Monday, April 12, 2004

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OK, I went to see Hellboy yesterday. You know, some people say I look like him. They say "You look like hell, boy!" and I reply "Well, I feel like hell, boy!" Ba-da-boom, crash! Hey, just like comedy! Anyway. Oh, yes. Hellboy the movie. Right.

Anyway, did I love Hellboy the movie? No. Did I hate Hellboy the movie? Occasionally. So I'll narrow it down for you. Things I loved: the production design, where I feel "executive producer" Mike Mignola probably had his biggest influence. All the sets and monsters looked great, like pains were taken to mimic the heavy blackspotted world of Mignola. Casting was excellent. They did a good job of finding actors which resembled their fictional counterparts, and fortunately they could all act. There was an occasional quip or joke which was amusing. And the story moved along at a brisk pace, rarely slowing down with one glaring exception. I liked the scene with HB and Jeffrey Tambor's character, who was annoying at first but won me over with the "don't light a cigar with anything but a wood match" line. I thought Selma Blair had the right mix of detachment and fire, if you'll excuse the expression, as Liz Sherman. And of course, Perlman did a good job with the script he was given. He is really an underrated actor.

Things I didn't love: Hellboy. The character. The movie Hellboy character, that is. The Hellboy I've been reading since 1995 is not the Hellboy we get in this film. I can't say why, exactly, the changes were made- but about the only similarity, personality-wise, in this HB and that HB is the gruffness, and of course the big stone hand. The Hellboy I like in the comics is not a puppy-lovesick sap, who follows his girlfriend as she walks down the street with another man, and shares a little cutesy-time with a kid on a rooftop, a scene which brought the film to a grinding halt there for a while. The BPRD does not keep that Hellboy locked up in a maximum security cell, Hulk-like, nor is he relegated to the status of a sasquatch-like urban legend. The Hellboy I read in the comics is referred to (somewhat tongue-in-cheekly, true) as the "World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator", for chrissakes, and the BPRD is a fully recognized branch of the government, not covered up as a "library". I know, I know, The filmmakers felt they needed to "humanize" HB more, to make him into a more recognizable, humanish and palatable character, which the non-fans could identify with, relate to, and reference to other characters. But in doing that, they practically took everything that was unique, likeable, and charismatic about the comics' Hellboy, and it astounds me that they couldn't understand that. The movie gives us a juvenile, arrogant, chainsmoking, disagreeable hitting machine, and this portrayal did absolutely nothing for me. Moving along, while the opening scene with the Allied raid on the big Nazi summoning was done well, it still was tinkered with too much to be different from the perfectly logical comic story for my liking. Same goes with the resolution, in which the comics' death of Rasputin was far more impressive than the somewhat by-the-way demise he got in the film. I don't know what the hell they were trying to do with Kroenen, making him some sort of clockwork zombie, except to create the sort of Oddjob-like henchman-assassin that filmmakers seem to feel every film like this has to have. While he looked effective, I felt the character was absoultely unnecessary, plus this version eliminated the wit and menace that the comics' evil Nazi trio (which also included the homogonized Ilsa we got here) had.

So there you go. And I fully recognize that I probably should have seperated it more from the comics version as I watched; a film is a film, apparently, and a comic is what it is, and it is decreed that ne'er the twain shall meet. I understand that, really I do, and I knew that going in. I think I dislike Hellboy the movie more for what it isn't than what it is, and what it is is an above-average comic book horror slash action thriller. While it's pretty much structured like all the others, in terms of plot progression, it does have a varied and interesting cast of characters and the effects were nicely done. So go, see Hellboy the's diverting and doesn't insult the intelligence too much. You won't miss anything, though if you wait for it to come out on DVD and rent it then. If I had to stick a letter grade on it, I'd give it a B- and leave it at that- I just wish that the filmmakers hadn't felt the need to sand off all the rough edges and tinker with the source material so much.

*Grigori and his assistants have bad attitudes for wanting to help the Nazis win WWII using the occult and then for wanting to complete their supernatural takeover of the world.
* The Nazis have bad attitudes for being Nazis and trying to evoke occult powers to defeat the Allies.

Those bastard Nazis!

This is one of the entries in Screen-It! 's review of Hellboy. Screen-It is a site for concerned parents to check out reviews of films, music, etc., where they're screened for certain kinds of content. Got several chuckles out of it, thought you might, too.