Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy (2004) tells the story of an underground government agency dedicated to hunting down paranormal threats to Earth. The team is helmed by Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Abe (Doug Jones), two paranormal creatures with their own unique pasts. Hellboy (complete with demon horns) must hunt down a Robot Nazi villain in order to protect Earth from an ancient evil force. Director Guillermo Del Toro puts his visual mark on the film with his unique aesthetics, while the cinematography is, at times, stylistic and comic book-esque.
The film’s weaknesses are more apparent in the writing, over-the-top acting, and noticeable archetypal casting. From the Robot Nazi villain to the lush, contrasting color scheme used in the set design, Del Toro’s visual imagining of Hellboy’s universe is incredible. Every weapon and every costume help blur the line between supernatural fantasy and the realist design of Earth. It’s a colorful space opera that just so happens to take place not so far from home. Dozens of new alien-like faces keep the film visually engaging, while the muddled story continues along.
The fight sequences in Hellboy seem intricate, artsy, but not soulful. The manner in which characters fight is artistic in itself, since the characters are nearly never human. The action is campy, and thus a bit disengaging. However, other shots from the film seem as though they could have been taken from a comic. The cinematography being nothing special, the overall look and feel of these sequences is more evocative. Before the dreadful attempt at a cool title sequence ever begins, one can gather that the film suffers from cliched, archetypal writing and casting.
A super-Nazi is easy to hate, so it was naturally the best choice for a villain. Cheesy accents and questionable delivery of mediocre dialogue aside, The core actors carry their extra-dimensional characters very well. Perlman makes Hellboy exactly what he was seemingly written to be; a giant Demon who delivers sappy lines before putting a bullet between something’s eyes. Hellboy is everything one might expect. It’s an action film that tried to be something more, and with Del Toro’s direction and imagination, it almost was. A visually engaging, and momentarily entertaining movie, it succeeds in not letting expectations get too high.