Below: All look, no feel. This still from “Hellboy,” while a near perfect translation of the aesthetic of its comic book origins, captures almost none of the same spirit.
Snobbery Will Get You Nowhere
If this is snobbery though, it’s certainly unqualified, because last Friday night I found myself sitting at the Astor Plaza in Times Square watching Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy.” I had high hopes for this movie, mostly because in the past I’ve seen, in del Toro’s directing hand, what I’ve always suspected was art obscured by a plain, unabashed kind of cheesiness. What’s more, Mignola is one of the finest comic artists of the past decade, and his Hellboy is a brilliant combination of gothic horror, manufactured folklore and uncynical, almost naive, goofiness.
Del Toro’s adaptation, unfortunately, is plodding and uninspired, and will most often be cited for encumbering Ron Perlman’s very human portrayal of the very inhuman Hellboy with a surfeit of unneeded and often unwanted special effects. For me, what was most disappointing was that while del Toro translated the look of Mignola’s comic book world to film, he managed to translate little of the feel. The panel art found in the pages of “Hellboy” are lyrically quiet, even as monsters roar through them; Mignola uses negative space like no other artist, and it infuses his world and his characters with a beautiful, subdued quality that’s rare in comic storytelling. Del Toro’s translation is loud and annoying and smothered in one of the worst musical scores I’ve heard in recent memory. More than ever, it made me lament the poor state of sound design in today’s cinema.
When it was all over, I realized that all signs had pointed to this movie being noisy, clumsy and disappointing, but for some reason, I had been convinced that it would something else entirely. It wasn’t. In fact, the worst thing of all is that
it left me thinking to myself that I probably should have gone to see “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” instead.