While Im being totally honest, I should also say I didnt have high expectations for Hellboy. Sure, I like Ron Perlman. But as a big red guy with shaved horns and a huge arm? I dont know I just didnt get it. As so often happens, its the movies you expect very little of that are surprisingly entertaining. Such is the case with Hellboy. The preconceived ideas I had went flying out the window during the first 20 or so minutes of watching the film. This is one heck of a fun ride even for non-comic book aficionados like me.
Hellboy begins with a flashback to Hellboys arrival on Earth. The evil Nazis (always dependable bad guys) are trying to unleash hellish creatures on an unsuspecting planet. Grigori Rasputin (Karl Roden) leads the group with his beautiful subservient follower, Ilsa (Bridget Hodson), prepared to bring him back to life should something go wrong. Watching his back is the deadly assassin, Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). Meanwhile, the good guys (American soldiers) following the instructions of Dr. Broom, break up Rasputins little party but not in time to stop one creature from coming to Earth. Hellboy arrives as a bright red, devilish-looking CGI baby and bonds with Dr. Broom over Baby Ruth bars.
Fast forward 60 years to modern times. Hellboy (Perlman) is now part of a top-secret government organization known as the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.R.P.D.). Together with Mer-Man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a cool-looking creature who reminded me a lot of a human-size version of those sea monkeys you used to be able to get via mail order, Hellboy battles the forces of evil. As Dr. Broom says, Make no mistake about it, there are things out there that go bump in the night. Were the ones who bump back. I just love that line.
I got the feeling that once the characters were established, the plot itself was secondary. Hellboy takes on these weird dog/walking octopus-looking creatures while chomping on a cigar, displaying a keen wit, and firing off verbal shots loaded with sharp humor. Rasputin returns to try and get Hellboy to take a walk on the dark side. Hellboys love and fellow freak for lack of a better word Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), tries to harness her pyro-kinetic skills. And Hellboy keeps everyone jumping as he does what he wants, when he wants.
Hellboy is a great example of a movie coming together because of a director being on the exact same page as his lead actor. Writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Blade 2) fought to cast Ron Perlman in the title role, and his insistence paid off. Perlman gives a flawless performance. He appears comfortable in the Hellboy get-up, and whats more he seems to actually be having fun with the character. I really cant imagine anyone else in the role.
The fact youre able to forget youre looking at actors inside make-up and heavy costumes and instead focus on their humanity is a credit to the entire cast. Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Hurt (Dr. Broom), Karl Roden, Ladislav Beran, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rupert Evans (cast as Hellboys rookie babysitter, John Myers) are all terrific in supporting roles. Everyone takes the project seriously and theres no overt winking at the camera, thank goodness.
As for the special effects, the only time I felt the CGI wasnt effective was in the beginning of the film when Hellboy arrives on Earth. The baby version of Hellboy is the only time in the movie where the effect was noticeable and distracting. Otherwise, Hellboys CGI effects are first-rate, blending live-action and effects so seamlessly the two are tough to differentiate.
Im looking forward to Hellboy 2, something I never in a million years thought Id hear myself admit. Fast-paced, beautifully shot, accessible to people with no prior knowledge of the characters, and loaded with humor, Hellboy now ranks right up there with Spider-Man as my favorite movie based on a comic book.
"Hellboy" was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (based on the Dark Horse comic created by Mike Mignola) and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and frightening images.