Hellboy's a weird one...
For one thing, I always liked the look of the trailers and always wanted to watch it but somehow never got around to. I would catch glimpses of it on TV every so often and it looked really good to me. Besides, I was a big fan of Pan's Labyrinth and I was really looking forward to checking out another Guillermo Del Toro flick.
Having never read the comics, I really had nothing to go on so I had no specific expectations. Finally, post-Pacific Rim, this year, I did it: I watched the entire thing.
And, you know what?
Was slightly disappointed.
Now I know I'm pretty late in the game and I should be happy that they even managed to make a Hellboy movie. I am! And there are a lot of things I like about Del Toro's film. For one, Ron Perlman is perfect for the role and it's literally impossible to picture anyone else playing Hellboy. Spot-on casting there. The combined efforts of Doug Jones and David Hyde Pearce bring fish dude Abe to life brilliantly and the rest of the cast is pretty darn good. With the exception perhaps of Rupert Evans, who does well in the role he is given to play but whose character is so uninteresting and pointless that you forget he's even your main character throughout the film. Why not just focus on Hellboy? Early on we see things through John Hurt's character's eyes so why do we need a dorky, bland dude on top of that? Never mind. Really, early on the film kinda had me and lost me. The opening sequence is very reminiscent of something like Raiders Of The Lost Ark with nazis uncovering some ancient secret they can't really handle. It's completely over-the-top: Rasputin, vortexes, ninja nazi killers, Hellboy... It's ludicrous but the film has fun with its goofy content. Unfortunately, that introduction feels a bit longwinded and only really serves as a framing device to set up the end of the movie. And how Perlman's monster came to be (still kinda unclear on that, to be honest). After that, you get the same kind of introduction to a secret world of weirdos you saw in X-Men, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Men In Black, Wanted and about 12 other films released around the same time. Luckily, the characters are cool enough that you enjoy seeing them on screen and Del Toro's ingenious use of practical effects is refreshing. That said, the mix of CGI and practical effects during the action sequences doesn't quite gel fully sometimes and they tend to come off as a bit sluggish because of that.
Another problem I had with the movie is the plot.
Next to nothing happens in Hellboy!
I mean, you're introduced to this larger-than-life world of superhero monsters, ancient secrets, magic, demons, spaceships and god knows what else but all that happens is a long, kinda dull investigation into what's going on leading to a pretty predictable ending telegraphed since the very first scene! There's a fight with a monster early on and you expect it to be short and lead to better, cooler monster fights along the way but turns out, that's the only monster you're getting until the very last scene of the film. That's honestly a bit of a waste. Hellboy needed to be a much faster-paced and more varied film than this. You spend ages building up this fish guy and what does he do? Goes for a swim. You build up this superhero love interest and what does she do? Has one heroic moment before becoming a damsel in distress. I'll give the film that: it looks good. If there's one thing Guillermo Del Toro knows how to do it's to bring some beautiful images to the screen and Hellboy most certainly delivers on that front. You get a glimpse of a hellish future, stunning snowy locations, a giant octopus monster, loads of striking visuals. The movie, honestly, should have felt more like a cartoon than a generic, derivative detective flick. Instead, it looks and plays like a cartoon but feels like an episode of Columbo starring a celebrity villain you've never heard of. Nothing against the show but come on, this is Hellboy! It's a demon guy in a trench-coat who smokes cigars, likes cats and eats chilli! Surely this should have been more fun than it was.
I will check out the sequel soon enough and I'm actually hoping it'll bring forward a more substantial story than Rasputin + nazis x magic = bad things. As for Hellboy, I'd say check it out if you're a fan of the comics or if you're intrigued but otherwise, it's unlikely you'll really take much from it except that it looks nice and has a couple of funny moments and some likeable characters.
Neither heavenly or hellish.