Hellboy is sixty-something years old, but he looks half that age and he tends to act like a moody teenager. Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) has been taking care of that big red ape since WWII, when he was working as paranormal advisor to President Roosevelt and helped Allied troops thwart the Nazis’ plan to use a mix of science and black magic to open a space-time portal, unleash the seven Ogdru Jahad gods of chaos and have them crush their enemies. Every day stuff, really. So anyway, the Professor found baby Hellboy about then and raised him to become the FBI’s secret weapon against “things that go bump in the night”!
Urban legend, real threat or unlikely hero, Hellboy is definitely an iconic figure: tall, large and red, with a pointy tail, shortly trimmed horns and a big-ass “Hand of Doom”, always chomping on a cigar or a deadpan one-liner (“Aw, crap”, most often). He’s occasionally paired with fellow freaks Abe Sapien, the “fish guy” with a “unique frontal lobe” (he’s a psychic, basically), and Liz (Selma Blair), a “firestarter” whom Hellboy’s got quite the crush on. Together, they take on an undead Rasputin, a Nazi ninja who was once Hitler’s top assassin and slimy octopi-like creatures straight out of H.P. Lovecraft!
“Hellboy”, adapted from the Mike Mignola comic book of the same name, is a wonderfully pulpy thrill ride full of awesome computer-generated and make-up effects. Like his Blade 2, Guillermo del Toro’s latest is fast and action-packed almost to the point of incoherence, it takes place mostly in dark and humid placed and it’s rather tiresome how every time one of the evil creatures is killed, two more hatch through and so on and so on. The human characters are bland (the dying father figure, the “inexperienced but pure of heart” new agent, the cranky I-make-the-rules-here!!! chief…), and the love triangle (!) subplot would have worked better if Selma Blair wasn’t so dismally mopey.
Then again, Ron Perlman is truly kick-ass cool, infusing Hellboy with more personality than Blade ever had, and the movie gives him a brilliant character arc that climaxes with an Iron Giant-like message: you might be a demon born to be evil, but ultimately you are what you choose to be. Good. Loving. Human.
“Hellboy” is no X-Men, but it’s a damn enjoyable comic book flick nonetheless, warts and all.