Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hellboy (live action movie)

Near the end of World War II, the Nazis become desperate enough to try to win with black magic. Although their ritual is interrupted, an infant demon manages to make its way into our world. That demon is given the name Hellboy by the people who find him, Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm and some American soldiers.

Decades later, Hellboy is part of the Bureau for Paranormal Research, along with another "freak," the intelligent and amphibious Abe Sapien (whose abilities include telepathy and psychometry). Hellboy's job is to capture and/or kill any monsters trying to wreck havoc in our world. When he's sent after a demon called Sammael, "the Hound of the Resurrection," it is discovered that several of the people involved in the Nazis' attempt at black magic are back. Hellboy and others must kill Sammael and stop these people before the manage to free the Seven Gods of Chaos.

I have so many movies based on comic books in my collection. I hadn't read any of the Hellboy comics before watching this movie for the first time, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I don't know how fans of the comics feel about this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the humor, even if it was a little heavy-handed in places, and the action scenes were fun. The best part of this movie, however, was Hellboy himself. Despite being covered in make-up, latex, and who knows what else, Ron Perlman did a great job of making Hellboy enjoyable, believable, and likable.

It's a good thing Hellboy is the main character, because he really steals the show. While Abe is interesting, he doesn't really get enough screen time to be more than that - I would've liked to see more of him and learn more about him. Liz, Hellboy's love interest (or crush, or obsession), gets more screen time than Abe, but I'd argue that she's less interesting than him. True, she has awesome pyrokinetic abilities, which make her potentially one of the most destructive members of the group, but personality-wise... I don't know that it's the character who's boring - it might just be the actress who portrays her, Selma Blair. Most of the time, Blair seems to me like she's exhausted, or possibly on some kind of tranquilizers. The sexy Liz on the DVD box makes me laugh, because she's just not like that in the actual movie.

Although I enjoyed the action scenes and some of the special effects, I also recognize that there were things that could've used some work. Sammael should never have been in a decently-lit scene - he (it?) looked great in dim lighting, but brighter lights made the "airbrushed latex" look seem more obvious. There was also a scene or two where I couldn't help but think, "that's definitely a CG Hellboy" - that kind of thing takes me out of the story a bit, which I don't like. Still, it all could have been a lot worse. I didn't notice this stuff as much when I first saw the movie. Now that I know the story and can afford to pay attention to other things, this stuff jumps out at me a little more.

Overall, I really did enjoy this movie. Stereotypical evil Nazis (plus Rasputin) and a wise-cracking, butt-kicking demon, with a smattering of high school romance - not earth-shattering stuff, but I don't mind that. I haven't seen Hellboy II yet - I hope that it's at least as entertaining as this one.

My copy of this movie is the 2-disc special edition - it has so many extras I haven't seen them all, nor do I wish to. That's not to say the extras are bad - there's just so many of them. Even though they have nothing to do with the movie or with Hellboy, I enjoyed the cartoons included on the first disc. Cataloging nerd that I am, I found myself wondering if those who cataloged this included added title access points to the cartoon titles. I'm too lazy to check, but I had a few amusing moments imagining how I might catalog this.

Watch-alikes:
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (live action movie) - In the year 1936, archaeology professor and adventurer Indiana Jones must try to get the Ark of the Covenant - the chest that carried the 10 Commandments - before the Nazis do. Those who'd like another movie with lots of action, evil Nazis, and some wise-cracking humor might want to try this.
  • X-Men (live action movie) - Even as American politicians debate how the "mutant problem" must be handled, a group of mutants plans to take matters in their own hands and make the "mutant problem" a moot point, by turning regular humans into mutants. It's up to Professor Xavier and his "X-Men" to stop them. They must also figure out how two mysterious mutants, a man named Logan with no memories of his past and a girl on the run who goes by the name of Rogue, fit into all of this. Those who'd like another action-filled movie based on comic books might want to try this. Wolverine reminds me a bit of Hellboy - they're both tough, with a similar sense of humor.
  • The Invisible Man (live action TV series) - Darien Fawkes, a thief who ends up in jail, is given a second chance - he can get out of jail if he agrees to have an experimental "quicksilver" gland implanted in his head. The gland allows him to turn invisible, and eventually Fawkes begins working for a secret government organization in return for the counteragent that will keep him from going psychotic and dying (a side effect of the gland) and the chance to eventually have the gland removed. Those who'd like something else with a wise-cracking main character who's part of a secret government organization might want to try this.
  • The Dresden Files (live action TV series) - Harry Dresden is a wizard who works as a private investigator and occasionally helps out the police (doing his best not to reveal that he can do real magic). Those who'd like something else with magic and a wise-cracking main character might want to try this, or the books upon which this show is based (the first in the series is Storm Front by Jim Butcher).

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