Hellboy (2004)

hellboy IMDb

Hellboy is weird, but like, good weird. I don’t know if it’s because my ability to suspend reality has been exponentially increased thanks to The Avengers, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy, but I used to only really like humanoid superheroes. Introducing aliens or other worldly creatures into the picture would usually cause me to like the movie a little less. Now I’m like, “Oh he’s a demon with a stone hand and his partner is a fishman? Sure, let’s do this.”

That said, I think Hellboy came out a few years too early. If the franchise were given a sequel now, I think it would absolutely kill at the box office. The general public easily accepts a certain type of superhero: white males with a strong moral compass. Think Superman and the 1960s television incarnation of Batman. However, comic book movies have been pushing those boundaries over the past decade, and I think the brilliance of Hellboy would be better appreciated now.

Hellboy is a demon, accidentally brought to Earth from deep space through a portal, and adopted as a mascot by Allied Forces during World War II. He doesn’t fit the conventional superhero mold physically, but his personality is reminiscent of the new breed of movie heroes: Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Starlord. The type of heroes who are sarcastic and maybe a little morally ambiguous at times, but who ultimately want to do what’s right. Hellboy fits in so well with these guys, that I can’t help but think that their film personalities have been shaped a little bit by the red demon.

I would like to see Hellboy get another sequel, because he is a fun character to follow. The cast of this and its sequel are great, with Ron Perlman shining as the titular hero and Selma Blair a strong counterweight as his love interest. While I enjoyed David Hyde Pierce as the voice of Hellboy’s partner, Abe Sapien, the costume and CGI used to create the fishman are a tad laughable now. Also, I love that the primary villain of this universe is Grigori Rasputin. Nazis have been the go-to bad guys in film for decades (and they feature heavily in Hellboy’s transportation to Earth), but I’ve always thought Rasputin would be a “fun” evildoer to work into fiction. Certainly different and more mysterious, at the very least.

Hellboy would fit in so well with the comic book movies being made now. I think he’s prime for a comeback, complete with improved special effects. But don’t change anything else– he’s near perfection as he is.

Rating: B+

Hellboy comes from that weird time before Marvel changed the game and comic book movies were still considered kitschy or a bit of a novelty. Hellboy certainly fits in with that description, there is not much else out there like it, and I’m pretty sure that’s how director Guillermo Del Toro likes it. Apparently studio execs tried to change the Hellboy character to be more humanlike, rather than a big red demon, but Del Toro vetoed all of their ideas and refused to be involved with the film if they were implemented. The suits finally gave in, and Del Toro was able to make the movie he wanted.

Hellboy is about a secret section of the government called the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). This group keep track of all of the world’s supernatural events and put a stop to them when required. Their most famous member is a large red demon named Hellboy (Ron Perlman). Hellboy was brought to earth by the Nazis during World War II as a baby, but before Hitler could warp his mind, Hellboy was rescued by Olivander the wand maker (John Hurt) who raised him like a son. Now Hellboy is one of the good guys, helping his friends Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) stop anything that might attack the planet. Turns out that the very people who brought Hellboy into thie world are back with a vengeance. They intend on wiping out the world unless Hellboy and his friends can stop them.

I enjoyed this film. Ron Perlman is great as Hellboy. Apparently he was Del Toro’s only choice for the role. You hear claims like that and wonder if they’re really true, but Perlman embodies the role so well and looks exactly like the comic book character so you really believe there is some truth to Del Toro’s claims. His makeup is really well done, you believe Hellboy is a giant red demon. It says a lot about the use of practical effects. It would have been so easy to CG large chunks of Hellboy’s body, but the fact they did it properly and he was there on set each day decked out as the larger than life demon adds so much to the production values. When I see CG shots from back then, some of them look so dated, but nearly all of the films that use practical effects still look ok, even several years later.

There is a lot of humour in this film. Hellboy and his banter with the rest of the cast is definitely a highlight for me. Perlman is charming and funny as Hellboy, but can still bring an ass kicking when he needs too. Hellboy is not like any comic book movie I’ve seen before. That’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just different. The film is enjoyable and has a strong performance from Ron Perlman.

Rating: B-

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