Hellboy on the silver screen

I saw the Hellboy movie a few days ago. I liked the film, though it’s not without some problems.

The film’s greatest flaw is also, I think, it’s greatest strength–its fidelity to the source material. A person who knows the Hellboy comics will have a ball with this film, identifying which story which little throwaway gag or plot element comes from. A person who never even heard of the comic, though, would find several nice set pieces, an interesting romantic triangle, confusing and poorly defined villains, and an inscrutable ending.

In other words, don’t go see Hellboy because of its plot. You won’t find it. Even Hellboy, the world’s greatest paranormal detective, would be hard-pressed to locate the plot.

Despite the lack of a linear plot, the film isn’t a mess. It has some great performances, especially in Ron Perlman and John Hurt, identifiable solely through his voice. It has a great visual style, and Guillermo del Toro knows where to put the camera. Even the supporting roles click, especially Rupert Evans and David Hyde Pierce’s voice. I found it to be a funny film when it needed to be. Hellboy won’t reveal the truths of life, it won’t change the way anyone sees the world, but if what you want to see is a demon from hell pounding the crap out of Lovecraftian horrors with the Right Hand of Doom then you’ll get a kick out of it.

It was the faithfulness to the comic that I got the biggest kick out of. The origin of Hellboy? Check, right down to the photograph taken of the infant Hellboy and the American soldiers. The Lovecraftian homage? Check. Hellboy pounding the crap out of monsters with the Right Hand of Doom? Check. The cackling madness of Rasputin and his link to Hellboy’s true role in the grand scheme of things? Check.

Hell, there’s even a reference to the Savage Dragon crossover in there. Maybe a Batman or Starman reference would have been asking for too much. But someone who knows Hellboy can point to little bits and pieces drawn from “Seed of Destruction,” “Wake the Devil,” “The Corpse,” and perhaps the best Hellboy story ever, “Pancakes.”

I do think the film needed giant gorillas with huge freakin’ metal bolts sticking out of their necks to be perfect. Damn, but wouldn’t that have been cool.

I had a lot of fun with Hellboy. I’ll go see it again. It’s not a perfect film. It’s not even a great film. Slate‘s review called the film “heavenly schlock,” which I took to be a good thing to say. I’ve seen no bad reviews of it, though, and it’s far from being the disaster I think it could have so easily been.

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