While I’m not familiar with the comic that this is based on, I do know it was created by Mike Mignola and is about a demon who battles other paranormal creatures. Guillermo del Toro’s film adaptation opens during World War II where American commandos thwart the opening of an otherworldly dimension by the Nazis and the Russian monk Rasputin (Karel Roden). Before the rift is closed, occult expect Trevor Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor during the WWII scenes and John Hurt as an older man), discovers something came through…a red baby demon with a huge stone hand. 60 years later “Hellboy” (a perfectly cast Ron Perlman) has been raised by Bruttenholm and is now part of the Bureau Of Paranormal Research And Defense, battling other paranormal threats to keep us safe. He fights along with fish-man, Abe Sapien (performed by Doug Jones but voiced by David Hyde Pierce), fire-starter and girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair) and freshman Agent Myers (Rupert Evans). Rasputin has been resurrected and is now lurking about trying to awaken the Lovecraftian Ogdru Jahad and bring them into our world…and he needs to unlock Hellboy’s true demon nature to do it. Can Hellboy and Co. defeat Rasputin when Hellboy himself is the secret to the success of his plans to destroy our world?
As guided by del Toro, Hellboy is a visually cool and fun supernatural superhero story with some really good action set pieces and plenty of equally creepy monsters and characters. His design work is captivating and the action moves at a good clip as we go from some skirmishes with otherworldly beasties in New York to it’s fun and gooey climax in Russia. And the SPFX are for the most part flawless with both practical and CGI FX used to bring del Toro’s vision of Mignola’s world to the screen.
The cast are all good for the most part with Perlman stealing the show and the supporting cast backing him up well. What brought this down a bit for me was Rasputin was kind of a standard villain with Karel Roden really not seeming to get the material as did the rest of the cast. He seems to take things a bit too seriously and to be honest, is a bit bland. Even the supporting villains were a bit more matched with the material such as the blade wielding zombie, Karl Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). The pacing can be a little off at times too, a subplot involving a rivalry for Liz’s affections with Myers kinda slows things down a bit, but overall, it’s a fun and colorful fantasy flick that paved the way for an even better sequel.
A solid 3 Hellboys!
HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)
Guillermo del Toro cranks things up for the Hellboy sequel which really scores with an amazing visual style and some stunning creature design. Del Toro this time brings a faster and more even pace to this one, as well as, a story that is a bit more Brothers Grimm than Lovecraft and that helps lighten the tone a bit, too. There’s a little more humor (Hellboy and Abe drunkenly singing Barry Manilow is sidesplitting), but the film never gets silly.
The story this time finds Hellboy (Ron Perlman) outing himself to the general public while a noble but vengeful elf prince, Nuada, (Played with dignity and strength by Luke Goss) plans to resurrect the mythic Golden Army to rid the world of mankind, so the creatures of fairy can return to their former glory. His twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton) tries to thwart his efforts at genocide and allies herself with Hellboy and the team to protect pieces of a golden crown which can resurrect and control the goblin-made mechanical army. Can Hellboy defeat this powerful elven prince in order to protect the very humans who now seem to reject him, despite all he’s done to protect them?
Del Toro stages some absolutely beautiful set pieces with his trademark sumptuous visually style and design. Highlights of the film being The Troll Market scene and the following sequence featuring a giant plant elemental battling our heroes by the Brooklyn Bridge. They alone are worth the price of admission, not to mention the climactic battle against the Golden Army itself. There is an amazing assortment of supporting fantasy creatures that are incredibly designed and rendered and are worth the price of admission as well. Once again the mix of practical and CGI FX is truly breathtaking and elevate an already very entertaining film.
The cast are mostly all back except, Doug Jones now voices Abe himself and Agent Myers is absent. There is also new team member Johann Krauss, an ectoplasmic gas in a diving suit voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who butts heads…or glass bubbles…with the loose cannon, Hellboy.
Not only is Hellboy 2 a bigger and faster paced supernatural action flick, but it is a visual feast for the eyes and just plain loads of fun. A sequel that exceeds and improves on the entertaining original.
3 and 1/2 Hellboys!