I’ve never read a Hellboy comic so I feel at a disadvantage. As a self-proclaimed geek, I usually have some sort of prior knowledge or insight into a character or series if they have appeared in a comic. This means I usually end up judging the film based on how close they are to the source material, which characters they change or miss out completely and why, and where they can go with the series depending on what changes they’ve made. It’s the reason I’m really excited about The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spiderman because they all seem to be heading in the right, true to the comics, direction that I think makes for the best interpretations of the characters.
That meant that when I watched Hellboy I felt like I was under-informed. Even the rarer comic adaptations, like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Kick-Ass, I’ve tried to read before I see the film but Hellboy just slipped right past me. So I was left watching and reviewing the film on its movie merits alone… which was uncomfortable to say the least.
I enjoyed the first film. It didn’t stay with me for very long afterwards and I’m sure if you asked me to recap the movie I’d miss a lot of it out but overall I remember it being a fun, cool, comic-book film that had an unusual hero to follow. The second film follows a similar, very cool pattern. Hellboy, as a main character, is a very cool creation anyway. To be able to write stories for a strong, large, red demon with trimmed horns and the mentality of a teenager means that you get some great moments and fantastic dialogue. Ron Perlman plays Hellboy brilliantly and is a very cool person to begin with, so to give him this kind of character was always going to produce some magic.
The story is straight forward and hardly a complicated, twist-filled thriller but it isn’t the kind of film that needs that. Instead what they focus on is the monsters and creatures that Hellboy faces and with the very nature of the character, these have to be huge or unusual as well. This means we get a very cool, massive plant monster, scary, creepy “tooth-fairies” and the final, huge Golden Army. With Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, these monsters and the world around Hellboy was always going to be visually fascinating and it doesn’t disappoint.
There are plenty of cool characters surrounding Hellboy and making for interesting moments of their own. Abe Sapien, the amphibious creature and Selma Blair as the fire-powered Liz, both return to give Hellboy someone to fight and interact alongside and we also have a new, German character who is essentially smoke in a suit voiced by Seth Macfarlane, which gives a new perspective to the film.
The movie isn’t doing anything too complicated and is exactly what you want from a comic book film. It has a plot specifically designed to get Hellboy from one battle to the next and because of this some of the choices that characters make don’t really seem to make much sense but when all you’re looking for is a cool film that will only take up an hour and half of your life, you can’t ask for much more.
Whether Hellboy follows the comics very accurately or is a good representation of the character is something I can’t tell you but it does make me want to read at least one of the comics. If this is what they can do with the films, imagine what they can do with the limitless medium of comics, particular when they don’t necessarily have to be aimed at a PG-13 (or 12A) rating.
Overall, I really enjoyed Hellboy 2. It does repeat a lot of what made Hellboy 1 successful but on a larger, much more visually cool scale. I might rewrite this review in a couple of months time after I’ve actually tracked down a Hellboy comic and discovered that Del Toro has ruined the original character though.
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)