ninth symphony films - movie reviews

HELLBOY (2004)

DIRECTOR  -  guillermo del toro

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  132 minutes

RELEASED  -  2 april 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  hellboy

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $66,000,000
hellboy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from hellboy at

buy the dvd from hellboy at

a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.

ron pearlman was the director's first choice for the role of "hellboy."


picture from hellboy

picture from hellboy

picture from hellboy

picture from hellboy


two out of four possible stars

Although the film will certainly please fans of comic book themed movies, the film might also impress casual viewers who are interested in an entertaining popcorn romp whose flaws are usually easy to ignore. The only real detraction from the film is the rather long and involved beginning, after which the film becomes more sprightly and entertaining. Though the film's core is a serious one, there is a warm heart to the film that is brought to life in various comedic episodes courtesy of a brash and bombastic performance from lead star Ron Pearlman. In the lead role of "Hellboy," Pearlman makes a good case for making viewers believe whole-heartedly in his performance. And although the plot and character related dialogue is usually poorly written, the wisecracks and one-liners uttered by Pearlman at classically inopportune times.

When a character is in danger, when a various baddies are in view and threatening to attack, or when somebody's already been attacked and is in the process of being whisked away, Pearlman usually has something entertaining to say. His jovial nature is probably an extension of the comic book personality upon whom his character is based and suits the genre very well as a dry sense of humor is often a staple in films based on graphic novels (think Spider-Man, the X-Men films, and Daredevil). And while the jokes and wise-cracks don't always hit the nail on the head, Pearlman's cheeky portrayal of the conflicted "Hellboy" is admirable.

His co-stars are enthusiastic as well, the cast bringing together the usual assortment of "mismatched do-gooders" with the standard love-hate relationship existing between the group. David Hyde Pierce, providing the un-credited voice of the 150 year old water-breathing mutant "Abe Sapient," gives his usual adroit performance with his clever voice and deft verbiage (with another actor filling the shoes of the physical character, superbly covered in thick "scaly" make-up and webbed appendages). John Hurt, playing the "Professor" and Hellboy's adoptive father, is also likewise smooth and clever (despite some dialogue that could have been written more sharply).

On the opposite side of the aisle, Czech actor Karel Roden, playing the legendary evil mystic Rasputin, is suitably wicked in his role, even if his motivations and actions follow a familiar . Selma Blair possesses one of the only characters that could have been written with more depth, as her appearance in the film is never fully engrossing (perhaps again because of the weak dialogue). The slick special effects assigned to her character aside (she can control fire), her emotions are rather flat despite her awesome pyrotechnic abilities. Supporting actor Rupert Evans, playing the newest member of the Hellboy Crime Fighting Team, is the owner of another less than stellar character, though again, he never has anything quite that interesting to say (perhaps this is the fault of the script rather than Evans's performance ability).

The special effects and technical aspects are more than impressively done with Guillermo Navarro's cinematography doing justice to Stephen Scott's production design, the superior make-up work of Innovation Studios, and the combined efforts of about five different visual effects and CGI companies. As is to be expected in a science fiction themed film, the special effects and look of the film are some of the most important elements and they are impressively done. The look of the film is one probably best seen on the big screen, even if the story and plot of the film isn't always worthy of the same consideration.

Whether the fact that the film falls so easily into its chosen genre is a good thing is debatable. The film certainly doesn't try anything new over the course of its two-plus hours of running time, but perhaps the film seems so at home in the genre simply because the filmmakers were adept at creating a "proper" live-action film based on a comic book. It's not revolutionary (like, for example, Ghost World), and morphs into the standard "super-hero must get bad guy" chase by the closing credits. Which is a standard convention in this sort of film and is completely appropriate, though this standard approach won't win the picture any points for originality.

Although the beginning seems to extend just a few minutes too long, the picture's pace certainly picks up in the second act when "Hellboy" must dispatch various baddies. The familiar combination of action and witty comedy (the one-liners in comic book movies must always be witty) will satisfy viewers who want some visual fodder to accompany the crunching of their popcorn, though the film probably won't appeal to mass audiences. The theatrical trailer is very representative of everything the film contains, so if the trailer appeals to you, you'll probably enjoy the entire film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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