I saw Hellboy last night. On the higher end of mediocre, it had an engaging style that helped lessen the impact of roughly a metric ton of exposition constantly interrupting the narrative. Pieces of exposition were handled well on their own, but overlapping information, drawn out dialogue, and, I must repeat, the shear amount of exposition drove me to exclaim midway through the viewing, “No.” It was a bit like Chinese water torture.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate
As a good Christian boi, I have reservations about recommending this film: The main antagonist’s tight, low-cut dress and a brief shot of an exposed boob, serving no other purpose to the narrative besides exploitation, puts the movie near moral opprobrium. This denigration of the body is continued in a massive death toll: many gruesome—wonderfully imaginative—kills are shown in detail, while the off-screen mortality rate is near overwhelming—One gets the feeling that once the camera looks away from a minor character some maniac with a knife will shank him. In general, this works well with the theme and tone of the movie until the climactic scene wherein apocalyptic monsters begin rampaging through London. Many extras lose their lives here, and if we hadn’t seen this amount of on screen deaths already, there might have been some weight to it. I found myself appreciating the artistic merit put into each death, but had already used up my empathy in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. There was no shock value left.
Considering shock value, the writers for this movie wrote under the misconception that the F-word has any such affect. Used near the opening for a flat joke, the F-bomb is littered throughout the flick. The uncreative use and overuse of the word in conjunction with the mundanity of the word in the current culture, negatively affect the dialogue. The swearing comes across as unnatural at times.
The final point of contention I have with the movie is a small one: Hellboy’s costume. I am not versed in the comics, so I only have the Guillermo del Toro version to work off of: Comparing the 2004 Hellboy to the new incarnation, I am unimpressed. His right hand, in this latest film, looks like it is made out of foam: The fingers move like they’re pulled by stings at times, and in part of the scene with the three giants, the thumb gets caught under the other fingers in an unnatural pose (maybe I was seeing things). The prosthetic horns, mostly holding up, would now and again lose their moorings, the “shaving” scene being a prime ensample where our attention is drawn to the horns only to subsequently break our suspension of disbelief when one horn suddenly shifts as if it were glued to the actor’s scalp.
But there were some good parts to the movie. It was highly imaginative, visually interesting, and grappled with meaningful ideas. The moral of the movie might be phrased as “Man up.” In the face of a fallen humanity, Hellboy has to choose between his hellish and his human nature, and in the end, comes to the conclusion that life is worth defending.
One other great part of the movie might have been the monster designs, my favorite being the apocalyptic, lovecraftian creatures rising up out of hell toward the end. If the film hadn’t already dulled my sensibilities at this point, I think this would have had a greater impact.
The flies in the ointment really do putrefy this film, however. In the end, its faults overshadow its virtues.