Hellboy Screening Review

Good morning true believers. It's 8am, Monday the 15th. I'm working on 4 hours sleep. Last night was an exclusive screening of the new Hellboy movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Ron Perlman. Hellboy was created by Mike Mignola.

To start, if you can help it, try not to see a movie at The Paramount. On second thought, in light of the fact that my leg is still twitching from cramping all night, don't do anything there. I'm only 5'8" and I had a hard time being anything within the same zip code of comfortable.

But this is not why you're here. You're here to hear about the movie. I will warn you there are spoilers ahead so read at your own risk. I choose not to hide in special highlightable text the spoilers so just click to another page if you'd rather wait until the release of the film.

This film got it right.

Not only was it a good adaptation, but as a film it was far better than most, if not all comic book movies that have been made. It's simpler, more solid and more charismatic. Perlman is fantastic as Hellboy, and confirming what some other sites have said, he wasn't the studio's first choice, but he was Del Toro's first choice. And after seeing the movie, it was the right choice and the best choice. There's no one else that could have played Hellboy, no one, and been as convincing, as quirky, as uncomplicated.

Where other films of the genre tried to force back story down your neck, or gum the story up with fancy camera shots, Hellboy keeps it as focused as possible. There's mercifully few Bond/Arnold one liners that have plagued action movies. The reason more than likely is because of Mike Mignola's fantastic story telling in the original books. Again, it's simple. It proves its point, shows its hand and moves on. It doesn't dwell on why so much and that was a relief. Non-readers will appreciate that this is a story that could stand alone without the book. Fans will appreciate that it took as few liberties as possible.

John Hurt as Professor Bruttenholm was very solid and stoic in his role. David Hyde Pierce and Doug Jones as Abe Sapien were perfect and stole the show. Most of the cast did their jobs so well, and fit so well into the roles, there's nothing to say about them. Again, it worked well enough that your brain just couldn't pick up on things that were wrong or right or even out of place.

My first of two complaints comes from Selma Blair. While she wasn't horrible, there was flatness in her introduction as Liz Sherman that made one believe her role was unimportant and left a bad taste in your mouth the rest of the film. It felt like she was a beacon for Hellboy or a muse rather than the integral part in the story that was seen later. Now, granted we first see her in a mental hospital, but the glaze in her eyes was more than just thorazine. She picked it up a notch as things moved along, but her dreariness didn’t seem like a characterization, she almost seemed bored at times.

The second gripe had nothing to do with the movie, but skewed my perception of the entire evening. The sound at the Paramount is awful for movies. It's built for amplifying sound for stage actors and blasting 110 decibels of movie explosions into that atmosphere and you've lost a lot of dialogue. This aside, there were times when Perlman or Hurt were talking and I had no idea what was said. Karel Roden as Rasputin was only slightly less difficult to understand. I know I missed some important dialogue and some funny lines. My hope is in the theater it isn't so overpowering.

Something else that was refreshing was the fact that even though the sound was a problem, the visuals were not. I could follow the action in its entirety and the CG was as seamless as it gets. When the rest of the world is based on a comic book, CGI tends to work better, but even with that given, the badies and effects were tight. Rick Baker's makeup also deserves mention. Abe and Hellboy were amazing. But to go back a few lines, the action was easy to see this time. I'm glad we've strayed away from the Aliens era camera and editing work that "suggested" action and fast motion and are now actually showing it. I never had to think to myself, "What the heck is going on. Who is that guy? Where are they? Oh wait, didn't he get killed already?"

For you parents out there, I'd suggest Clifford's Big Adventure. Yes this is a comic book, but it's pretty violent. There's no gore and honestly not a lot of blood, but we're talking about a demon with a gun. Don't take your kid to this and then get all bent out of shape because your vision of comic books is Archie. This is a good movie and a good story. It's rated PG - 13 and that's honestly a pretty good call. The violence is mainly between fantasy characters, but it still hits hard and moves fast with a lot of growling and shouting. The most blood we see is on the face of Jonh Myers (Rupert Evans) and even that's superficial.

The ending I'll say is predictable because there isn't really any other way to tell it. I'm sure if there was they would have. I knew that when you had a giant monster and a hand full of grenades, and you've directed MIB II, there's going to be some blue blood. Also, before you come away thinking it was Del Toro's vision that brought in so many Lovecraft references, I would suggest reading a few Hellboy trades. Mignola is steeped in symbolism. So all those giant tentacles are not there for the sake of the film, they are there for the sake of the story.

For those who stuck around through that to hear about the rest of the experience, let me say this. I'm not a movie critic, or an active screener or reviewer. I don't see too many movies and I haven't read all that much Hellboy to even know if this was close to the story or not. The facts I knew were not toyed with so that made me happy. After standing in line for 2 hours we were packed into a venue that seats 1200 people. The movie itself was a digital projection (that's how early the screening was, it apparently isn't on film yet) and held up well.

There was a short Q&A afterward where we found out that not only was this the first time Mignola and Perlman had seen the film in its entirety, but the studio hadn't even seen it yet. I felt a little honored to hear that Austin, the fans, the film society and all us schleps that waited in the rain for passes, were the first (by weeks) to see the final version.

Yes there was a bat flying around in the theater. Its poor ears probably bleeding from 1200 voices in an acoustically perfect environment. For those looking for pictures, the best I have are some sketches from my comic book friends (up soon.) The threat of not allowing any cameras or camera phones into the theater, or rather if you had one you wouldn't be let in, had most of us making mad dashes for our cars to put backpacks and accessories away. Well that included my Hellboy trade paperback. Had I hung on to that, it would have had a Del Toro, Perlman, Mignola autograph trifecta. Someone said, "You have paper, go have them sign that." It was my sketch pad. "S'cuse me, Mr. Mignola? Could you sign my sketch of Hellboy?"

So no signatures, no photos of the festivities, a cramped, twitchy leg and it was 3 in the morning. Thank god the movie was good.

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