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plot in a nutshell
2004 is the year of the comic book movie, with Spider-man 2, Blade 3, The
Punisher, and this week's movie, Hellboy, all hitting theaters.
It's WWII, and those nasty
Nazi's are up to their usual tricks. They open a portal to Hell, or some
dimension an awful lot like it, releasing a little red monkey with a big
concrete hand. The allies get there just in time to stop
the plot, but not before the little demon is freed. The good guys, including
a Professor who is heading up Roosevelt's new FBI division on Paranormal
Research, affectionately name him "Hellboy". The professor
adopts him, and he stops the big bads of the world along with a few other
Sixty years have gone by, but
the perennial bad guy favorites, those nasty Nazis, are back to reunite
Hellboy with his destiny and destroy the world for whatever reason.
There's lots of battles, some great CGI, and even time for a little love
story, before all is right with the world again. For now.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
has been highly anticipated by the fans of the excellent Dark Horse comic
book, created by Mike Mignola. They also went against current
Hollywood casting, and didn't use The Rock or Vin Diesel as the lead - they
went with veteran character actor Ron Perlman. This was a wise
decision too, although a few more wise decisions, especially around the
script, would have elevated this from a decent comic book flick to an
Hellboy is funny, witty and tough, but shows a sad and sensitive side as
well. There's a little love story between he and fellow freak, Liz
(played with a nice understatement by Selma Blair), and good chemistry
between he and the professor, his father figure, played by veteran actor
John Hurt. Another bizarre entity in this house of weird is Abe Sapien,
a 'fish man' with a dry wit and recognizance. Abe is played by Doug
Jones in the flesh, but voiced by David Hyde Pierce. The body and
voice fit perfectly together though, and Jones manages to pull off the
perfect mannerisms for Pierce's vocal talents.
of the romance, it works. This is tremendously rare for a superhero
movie, let alone one in which the superhero in question doesn't have the
standard leading man look. Perlman pulls off a lot of tough emotions
considering the prosthetic body and face pieces he has to wear, and I found
Hellboy a whole lot more compelling character than Affleck's
Daredevil. And he had far more chemistry with his leading lady as
while the movie looks great - the cgi is far better than I had expected from
the trailers - and the actors do a fine job with the material they have, the
story itself falls prey to the common comic book to film problem...a weak
story. There's little explanation, and even less sense, as if they
thought once you bought the idea of a big red demon hero, you'd buy
anything, even the senseless.
won't get into the details here, but let's just say that by the end of the
film I had no idea why the bad guys did what they did, and why the Sammael
monsters really mattered (beyond being the ultimate cockroaches). The
bad guys are impressive enough, particularly Kroenen, but motivation for
their evil is fuzzy and lacks definition.
film did disappoint me, since I was looking forward to great but merely got
good. Fans of the comic will enjoy it though, and Perlman did a
terrific job with the lead. It's been awhile since I saw a lead actor
in an action movie, who's humorous lines didn't fall flat. Perhaps
that's because Perlman is actor first, action second.
Rating - a qualified See It.
If you're a fan of comic book films, or more specifically Hellboy, then I'd
definitely see this on the big screen. However, my rating is qualified
- if you're not particularly excited by this type of movie, and you can take
or leave the genre in general, it's worth waiting to rent. It's a
solid effort, but one that lacks a decent story.
the home theater buffs, it should be a fantastic sounding movie when it hits
DVD. There was plenty of bass and use of the surrounds, and I hope it
gets a DTS ES treatment on the home front.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
So what was missing in the story? That's easy...
...basic plot. The
screenplay does a decent job with dialogue, and with creating good human
(and demon) interaction. But why they come together is a jumbled mess
that makes little sense.
The development of the
paranormals, the introduction of the main characters, and the basis for the
paranormal research division all are fine. It's when we get to the
overall plot - the destruction of the world at the hands of Rasputin and
company - that it falls apart.
It seems that Rasputin wants to
bring Hellboy and Liz together at one of those special paranormal locations
in Russia. By doing so he can use Liz to force Hellboy to fulfill his
destiny and open up a portal to this particular Hell dimension, letting in
some big squids to destroy the world. It's implied that he's doing
this because they are his 'master', although this allegiance, or who they
really are, is never explored. His motivation to destroy the world is
never fleshed out, or even explained at it's most basic level.
For some reason, he unleashes
the first Sammie to aid him. How this aids him is never apparent when
you look back on the entire movie. It wasn't necessary to bring
Hellboy and Liz together, and it wasn't necessary to open the portal.
They needed some cool monsters on screen, but they served little plot
purpose. They could have at least been a new version of Vince and Zool,
ready to help Gozer into our world, but instead they were merely annoyances
thrown in the way. And speaking of Gozer, the entire plot seems a tad
too much like the original Ghostbusters, without the solid writing.
While the Sammies were
purposeless, at least they were visual eye candy. I'm not sure how
they destroyed them, since every time one was killed two rose up. They
even have a line in the film about having to destroy them all at once - what
difference does that make? But other moments in the film left me
shaking my head in bewilderment.
Why does Liz return to the
institute? Yes, I realize Rasputin made her destroy the entire
hospital, killing God only knows how many people, in an attempt to drive her
back, but that didn't really work, did it? She still wanted to stay,
until HB's lackey, John Myers, comes to see her. How does he convince
her to return, when we were already given a scene impressing us with how
much she did NOT want to return? I don't know, since it's not explored
beyond a single sentence of dialog.
There were also moments that
could have been far more impactful with just the slightest change. For
example, at the end of the film, Hellboy whispers something in Liz's ear to
bring her back. After she magically returns from the dead, she asks
him what he said, and he slowly spills the beans. It's a rather dull
moment, and comes off silly. How much better would it have been to let
us hear it in the first place, rather than have it regurgitated in a far
less compelling moment? Small things like this reduce the dramatic
quality of some scenes, something that would have further bolstered the fine
performances by the leads.
As I said, this wasn't a bad
film, but wasn't the great film it could have been.