The latest comic book character to make the jump from the funny pages to the screen is a lesser-known one, hailing not from Marvel or DC, but from Dark Horse Comics. Hellboy is the creation of Mike Mignola. He's a wisecracking demon from another dimension who loves cats and Baby Ruth bars, files down his horns, is as tough as nails and out to get evil. Mignola's angular, blocky style (which inspired much of the conceptual artwork for Disney's Atlantis), and quirky, hard-boiled storytelling turned the Hellboy comic into something of a cult hit, admired for its more intelligent take on the superhero genre. Thankfully, director Guillermo Del Toro (Blade II, The Devil's Backbone) has a fantastic eye for visuals, and kept Mignola close during the development of the film to ensure that it kept close to the source material. This has the look and feel of a big budget summer film, yet it's coming out at the beginning of April.

The results are mixed. The first two-thirds of Hellboy are an enjoyable romp through this world. The difference being that Del Toro and co-screenwriter Peter Briggs (who based the story on Mignola's Hellboy: Seed of Destruction) spend time fleshing out the characters and their motivations. The people on screen are complicated beings, and act and speak like actual people rather than flat movie characters. But, the temptation for big explosions and action sequences is too great, and the end of the movie is a non-stop montage of mindless action. Sure it looks great but it's all flash with no substance. Del Toro forgoes all the work he did in creating the characters and just has them go through the motions.

Hellboy's origin's came near the end of World War II. The Nazis allied themselves with Rasputin (Karl Roden, Blade II, 15 Minutes) who schemed to bring about the end of the world by opening up a portal to another dimension. The Allies stopped him, but a small red demon made its way through. Fast forward to the present, and that demon grew up under the tutelage of Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt, Dogville, Owning Mahowny) to be the hulking but lovable Hellboy (Ron Perlman, Star Trek: Nemesis, Blade II), who now works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a secret government organization that goes after evil. The movie is seen through the eyes of newcomer John Myers (Rupert Evans), brought in from the FBI as Hellboy's new handler. Working with Hellboy and John is Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, Stuck on You, Adaptation with voice by David Hyde Pierce, Down with Love, Treasure Planet), a strange looking creature that is a cross between a man and a fish. Ex-BPRD member and Hellboy's love interest Liz Sherman (Selma Blair, A Guy Thing, The Sweetest Thing) is never far away. She institutionalized herself because of her inability to control her powers over fire, and is too screwed up to return Hellboy's feeling.

Well, Rasputin is back and up to no good. He's unleashed a monster that, for lack of a better description resembles a tiger with an octopus for its head. The rest of the plot is the BPRD trying to track down this monster and figure out exactly who is behind it and what he wants. In the end, it doesn't matter and doesn't make all the much sense. Unfortunately, the Rasputin character is underdeveloped, failing to give Hellboy a convincing or menacing villain. The Hellboy character himself is much more fun. Perlman is a good choice for Hellboy, giving him a gruff voice as he provides much of the scripts liberal does of humor with his smart-aleck remarks. He is an imposing presence at 6'3", and has enough acting ability to provide some pathos to the Hellboy character. Heck, Del Toro even stops in the middle of the film to have Hellboy spy on Liz like a jealous little kid. It may not be the best adaptation of a comic book movie, but it is certainly different, which is always good.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and frightening images.

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