14 August 2009 | xamtaro
I get the feeling that this "Hellboy Animated" movie only materialised to cash in on the popularity of the live action movie.
This seems to be a prequel to the first Hellboy movie, but it lacks the sense of grandeur that the first, or Golden Army, had. It feels like a "just another day on the job" accounting of one of Hellboy's more interesting paranormal cases, which in this case involves a plot by some Japanese demons to enslave the world and the key to stopping them lie in the form of an ancient Samurai Blade. Fair enough. It sounds quite good. I bet it sounded better on paper than the end result we see on screen. The plot weaves in and out, cutting between Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman responding to some anomaly in the ocean, 2 BPRD agents tracking down a possessed Professor and Hellboy lost in the Japanese backwoods with the Samurai Sword. It gets a little hard to follow at times and many scenes just seem unnecessary in advancing the overall plot. The producers tried to throw in some very unique monsters and threats for Hellboy to face, based on many ancient Japanese myths. A noble move, but unless you are already well versed in the old folklore from the land of the Rising Sun, those monsters(that apparently the production team painstakingly researched) would just come across as generic supernatural threats with some quirky designs.
In the end, The whole resolution to the story is possibly the weakest aspect; a real let down. There is a romantic subplot involving an ancient samurai and his ghostly lover but it is not like the romance in the live action movie, more closer to Saturday morning cartoon style of romantic relationships. It is cheesy and would easily make one shake his head in disbelief that the script writers would throw in something like that into an otherwise well written script.
The animation for the most part is also relatively weak. As a direct-to-DVD animated feature, Hellboy Animated's animation does not stand up well to other animated feature adaptations of comic book superheros It is stiff, with bland camera angles and uninteresting storyboarding. The visuals are painfully simple, along the lines of animated TV series much less a animated feature. One would think that Mike Mignola's streamlined art style, minimalist colouring and dark, grim and quirky visuals form the comic book would be easy to adapt to animation. They were able to capture Mignola's art style perfectly with "The Amazing Screw On Head" that was released a month earlier from Hellboy Animated. Alas, the production company chose not to stick to that look and went with another stylised look that, in my humble opinion, looked absolutely horrible.
The character designs looked like a splicing of Kim Possible, Danny Phantom, and some of the worst looking episodes from the 90s Batman animated series and Transformers Animated. Body Proportions are almost laughable and the overall look comes across as cheap and lazy. This show would not have looked out of place when aired on Saturday mornings after Spongebob Squarepants.
Thankfully, a highly enjoyable script and excellent character chemistry saves this show from being a utter failure. Dark Humour, witty comebacks and entertaining banter among the characters. The movie captures the quirkiness of the comics very well and the actors from the film reprise their roles, lending to the feel of continuity.
This one is really a mixed bag. If you can get pass the overall under-budgeted look and cheap-o feel of the animation then make your way through one mess of a story smelling like cheese, you got a really entertaining animated movie on your hands. Fun to watch, but little else beyond that.