Film: Hellboy

Cover image
Film:

Hellboy

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Sony Pictures

In the ongoing deluge of comic-book adaptations, Hellboy ranks well above average. Having turned down an offer to helm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in favor of bringing Hellboy’s origin story to the big screen, the gifted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro compensates for the excesses of Blade II with a moodily effective, consistently entertaining action-packed fantasy, beginning in 1944 when the mad monk Rasputin—in cahoots with occult-buff Hitler and his Nazi thugs—opens a transdimensional portal through which a baby…

Reviews

Amazon.com

In the ongoing deluge of comic-book adaptations, Hellboy ranks well above average. Having turned down an offer to helm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in favor of bringing Hellboy’s origin story to the big screen, the gifted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro compensates for the excesses of Blade II with a moodily effective, consistently entertaining action-packed fantasy, beginning in 1944 when the mad monk Rasputin—in cahoots with occult-buff Hitler and his Nazi thugs—opens a transdimensional portal through which a baby demon emerges, capable of destroying the world with his powers. Instead, the aptly named Hellboy is raised by the benevolent Prof. Bloom, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, whose allied forces enlist the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman, perfectly cast) to battle evil at every turn. While nursing a melancholy love for the comely firestarter Liz (Selma Blair), Hellboy files his demonic horns (“to fit in,” says Bloom) and wreaks havoc on the bad guys. The action is occasionally routine (the movie suffers when compared to the similar X-Men blockbusters), but del Toro and Perlman have honored Mike Mignola’s original Dark Horse comics with a lavish and loyal interpretation, retaining the amusing and sympathetic quirks of character that made the comic-book Hellboy a pop-culture original. He’s red as a lobster, puffs stogies like Groucho Marx, and fights the good fight with a kind but troubled heart. What’s not to like? —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

The stylish direction of Guillermo del Toro makes this colorful adaptation of Mike Mignola’s graphic novel a lot more entertaining than it might have been in less capable hands. The principal character, after all, isn’t just some costumed do-gooder; he’s a supernatural being whose origin is considerably less benign than that of the average comic-book crime fighter. Hellboy (portrayed by Ron Perlman), a genuine spawn of the netherworld, is found in the waning days of World War II by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), who also looks after other mutants kept safe from prying eyes in a secret compound. When the reincarnated Grigori Rasputin—yes, that Rasputin—unleashes long-suppressed demonic forces against America, the FBI enlists Hellboy’s aid in combating the inhuman creatures doing the evil mesmerist’s bidding. Perlman, having played bestial characters before, brings much-needed warmth and humor to Hellboy. He’s well supported by Hurt and Selma Blair, properly enigmatic and more than a little wistful as Liz Sherman, whose pyro-kinetic abilities make her dangerous to be around. Doug Jones, totally unrecognizable in makeup and prosthetics, turns in a fine performance as Abe Sapien (voiced by David Hyde Pierce), the half-man/half-fish who aids Hellboy when the FBI comes calling. Very much like the comic books it brings to life, Hellboy pulsates with energy and teems with dynamic visual effects. While the film has wry, humorous moments, it never condescends to its audience. That’s more than can be said for many comic-book movies; and for that, del Toro deserves considerable credit. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Film:Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Guillermo del Toro

After an ancient truce existing between humankind and the invisible realm of the fantastic is broken, hell on Earth is ready to erupt. A ruthless leader who treads the world above and the one below defies his bloodline and awakens an unstoppable army of creatures. Now, it’s up to the planet’s toughest, roughest superhero to battle the merciless dictator and his marauders. He may be red. He may be horned. He may be misunderstood. But when you need the job done right, it’s time to call in Hellboy (Ron Perlman). Along with his expanding team in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development—pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe (Doug Jones) and protoplasmic mystic Johann—the BPRD will travel between the surface strata and the unseen magical one, where creatures of fantasy become corporeal. And Hellboy, a creature of two worlds who’s accepted by neither, must choose between the life he knows and an unknown destiny that beckons him.

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