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Hellboy (Ron Perlman), a cigar-chomping, horn-filing demonic hero enlisted by an occult scholar (John Hurt) to fight evil in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Along with the fire-throwing Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and the amphibious psychic Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, with the voice of David Hyde Pierce), Hellboy is joined by new recruit John Myers (Rupert Evans), a squeaky-clean FBI agent assigned to keep the big red devil's exploits in check. Things get out of hand, however, when a vicious monster is unleashed by the villainous Rasputin (Karl Roden), leading to events that may set off an apocalyptic nightmare for humanity.
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Never has a world been adapted from a comic book that was so stylistically far fetched and never stops during the film to say ďlook at me! Look at me!Ē Instead, the characters keep you focused. While the production design is outstanding and the cinematography and special effects are all wisely used, the characterization is really what steals the show from all ends.
The Story: Weíre basically dropped ahead of the creation of Hellboy (characterwise) as to skip the whole origin of him in order to go back and have him begin the intrigue of why heís on earth. In short, itís the audienceís introduction to Hellboyís world and not Hellboyís introspective. Which is fine, because the world created is one that works better forwards Ė even with the convenience of connections to his past. What is lacked in freshness off of a traditional origin story is the strong characterization. Hellboy, Abe, Broom and even FBI Agent Myers are all well defined and interesting. Thatís what really brings the story and the world into focus for the audience. The only plot problems fall in the lull of action when the story becomes more about Hellboyís obsession with Liz than the problems at hand.
Directing: Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors. I do feel like his talent is spread thin over all the departments (story, production design, effects, acting Ė etc.), but he does have a unique style. While every area of film making may not be at the top of itís game, they are all equally balanced and consistent. This lends itself to his films as a whole as each one hits a certain mark of entertainment factor every time.
Cinematography: The best thing about the cold blues and blacks that are used to light the surroundings is the contrast they create with Hellboy. The world is still dark and gritty, but the use of color allows us an easier eye to distinguish what is going on. It also lends itself to Del Toroís stylistic design.
Production Design: Hereís where this movie should be winning academy awards for itís work. Wow. Simply perfect. The special effects make up, the costume design it all works seamlessly to create a world and itís characters.
Score: Really doesnít stand out as much as one would like. I know itís very ďcommercial whoreĒ of me, but I was somewhat expecting a little bit more of a heavy metal rock infusion. Almost like the Iron Man score. Instead, thereís an epic sweeping drama tone that carries throughout. While it works at times, itís the only part of the film that feels alien and not belonging.
<>Special Effects: Used wisely. Del Toro is one of those directors who knows when and how to use CGI. He must also know what vis fx houses to use because it blends very well with the real world on the film and the lighting. The movements of the CGI even line up well with the character design. And the actual creature design / make up are also very well done. Everything syncs well and never takes the audience out of it.
In closing: Hellboy is a great adaptation of itís graphic novel counterpart. However, the dramatic tension between hero and villain are severely lacking and replaced with a drawn out love affair between Hellboy and Liz. When things actually do happen that are drawn from the comics, most specifically Ė Hellboy bringing a dead corpse alive for directions Ė the audience is reinvigorated with the world and itís characters. With more focus on moments like these and a rising action to a climax, this could have been a perfect comic book adaptation. Instead, itís just a really good one.