The Nazis are trying to win World War II, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it done, including delving deep into the world of the paranormal. On a remote island, an elite Nazi task force led by Grigori Rasputin (yes, that Rasputin), attempts to open an interdimensional portal which will unleash the “Seven Gods of Chaos” upon the Earth. Alongside Rasputin are his faithful female companion Ilsa and Hitler’s most deadly assassin, the gasmask-clad Kroenen. Rasputin succeeds in opening the portal, but before the Gods of Chaos can be released, American soldiers show up and foil the Nazi’s plans. The portal is destroyed, sucking Rasputin into it before collapsing in on itself. Professor Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm, a British paranormal investigator sent along with the Americans, fears that something came through the portal while it was open. The soldiers search through the debris, and discover a baby demon with a huge left hand. The Professor calms the demon down with Baby Ruth bars, dubbing him “Hellboy.” We then flash forward to the present day, where Hellboy is fully grown and serves alongside Fish-man Abe Sapien and Firestarter Liz Sherman, as a special operative in the FBI’s Paranormal Investigation branch. Trouble arises when Ilsa and Kroenen return to resurrect Rasputin, who is determined to finish what he started in World War II.
Hellboy is a shining example of what every comic book adaptation should be. It’s faithful to its source material, has top-notch production values, a perfect cast, and lots of solid action and special effects. Ron Perlman is an absolute genius as Hellboy, turning in a gruff, hilarious, and oftentimes touching performance as the titular character. What’s even more amazing is the fact that he is able to accomplish it while buried under thick red latex prosthetics. Perlman never lets the makeup hinder him as he chews scenery and spouts gut-busting wisecracks while fighting monsters. John Hurt is perfect as the noble Professor Bruttenholm, lending weight and a sense of credibility to the role. Selma Blair as firestarter Liz Sherman is fantastic. She has the unenviable task of making the audience believe in her very unbelievable relationship with Hellboy, and she pulls it off brilliantly. The producers of the upcoming Superman film would be nuts not to cast her as Lois Lane.
The filmmakers, under the direction of Blade 2’s Guillermo Del Toro, do a masterful job of bringing Mike Mignola’s artwork and designs to life on the big screen. Whether it be the amazing creature designs like Abe Sapien and the Lovecraftian Sammael monster, or the fantastic Gothic scenery, Del Toro and crew know how to please the rabid comic book fans. The Nazi assassin Kroenen simply has to been seen to be believed. Amazing. His costume is incredibly cool, and his spinning moves with blades of all types will leave you breathless, as will just about any action scene in the film. Hellboy is a wonderfully weird thrill ride filled with so much eye candy, your corneas will get cavities. Excellent.
There isn’t much bad here, but if I had to nitpick, the first place I’d start is with the film’s villains. Karel Roden as Rasputin is pretty dull and isn’t all that mean or threatening for a guy who is supposed to be one of the most fiendishly evil men who ever lived. His Nazi girlfriend or whatever she’s supposed be is your typical sneering German. Aside from looking mean, she doesn’t really do anything in the movie. Kroenen, on the other hand, is awesome and fascinating, but he never speaks a word and we don’t find out much about him other than a brief origin from the Professor. He’s the Boba Fett or the Darth Maul of the Hellboy universe: looks cool, but doesn’t do much and you’re left wanting to know so much more about him. The Sammael monsters are pretty cool, but their endless shrieking and the repetitivenessof their battles with Hellboy gets irritiating.
As with any comic book film, you must have a firm “suspension of disbelief” in order to absorb all of the fantastic visuals and story elements on the screen, and Hellboy is no exception. If you’re not a comic book fan, or if you have trouble with fantasy genre pictures, the thin plot is going to leave you cold. There are some editing mishaps that make things hard to follow in some areas of the movie, but a strong plot is not the main draw here. It’s a character-driven action movie that overcomes the plot holes.