Friday, April 25, 2008

Hellboy: Blood & Iron

I’m one of those odd few people that became a fan of Hellboy the comic after first seeing the live action film. The live film was good, if not particularly great, though when I finally got around to reading the comics I found them to have a depth, visual flair, and wit that was somewhat lacking from the film. As such, I was curious to see if creator Mike Mignola’s darkly comic style would be a better fit with this animated film than it was live.

Of course, it was, and rather extensively so. There are times when this film pretty much feels as though the comic book itself had been thrown onto the screen and somehow animated. The plot is also better than in the live film, as all the major players in the B.P.R.D. (The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) head out to investigate a supposedly haunted hotel in Europe at the request of a senator. While there, they discover a plot to resurrect Countess Bathory, a centuries-old vampire who had been killed by the professor decades prior. The evil goddess Hecate gets involved in the plot as well, as does an old werewolf, some harpies, the ghosts of all of the Countess’ young victims, and a seemingly endless army of snakes. Once things start to heat up, obviously, it’s pretty much constant action for the rest of the film, including a massive throwdown with Hecate that closes the film out.

Pretty much everything about the movie works right. The visual tone of the film comes very close to matching that of the comic itself, which is a very good thing if you’ve not read it. The voice acting, with one or two exceptions, is also very good, as producer Guillermo Del Toro managed to get the cast of the live film to voice their characters again. There’s also a good amount of humor to liven the film up, which is nice, considering the general concept of the character. After all, this is a story about a demon from Hell that goes around seeking out dark, Lovecraftian horrors and then punches them to death. If you can’t find some amount of humor in that premise, then you shouldn’t be working on such a project. The film was straight to DVD, so the animation isn’t as fluid as a big budget theatrical film, but that’s really its only flaw. After all, how many movies are out there that will let you see a fish man whipping a harpy with a set of manacles? I watch a lot more movies than is healthy, and I’ve only seen that twice before.

Rating: *** ½

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