Another month, another Hollywood adaptation of a comic book hero. This time around it's the turn of Mike Mignola's Hellboy - cult favourite and a decidedly different beast to the likes of Spider-Man. The film opens in 1942 as the Nazis, in a desperate bid to change the course of the war, have taken to summoning up demons. Leading the charge is Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), who has opened up a portal to hell on a remote Scottish island. An elite core of allied troops averts his nefarious scheme but a small demon manages to escape through the gateway. The little horned fellow is named Hellboy and adopted by Professor Buttenholm (John Hurt), a government sponsored scientist of the paranormal. Decades later and the Professor is still a father figure to Hellboy (now played with style by Ron Perlman). And though he's developed something of an attitude, Hellboy is prepared to step in when Rasputin returns from the dead and swears vengeance on the world.
Still with me? The story may be as loose, boisterous and ramshackle as comic book adaptations get, but Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone) has made an atmospheric and slick addition to the genre. The writer-director's imagination runs away with him when it comes to plot matters but beneath the surface of Hellboy there's an oddly affecting love story straining to get out. As he doubles up as writer, del Toro invests his characters with a quick wit and humanity. Where it all falls short is with the repetitive nature of the action sequences - which all seem to blur into the one lengthy punch-up. But the charm of the characters and the moody direction exercised by del Toro means that Hellboy passes the test.