Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
Pamcakes. There's a point in the movie where Hellboy's handlers bring him a couple trays piled high with pancakes. Although they are one of his preferred menu items, Hellboy is upset and screams "I don't want any pamcakes!" To someone who is having their first Hellboy experience at the movie (like me) this scene is cute and the pronunciation "pamcakes" flies right by. To the Hellboy comic book devotee, however, this is the minutiae that makes nerds quiver with delight. There's also a part with a talking corpse (reminiscent of the HB comic story "The Corpse") that will, I'm sure, send geek heads nodding knowingly.
I mention these things only because they are the hallmarks of a great comic book film. It's not required information to enjoy the film, but necessary to appease the fanatic comic fanboys. Kind of like the glowing eyes of the emerging Phoenix in X-Men 2.
For those of us who don't know a "pamcake" from a "pancake", Hellboy is still a super fun comic adventure that is actually much better than I anticipated. It doesn't have the extended origin story that I would have preferred from the first Hellboy film, but it tries to introduce the characters as the story zooms along.
We first see Hellboy in 1944 near the end of World War II when the Nazi's and Rasputin attempt to conjure The Seven Gods of Chaos from an inter-dimensional portal. Their attempt is thwarted by a squad of American soldiers and Paranormal Professor Bruttenholm. However, the portal was opened for a moment and in that time a little demon baby slipped through into our time. Instead of killing him, the Professor coaxes him with a Baby Ruth candy bar and adopts him. Fast forward to the present. The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is a Men in Black meets X-Files meets X-Men organization that "bumps back" when the forces of evil attack. For the good guys, Hellboy is their primary weapon, and supporting staff include Abe Sapien a half-man/half-fish psychic and Hellboy's love interest Liz Sherman, a pyrokinetic firestarter (just don't call her that to her face.) In this story they fight against the re-animated Rasputin, his immortal Nazi girlfriend Ilsa, and a super cool ninja assassin named Kroenen who is also addicted to surgical modifications of his body. The bad guys have resurrected a monster that multiplies by two every time it is killed.
That's enough of the plot to get you going so I will stop there. The action however is never ending. Like all good comic book movies you can actually visualize how the comic storyboards would have looked because it's right up there on the screen. This is all accomplished by super comic director Guillermo del Toro who previously made the superior Blade 2 sequel. He is definately the go-to director for the darker comic franchises.
The special effects of the film are fantastic. The monsters and even Hellboy himself are all rendered perfectly. There were no stand out effects in particular but there are probably very few scenes in the film that do not incorporate some degree of enhancement.
The actors are all great. Ron Perlman (Alien Resurrection, Blade 2, City of Lost Children) is awesome as Hellboy. It's not just the makeup either. This is a role he was born to play. Selma Blair does fine as Pyro-Liz. John Hurt is almost unrecognizable as elderly Professor Bruttenholm. Doug Jones plays aquatic Abe Sapien but the character is voiced by David Hyde Pierce. This was a little distracting because the voice brings to mind Niles Crane as opposed to a psychic fish-man. The only other actor of name would be Jeffrey Tambor (recently seen in the awesome TV comedy Arrested Development 9:30pm Sundays on Fox) as the head of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
I have to mention that the actor Ladislav Beran who played the Nazi ninja assassin Kroenen was, for me, the most fun character in the film. His martial arts were awesome and his costumes were super-cool. I hate Nazi's but he was a great villain.
My favorite part of the film featured Hellboy's love of kittens, which run free all over the place back at his Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense apartment. There's a scene where he is fighting one of the monsters on a subway platform and a woman screams out "save my kittens!" Inexplicably this woman is carrying an open box full of baby cats on the subway and Hellboy must save the kittens and cradle the box in one arm as he continues to battle the monster with the other. Another favorite scene is when Hellboy is stalking Liz on a date with the new FBI agent assigned to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. He meets a little boy on the roof of a building from where he is watching Liz and the two of them eat milk and cookies and discuss the nature of Hellboy and Liz's relationship.
Hellboy is a definite must see for fan of comic book movies. I hope The Punisher, coming out in a couple of weeks, is as impressive. I absolutely recommend this film and it's worth the price of admission.