Spectacle In Search Of A Story
Ron Perlman is once again perfectly fine as an ordinary working schmoe who just happens to be the red-skinned spawn of the Devil with an indestructible stone fist, and is ably supported by pyrokinetic girlfriend (Selma Blair), newtboy with a brain the size of a planet (Doug Jones, replacing David Hyde-Pierce) and their hapless boss (the great Jeffrey Tambor, twitchily anxious to do right by his superiors). There's also Teutonic smoke-in-a-suit new guy Johann Krauss, basically a couple of actors taking turns in a steampunk diving suit, voiced by Seth McFarlane. Director Guillermo del Torro and his design team create a couple of zoos’ worth of weird creatures, notably in a densely populated Goblin Market. There’s also a very fine sequence right at the beginning that uses puppets to set up the plot, framed as a bedtime story read to a young Hellboy by John Hurt, briefly returning as his kindly mentor.
So far, so good. But between the noisy and nicely choreographed action sequences there’s not much story, and the narration proceeds by a series of awkward jerks. Since there’s only one plot coupon to be scooped up by the prince, the second act is padded out with a couple of romance sub-plots that don’t quite dovetail with the rest of the movie, there are an awful lot of plot holes and seen-it-coming-in-the-first-reel twists, the usual ordinary people don’t understand superheroes schtick, and the dreaded golden army don’t really get to show its stuff. But it does the business, there are touches of fin de siecle sadness that play nicely against Hellboy’s truculent, wisecracking noir hero, and it’s crammed with del Torro’s trademark weirdness. Now here’s a director who’d be a perfect fit to direct a film version of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. Now there's a story.
Tomorrow: The Dark Knight.