Tired of all the masculine heroes such as X-Men, Spiderman and Batman? Here comes a hero with seemingly dark origins and a less than manly name, Hellboy. In the past few years, comic book heroes have opted away from the suffering industry and headed for the lucrative silver screen, bringing popcorn entertainment to a new level of excess.
The explosions are bigger, the storylines are more elaborate and the heroes are two-dimensional without creating any real “connections” to audiences. Batman rose from the ashes of the Superman franchise to reignite a pop culture obsession.
But the ’90s weren’t the time of larger-than-life action heroes: subsequent Batman pictures failed to capture the magic of the original, but this fiasco only slowed the inevitable.
Hellboy is an average addition to the latest trend. The film’s unbelievable story is suited only for the pages of a corner comic store, and it’s constant eye-candy is hard to swallow.
Throw in a cheesy romantic subplot, and Hellboy is clearly following a massively successful blueprint launched by a blind avenger (Daredevil) and a daywalker (Blade).
In Hellboy, Nazis attempt to release the seven demons of chaos but the all-good American forces arrive in time to stop the apocalypse. But not before Hellboy managed to slipped through. A grizzled scientist (Jeffrey Tambor) raises the escapee as his own son despite the chiseled horns, bright red tan and a hand of stone. His father grooms the unusual child for a career in crime fighting, and, along the way, Hellboy joins the ranks of Bigfoot and Nessy in tabloid mythology. But this time the conspiracy is real — the FBI has a bureau dedicated to paranormal activity. The demons are restless and want out, so they empower Rasputin (Karel Roden) to make Hellboy reopen the portal.
Hellboy isn’t even a secondary character in the comic universe, but most studios have already bought the rights to those chased-after heroes. The coming seasons don’t show a slight trace of this trend letting up: films such as The Punisher, The Fantastic Four and The Green Hornet will all battle for a spot atop of the box office.
But despite the popular notion, to the contrary not all comic-inspired films are Hollywood fluff. Movies such as Road to Perdition and From Hell — both published as graphic novels — prove that adaptations don’t have to be trivial. The films can actually be decent dramas.
Hellboy singles itself out from its predecessors by not allowing the material to become too serious, adding clever dialogue and keeping a distinct sense of situational humor.
The plot and performances take a back seat to a 100-minute showcase of what the latest and greatest special effects have to offer.
A key element to the success of these types of films is escapism, a return to a more innocent time when comic books were popular and the best remedy for any parental scoldings was reading your idol’s latest predicaments.
But if that’s the case, Hellboy has a rather marginal following and lacks the mass crossover appeal of his fellow peers. So, what’s left for the hell spawn? An audience that’s willing to take a few risks might leave with a mild surprise on their platter: A film with a mean serving of action along with a side of witty humor.