Hellboy [2004]

In some ways, Blood and Iron captures more of graphic novelist Mike Mignola's original vision than Guillermo del Toro's lackluster feature did in 2004. Hellboy, the demon brought into this world by the Nazis, but raised by "Professor Broom" to fight for good, was conceived as a drawing, not an actor buried under make-up and latex. The story, which incorporates elements from Mignola's "Wake the Devil" collection, sends Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and Prof. Broom to the haunted mansion of a vulgar millionaire. Hoping to cash in on the supernatural angle, he's filled the house with relics of "Blood Countess" Erzsebet Ondrusko (based on the 16th century Hungarian noblewoman Elizebeth Bathory), whom Prof. Broom defeated in 1939. It's really haunted, and the gang tackles harpies, ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires, and the goddess Hecate. The key actors from the live action film repeat their roles as voices: Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz), Doug Jones (Abe), and John Hurt (Broom). Perlman makes a suitably underplayed Hellboy, growling his annoyance at everything from a bad donut to a vicious blow from the iron-clad goddess. The limits of the animation would be less problematic if the direction were more dynamic. Tad Stones and Victor Cook don't get the needed power out of the action sequences, especially the prolonged battle between Hellboy and Hecate. It would be interesting to see what a talented director like Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Ruruoni Kenshin) or Hiroyuki Okiura (Jin-Roh) would do with this material. Blood and Iron will appeal to some "Hellboy" fans, but it lacks the dark panache of the original books. (Unrated, suitable for ages 14 and older: violence, grotesque imagery, potentially offensive religious imagery) --Charles Solomon

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