I will say this about Hellboy. It is unflinchingly bizarre. Guillermo Del Toro’s style is visible more visible here, than any other director’s style in any other superhero flick. This is the tale of a young demon, brought into the world by nazi scientists and raised by humans, eternally set apart by his appearance, but always wanting to fit in. Hellboy does things like grinding down his horns to appear less demonic that make his character more compelling and less relatable. Also interesting are the fish-like creature Abe Sapien, and the mysterious nazi assassin Kroenen. The interactions between these characters, and the showcasing of their odd idiosyncracies is probably the films most entertaining factor.
The action however leaves a lot to be desired. This is not necessarily the fault of the director or production crew, as much as it is that of the era’s limited special effects. I just saw a movie a few days ago where I saw a kid in a spider suit climb to the top of the Washington monument, leap off over a helicopter, and swing by its undercarriage into a window below. In a world where seeing that sort of thing in a movie is about as regular as a red light on the way to work, these primitive action scenes can hardly be expected to engage.
With all that said, Hellboy is a worthwhile watch, if only because it hearkens back to an era where superhero flicks were less of a financial risk, and were allowed to breathe a little. A film like this, in its final form, would almost certainly never get greenlight — at least without heavy changes by the studio — today, and that is a sad thing. However, it does make Hellboy that much more of a monumental watch, because it is unlikely that we will ever withness a superhero film this outré again.