The eagerly anticipated 'Hellboy' has finally hit theatres, and the result is a toss-up. There's plenty of reviews out there raving about this new 'breed of comic hero', while just as many lament 'Hellboy's descent into 'any number of tired cliches'. Neither of them are actually applicable - while 'Hellboy' has elements of great and horrible movies both, it doesn't easily slide into either category. Suffice it to say, 'Hellboy' is spectacularly average.
The movie opens off the coast in Scotland close to the end of the Second World War. The American's have gotten wind of a mysterious Nazi project on an abandonded island, and accompanied by the paranormally adept Professor Bruttenholm, decide it's time to crash the Nazi Party (haha... sorry).
Things are more complex than Bruttenholm first thought. With the job outlook grim for super villains and Stalin babysitting back home, Rasputin has taken employment with Hitler. Forming a veritable axis of evil, we're introduced to our third member - the dreaded space octopus. Together, these three weigh in pretty high on the evilness scale, and thus must be stopped! The Americans manage to seal the portal before the space octopus does whatever it is that space octopuses are wont to do, and everyone's happy. After a search of the island they discover a little baby devil with an affinity for chocolate - Hellboy.
Fast forward to present day. Hellboy's all grown up, and although he could use a stint in charm school, he's employed in a paranormal division of the FBI. His job? To seek out and destroy monsters! He's helped in his task by the telepathic and hydrophilic Abe Sapien (David Hyde-Pierce, of Frasier 'fame') and cute/confused pyrokinetic (cause there's not enough words already, people should make up more) Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). And of course, his daddy - Prof. Bruttenholm. Arrayed against our dashing heroes? The forces of Nazi (and well, Tsarist) infamy! First up, an eternally young Nazi woman, Ilsa. Her skills include being in love with Rasputin. Next, the amazingly cool Kroenen, an ancient Nazi assassin and master of blades. Decked out in a modified gas mask and sporting sand instead of blood, Kroenen's a nasty piece of work. Lastly, we have Rasputin, now dedicated to opening the world to the presumed ravages of the dreaded space octopus.
As far as the plot goes, 'Hellboy' isn't near original enough to keep casual viewers awake. Luckily, the movie has plenty more to offer. The characters, based on the comic by Mike Mignola, are all very unique and enjoyable to watch. 'Hellboy' is a cocky, junk food loving monster killer, who's also the son of Satan (here's a case of nurture over nature if there ever was one). He's also got a heart of gold, and is desperate to fit in with humanity. In fact, he ingeniously shaves his horns down so as not to stick out. Kroenen is just a joy to watch, stealing the screen when he makes an appearance. His character design is flawless, and the nature of his character is absolutely riveting. The movie as a whole sports excellent costumes and makeup throughout, and it helps to contribute to its' slick look.
Ron Perlman does a fine job as Hellboy. He cracks wise thousands of times, and if only by sheer probability - a few of those hit the mark. In general though, he manages some happy attitude, and makes being the son of Satan oddly enjoyable. The rest of the cast play's as expected, and no one comes across as especially bad. At least, not for a comic book movie.
'Hellboy's action sequences are surprisingly not all that exciting. For the most part, Hellboy's main adversary is a large replicatory dog with tentacles sticking out of his mouth. They fight several times, and although the fights look good they're nothing special at all. Just a lot of tentacles flailing about and Hellboy spitting out one-liners as he kills dogtopuses. As mentioned earlier however, Kroenen's short fight scenes are spectacular and make for great watching. The actual final fight is a pretty big let down in particular. Hellboy's battle with the space octopus' earth tentacles (don't ask. we were never told) takes all of thirty seconds. There should be some sort of watchdog comission to regulate tentacle use in movies.
In general, 'Hellboy' plays like it sounds. Fun but nonsensical. It looks nice while it's running, but there's nothing underneath. As for those reviewers who hail this movie as a triumph of character development - let it be said that learning that 'being different is ok' isn't an original sentiment, nor even an entertaining one. And for anyone who terms this movie as an abysmal comic book adaptation, go rent a copy of 'Spawn'. If you're happily in the middle however, then you hit the nail on the head.