abilities. When Meyers asks what they do, the professor states, “There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that. And we are the ones who bump back”, an unquestionably and unashamedly comic book piece of dialogue. Sooner than you can say ‘superhero’, something does go bump in the night. The Nazis silently perform a ritual in a museum of relics, liberating a writhing creature called a Sammuel which reproduces through division – “Sammael, for every one of you that falls, two shall arise.”

What really makes this movie shine is the action set pieces. Unlike most computer generated blockbusters, Hellboy carries itself lightly and doesn’t shamble from one set piece to the next. Instead it celebrates the arrival of action. We have Ron Perlman to thank for this. It has been said that both the director and the comic book creator wanted this behemoth of a man to play the title role and would not have made the film if he did not accept the offer. Not only does he look the part in superb makeup, all muscle bound and cool, but he acts the part too. Unlike the angst ridden Spider-Man and Batman, Hellboytalks like a wisecracking teenager, eats junk food and fights his villains like a twelve year old experiencing his first Laser Quest battle. Perlman was made for this role and you can clearly see from every action set piece that is virtually storyboarded straight from the comics that he is enjoying himself.

Despite his machismo attitude, he has a tender side. He tries to fit in, despite his looks. He sands down his horns everyday, has a rather cute affection for cats and kittens and most importantly, is in love with another paranormal person called Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). She is a pyrokineticist who accidentally starts fires when excited. One of the most interesting, funny and revealing parts of the plot is the romantic triangle between Hellboy, Meyers and Sherman. From this aspect, we see a lot of humanity in this gigantic red creature from the underworld, particularly in one scene where Hellboy secretly follows Meyers who is trying to woo Sherman.

There are minor niggles; jumps in the plot, rushed scenes, questionable situations and occasionally some dialogue that would make you cringe but in a movie like this, one can only accept it through faith and those who are faithful will be rewarded. 8/10


Robbie Blake


Odeon Online

 

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