Guillermo del Toro's HELLBOY
Here's what I wrote when I saw this movie in a theater:
Saw HELLBOY last night. What makes the movie is Ron Perlman's voice and personality (plus the terrific design, acting, and sheer off-the-wallness of so much of the visual imagery). I don't know the Dark Horse comic this comes from, but I'll put this right up there as one of my favorite comic book adaptations along with Daredevil.
After watching this 2-DVD set I'm still of the same opinion, and I'm aware that a 3-DVD "director's cut" is due in a few weeks. The story is still a bit derivative, but I loved the characters, especially Hellboy himself. Perlman (Alien Resurrection, City of Lost Children) owns the role. Some of the images are memorable, an example being the lit-bushes-wrapped-in-plastic in front of the hospital.
As an exercise in reviewing movie-making arts, I especially enjoyed the well-organized "making of" documentaries on Disc 2. Here the production team gets to talk about their art and experience in context; you get a real feel for the work involved in costumes, lighting, set design, and photography. Some of the puppetry and animatronics is absolutely amazing and seeing how it was done really is fascinating. I found this documentary (almost 2 hours?) so interesting that I actually wanted to hear more. (I have no yet worked my way through the commentaries on Disc 1).
The use of animatics (with examples) and CGI are discussed and in put the context of the overall concept, as they should be. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to CGI that we no longer need to know the details of wireframes, texture mapping, etc. In fact, one of the computer geeks in the documentary refers to some of what they are doing here as "traditional CGI" which, if you listen to Spielberg's interview discussion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind's early CGI experiments, makes you realize how far this industry has really come in a quarter century.
I was more interested in seeing how CGI and live action were combined in some scenes, scenes that I hadn't realized involved so much CGI. But the characters and their personalities make this movie. Perhaps a major part of the credit for this should go to the way that director del Toro and comic artist Mike Mignola think. They reinforce each other, and Mignola repeatedly mentions how del Toro extended the characters he had originally drawn.
The results show on the screen.