Thursday, July 17, 2008


So we went to see Hellboy at a matinee yesterday afternoon. First off, let me say that it was absolutely GORGEOUS. Pan's Labyrinth (same writer/director) won Academy Awards for art direction, cinematography, and makeup, and I don't see how Hellboy won't at least get nominated in those same three categories.

But while those three things, done well, can lift a movie from "good" to "great," they do not automatically make a movie great. Or even good, IMO. Pan's Labyrinth was also nominated for its screenplay and score. Hellboy will not be.

I enjoyed the movie, but I felt a little guilty about that. Its slavish adherence to cliché convention bordered on insult. And then there was that other matter...

First of all, the clichés.

(1) Redshirts - Their redshirting picks did not stop in Obviousville but went all the way to Ham-Handed City. When they go on missions, every single agent who is not a principal character DIES.

Guy: I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just "Crewman Number Six." I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove the situation is serious!


[the crew is on a shuttle descending to an alien planet]
Guy: I changed my mind. I wanna go back.
Alexander: After the fuss you made about getting left behind?
Guy: Yeah, but that's when I thought I was the crewman that stays on the ship, and something is up there, and it kills me. But now I'm thinking I'm the guy who gets killed by some monster five minutes after we land on the planet.
Jason: You're not gonna die on the planet, Guy.
Guy: I'm not? Then what's my last name?
Jason: It's, uh, uh - - I don't know.
Guy: Nobody knows. Do you know why? Because my character isn't important enough for a last name, because I'm gonna die five minutes in.
Gwen: Guy, you HAVE a last name.
Guy: DO I? DO I? For all you know, I'm just "Crewman Number Six"!

If you haven't seen GalaxyQuest, you should rent it. Srsly. Anyway, they don't even attempt to make their cannon-fodder dudes into characters. This is a huge letdown from the first Hellboy movie, in which I totally did NOT expect Agent Hairplug to bite it. (And I think they left it somewhat ambiguous - I guess in case he decided to sign on for the sequel? Dunno.)

And WTF is up with sending non-ninja agents out with nothing more than a regular GUN? "Stupid" does not even BEGIN to describe it. They're fighting monsters, for the love of Mike! EVERYONE knows that yeah, you take your gun, but you don't RELY on it when you're going up against monsters. This brings us to...

(2) Plot Holes Through Which One Could Drive a Truck - I did not go to this movie with high hopes for internal consistency. However, I was annoyed by all the crap I was expected to accept without question. Such as -

  • They're still secret at the start of this movie? WTF?

  • Why is Ecto in the suit? He doesn't need it, and it doesn't make him look less freakish.

  • End of the movie: they've been trying to prevent the villain from putting together a crown that will allow him to control an army of metal golems. As they go to meet the villain, they pass by the golem army. I leaned over and said to the Hunk, "They should totally have PyroChick hop down there and just MELT them all." Did they do that? No. And they still could've had the climatic one-on-one fight scene. But, no, they wanted the heroes to fight the golems. Anyway, once the dust has settled and they have recovered the crown, guess what PyroChick does to it!

There's a lot more, but I really don't want to think of it. But the pain goes ALL the way through the movie. A lot of it is that the heroes make some colossally stupid decisions. Don't get me wrong - I believe in the concept of heroic failure. It's an excellent way to push the plot forward while allowing for a momentary feeling of success. However, a character who is damn near incompetent cannot be a hero - at least, not outside of a comedy.

The Other Issue

There are two female freaks among the heroes. They are both quite good-looking by human standards, and are perceived as attractive by other principal characters. The villain, male, is also fairly good-looking. Actually... DANG... he is incredibly good-looking, but the makeup obscures most of it.

The three male hero-freaks are unattractive (Hellboy less so than the other two, but the film compensates for this by having bystanders tell him how ugly he is). Yet two of them are perceived as attractive by the females. There is one unattractive female, but (a) she's a minor character, and (b) she's bad. We know she is Bad because she eats kitties. This makes it acceptable for the principal characters to use psychological torture to force her to betray her people (though that's another rant).

So. What sexist movie clichés do we see here?

  • If you're a chick and you're among the good guys, you must be good-looking. Ugliness is evil. However, evil chicks can also be gorgeous.

    • Stark evil chicks must have fair skin and red lipstick (the deeper the color, the better). Long hair must be pulled sharply off the face; short hair must have an angular cut.

    • Sultry evil chicks should be tan with long, dark hair. Preference will be given to those with side parts so that the hair obscures the face.
  • If you're a guy, your appearance does not matter. Your intelligence does not matter. Your moral compass does not matter. All that matters is whether or not you can kick the other guy's ass in a fight. The chick will love you for who you are on the inside. (As long as you kick ass.)


I put any spoilery-type stuff behind the link in case there's anyone who'd like to see it. Just, please - don't pay full price!


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Hey Clix, I love comics and I really enjoy movies made from comics, even the not-so-good movies.

I'm no intellectual movie critic, cuz I just go to be entertained. And I'm reeely looking forward to The Dark Knight next Monday (matinee without hordes of people). Also enjoyed Ironman a couple of weeks ago.

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