Guillermo Del Toro was already familiar with the world of comic book films. He had directed the highly entertaining Blade 2 just two years earlier. But Hellboy was right in the Del Toro wheel house.
Hellboy, a demon pulled from a hell dimension during World War 2 by Nazis and raised by a kindly scientist working with the Allies, is part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research. They keep an eye on the supernatural happenings throughout the world.
We are introduced to this world, and Hellboy, through the eyes of the newly assigned Agent Myers. Myers and Hellboy struggle to get along. Especially when it appears that his crush, Liz Sherman, may be attracted to Myers.
Hellboy is a lot of fun. Largely this is due to the performances from Ron Perlman as the titular Hellboy, but also the aquatic Abe Sapien. Performed by Doug Jones (with a studio mandated of David Hyde Pierce, who actually refused his credit, feeling the entire performance was created by Jones*) Sapien is brimming with kindness and empathy. Selma Blair gets to be more than the love interest. She is a pyro-kintetic who has been an outcast and is trying to come to terms with it.
The plot is almost kind of irrelevant, the film is more about the odd whimsical and supernatural experiences. The villains are largely stock (the exception being the very creepy Kroenen.
Some of the digital effects have not aged greatly (and yet, sadly, still are stronger than what we got in the newest Hellboy). But the make-up in the film is terrific.
While flawed in parts, the film remains an entertaining romp.
*This experience, along with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (where Doug was overdubbed by Laurence Fishburne) has resulted in Jones requiring in his contract that his vocal performance be used in his roles.