Professor Broom (John Hurt) is a paranormal adviser to FDR during WWII and leads the investigation of the Nazi’s pursuits into obtaining paranormal weapons and exploits. Upon coming across an experiment of the Nazi’s attempting to bring the seven gods of chaos to our dimension, lead by Grigori Rasputin an immortal sorcerer, a small red demon was able to come through the dimensional portal before the U.S. Army stopped the Nazi experiment. Broom takes him under his wings and the soldiers named him Hellboy. Flash forward 60 years, Broom leads the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, full of paranormal creatures ala Hellboy (Ron Perlman) that fight the mythic evils that lurk in the night, but has been recently diagnosed with cancer and finds that he is dying soon. Broom recruits the fresh graduate John Myers (Rupert Evans) who he hopes to be his replacement.
Coincidentally, Rasputin’s disciples have resurrected him and they begin on a path to re-attempt to open the dimensions and call upon the chaos gods to destroy earth. Hellboy in the mean time has bigger problems to quell in getting back in favor with his “father” Broom as he repeatedly breaks out to visit Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). Liz is an on again off again member of the team, along with Hellboy and the water dwelling humanoid Abe Sapien, she is a fire-starter and the love of Hellboy’s life. Upon the investigation of a museum incident and the battle with the ancient beast Sammael, Rasputin’s return becomes clear to the team as they begin their quest to stop him and discover his plan.
Hellboy, the film, is full of interesting characters and a lot of back story to be filled in on. Thankfully the film handles this very well and is able to fill us in on these characters life while also keeping us entertained through out. Del Toro can’t take the story for granted and makes sure that the viewer is up to speed to fully enjoy the film. The film itself moves along at a very fine pace that is continually entertaining and never drags or bores. Hellboy is hilarious and his dry humor is a nice piece of fresh air in the comic book film genre. The look of the film is wonderful as well with Del Toro using live action as much as humanly possible with some wonderful creatures created for the film.
The acting is also solid through out starting with Ron Perlman owning the role of Hellboy. No one else could play him and hopefully know one else ever will. He perfectly captures the roles subtle humor, physical presence, and the emotional bits that Hellboy goes through. John Hurt also does an excellent job as Broom, providing a good father figure and leader of the team. Doug Jones plays the physical Abe Sapien with David Hyde Pierce perfectly complementing him as his voice, creating a smart, charming and subtle ying to Hellboy’s yang. Selma Blair is decent as Liz Sherman, with not a lot to work with unfortunately, but she feels a bit wooden at times as she plays the whole, “I’m so sad and depressed mode.” Rupert Evans is the weak link of the film as Myers, just coming across as unbelievable and just doesn’t really work. Jeffery Tambor also provides a number of laughs as the F.B.I. specialist that over sees Broom and his team and is the official cover artist for Hellboy and his exploits.
In the end, Hellboy is a fun action-fantasy-comic book adaptation that is solid all around. It is a great introduction to the character and the world he lives in and it will be great to see what they do in a sequel. While there are no major complaints with the film, it never excels beyond being a pretty good movie. I don’t know what held it back, but I can’t wait to see what they do on a return visit to Hellboy’s world, now that the introduction is out of the way.