ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hellboy not so hellish after all
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
By Mark Polishuk
IN A PRETTY PLACE CALLED HELL. Selma Blair plays pyrokinetic Liz Sherman,
love interest of that little boy from hell.
After seeing how poorly complex characters like Daredevil and the Hulk were
put on film, it’s easy to see how Hellboy fans would be worried that
this intelligent, original and witty comic book would be “Hollywoodized” into
a mainstream piece of junk.
Were their fears correct? Well, yes and no. There were some changes made from
the source text, but the end result is still an entertaining movie that can
hold its own against the other comic-related films of recent years.
Hellboy’s story is as follows. In 1944, an American army regiment thwarted
an attempt by Rasputin (Karel Roden) to summon a horrifying demon from a hell
dimension that would help the Nazis win the Second World War. The only thing
that came through the portal, however, was a baby demon, adopted by paranormal
scientist Dr. Bruttenbolm (John Hurt).
Flash forward 60 years and the baby has grown into the tough-talking, cigar-smoking,
pancake-eating Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who works for the Men In Black-ish Bureau
of Paranormal Research and Defense to help stop supernatural threats. Hellboy’s
compatriots are psychic half-man, half-fish Abe Sapien (voiced by David Hyde
Pierce) and troubled pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (Blair).
The plot is basically an amalgamation of the comic’s most memorable
storylines. Rasputin returns from the dead and wreaks havoc in an attempt to
lure Hellboy to Russia and corrupt him into fulfilling his demonic destiny.
In the meantime, Hellboy must deal with his unrequited love for Liz, his strained
relationship with his “father” Bruttenbolm and the complaints of
FBI director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), who fears that Hellboy’s exploits
aren’t hush-hush enough.
One of the good things about the film is that if you’re not up on the
comics, director del Toro does a good job of building the back story in a relatively
straightforward way. Hellboy’s new FBI liaison John Myers (Evans) acts
as the viewer, having everything about Hellboy explained to him by Bruttenbolm.
Myers’ character is otherwise pretty useless in the movie, aside from
also acting as a complication to the Hellboy/Liz romance.
The good news for Hellboy fans is that although some of the details were changed,
the comedy/pathos spirit of the comic is still here. For one thing, the action
scenes are generally well done. The film is well cast, with the actors playing
actual characters rather than just one-note clichés.
Del Toro and Mignola fought the studio for years to cast Perlman in the lead,
and the actor brings the perfect mix of humour and toughness to the role. It’s
a bit weird hearing the voice of Niles Crane from Frasier coming out of a fishman,
but Abe is an effective enough character to make the audience wish he was on
Overall, Hellboy might not entirely satisfy its longtime fans, but for us
mindless multiplex sheep, it’s not a bad popcorn movie.