The first big problem with Hellboy is Hellboy, the lead character played by Ron Perlman's sense of self-importance. Really, I was rooting for Hellboy right from the start, because he was from hell, which is totally different from the place where the hero of this year's other big superhero movie came from. But I can't root for a character that has no character, and "being violently irritable" isn't a complete character description; it's just an outline of U.S. foreign policy.
Even worse than the hero, though, is the screenplay. It has all the intellectual rigor and narrative consistency of an episode of SuperFriends. If you want to see a lot of demon dogs get splattered for no particular reason, well, you've come to the right movie. But I mean, seriously, you'd really, really have to hate demon dogs to find this at all compelling.
In fact, about the only thing keeping me awake between explosions was the hot Nazi chick whom Hellboy was supposed to stop. With Hellboy being so irritating, and Olga or Helga or Eva or whatever the scheisse her name was being so freaking smoking, it was pretty hard not to start taking her side. I like to think a movie isn't working well when I start rooting for the Nazis.
Now, given that the movie has endless scenes of senseless violence, and not one, but two, incredibly hot superhero-type chicks--Frau Whatsis on the bad guys' side and Selma Blair as Hellboy's fire-starting girlfriend--it seems like it would have been so simple to fix this film. First, every one of the five dozen times that the script writer got the urge to have Hellboy hit someone while using one of the few puns in the world that Bruce Willis did not use up in Die Hard XXVI: Die So Freaking Hard It'll Make You Feel Like Your Damn Head Is Gonna Just Explode, he should have just put in a gratuitous scene of Selma Blair and the Nazi chick kissing. Each other.
I realize that the hippies have said this before, and better, but why is it more acceptable to show violence than it is to show attractive naked women in Nazi lesbian sex scenes?
This may seem crass, but is it really worse than watching a demon beat up a dog? I mean, maybe if the characters were naked, they would have stopped hitting each other and gone, "Hey, why the hell are we hitting each other?" It at least would have raised a question not directly addressed by the script or plot.
Plus, seriously now, this movie cost more than $100 million to make. Think about that: If you had $100 million, and you wasted it making Hellboy, and you were a Japanese samurai from the 18th century, you'd be totally obliged to kill yourself. Why can't the greasy, coke-addled producers of modern Hollywood have the same sense of civic responsibility?
Is there some reason that they have to turn out dreck based on mediocre comic books rather than use the money for, I don't know, art or finding a cure for Miramax? Give me a $100 million. and I guarantee I'll make something better than Hellboy. Frankly, a squatting dog is just about to make something better than Hellboy.
The weird thing is that the basic plot outline sounds pretty decent. Hellboy must stop the resurrected Nazi occultist Grigori Rasputin (I know) from opening the gate that will allow the 13 frozen elder gods of chaos to return and destroy the world. H.P. Lovecraft plus Nazis plus a giant, red superhero with horns? Pinch me; I must be dreaming!
But somehow, in spite of these great plot elements, the wretched characterizations, poor pacing and crappy narrative structure wind up sinking this Titanic. Instead of detailing the interesting elements of the story, there's just a lot of dog-smashing and then a finale.
This is most pronounced in the romantic storyline. Without any background or development, it's hard to say why Hellboy is in love with Liz (Selma Blair) or why she loves him back, or why they do anything at all. When his character is reduced to pouting and shouting, and her character is as blank as a sorority girl's memory on Sunday morning, it's difficult to care if they overcome their differences and re-establish their love. Especially since the film never makes clear what their differences are, or why they should even love each other.
But I guess they had to cut that stuff to make room for the exploding, goo-filled special-effects monsters, which, while boring and trite, at least have the benefit of being expensive.
Which is basically just Hollywood's way of insulting your intelligence by saying you're too dumb to know the difference between a shiny object and something of real value. Not that the producers of films like Hellboy are smart enough to know the difference either, but there's no point in rewarding their stupidity by tossing eight and a half bucks at it.