Hellboy (2004) Review

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That’s Hellman to You

Hellboy (2004): 10 out of 10: Hellboy is one of the three best comic book adaptations of the last ten years. (Note this review first appeared May 11th 2005). Now considering the recent spate of mediocre comic book adaptations, this is a bit like winning a beauty pageant at a fat farm, however. 

Hellboy is on par with the recent Spiderman movies (Hellboy sports a better hero and better CGI effects while Spiderman takes the nod in the love interest and villains categories) better than the X-Men films and puts other comic book adaptations to shame (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman should be particularly embarrassed) 

Hellboy starts with a rip-off of one of the last scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark and introduces such horrible clichéd villains as Nazi babe and Rasputin. Yet the scene works. Director Guillermo del Toro nails a comic book style to the direction that keeps the action and humor going during the most implausible circumstances. Another kudos are in order for the special effects, both prosthetic makeup (which is spot on) and CGI. 

I seem to hate most CGI effects. Many a big-budget Hollywood film has come out recently with horrible special effects that stick out despite 50 million plus budgets. Hellboy’s effects are seamless, where one forgets that entire characters and locations are digitally generated. The acting is also seamless with lead Ron Perlman giving a scene stealing cigar chomping performance that rivals Daniel Day Lewis’s turn in Gangs of New York and Jeffrey Tambor turning a stock character (obstructionist bureaucrat who wants to shut everything down) into a humanistic sympathetic character. (This is also an example of very smart writing that makes even the clichéd characters into three-dimensional figures.) 

While all is not perfect (besides Nazi Chick and Rasputin we also have a Clock/Sand Nazi and a Space Cthulhu as improbable villains) Hellboy is better than an action movie should be, much better than a comic book adaptation ought to be, and immeasurably better than a movie called Hellboy deserves to be.

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