Hellboy (2004)

Prolific director Guillermo Del Toro who penned the previous comic film “Blade 2” and the cult psychological horror film “The Devil’s Backbone” gives some competent direction in this adaptation of the hit comic book. A young agent John T. Meyers is recruited into the ranks of Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense Facility, he’s signed on to mentor their primary weapon of choice. Given a tour of the facilities gazing on to Abe Sapien a very intelligent reptilian sea creature, he’s assigned to take care of Hellboy. Discovered as a child during World War 2 during a raid on the Nazis, he was summoned to Earth to become the evil Rasputin’s child and eventual ruler of Earth, but when US soldiers discovered him, professor Broom took him in to reform him and he became Earth’s greatest protector using his powers for evil to protect humanity.

With his sanded down horns resembling goggles, his large gun the Samaritan, and humongous stone fist, he strikes down evil with funny one-liners and relaxation of a demon who isn’t afraid of demons. When Rasputin is released from his chamber, he continues his plot to bring hell to Earth with his demonic hounds of hell Sammael, his right hand man Kroenen, and the forces of evil, but can Hellboy beat the man who brought him to Earth and fight his destiny carved during birth? I was very anxious to see this film when it arrived in theaters, but the powers that be prevented me from watching it during its run, but once I was able to obtain a copy of the film, I had one hell of a good time.

The comics of Hellboy were a bit before my time, so I was never able to read a copy, however I was fortunate enough to learn as much as I could about the popular comic books, and I was very fascinated by the horror themed stories. I really enjoyed this film and was just stunned while watching, and found I was never really bored during the story, Del Toro brings the mood and tone from the comic books with much success to the big screen for fans of the comic, the genre and for teenagers. The project wasn’t without its many difficulties, though.

Del Toro after signing on for the film making it his pet project and a goal in his career, he and creator Mignola shopped around different studios to seek funding to bring “Hellboy” onto the big screen but were met with a lot of rejection for refusing to play by the rules the studios set vetoing character changes, and casting suggestions. Del Toro and Mignola, with actor Ron Perlman in mind for the lead character refused to cast a big name actor that the studios pressed upon the two. Some suggestions were Vin Diesel and wrestler the Rock, but the two persisted and were rejected repeatedly. With a lower budget given to them by Columbia and Revolution studios, they were able to make their own rules including keeping a very faithful adaptation of the comic book, and casting their prime choices including Ron Perlman who was on the mind of the creative duo from the get go and was the only person who was really fit to play big red.

After years in development, much difficulty, and with the blessed help from make up effects master Rick Baker and his company plus three other effects companies, creator Mike Mignola and director Guillermo Del Toro succeeded and Hellboy finally made his way onto the big screen, and they couldn’t have chosen a better man to play big red. If Nicole Kidman was brave for wearing a fake nose in “The Hours”, Ron Perlman is a great American hero. Enduring hours of make up, character actor Perlman who’s donned make up for most of his roles and worked with Del Toro in “Blade 2” playing the bad-ass Reinhardt, becomes the bad-ass hero Hellboy and he takes on the transformation with a lot of charisma and charm never revealing his own characteristics.

Perlman whose career consists mostly of minor roles and roles where he’s completely covered in prosthetics and make up becomes hellboy here and inhabits the perfect facial structure for the character. Not to mention his performance here is a treat to watch with some very funny one-liners and just a “Screw it all” attitude. He approaches fighting demons like fixing a sink, he goes in, handles the problem, struggles a bit and leaves, then goes home. I think viewers will love the hellboy character because he’s a lot like a big teenager. Though he looks like a man, its explained his aging process is a bit behind, so while he looks thirty or forty, his mentality is really only that of a twenty year old so he possesses the qualities of a teenager, he’s sarcastic, reckless, rebellious, loves cartoons and cats, and it’s especially demonstrated in his more endearing qualities like when he gets jealous, writes love notes, has very much of a sweet tooth, especially for chocolate candy bars, and is in love with Liz Sherman, the pyrokinetic.

Such love interested is demonstrated in the scene where Hellboy spies on Liz and John on a date drinking coffee and he’s following them across the city and makes friends with a small boy. The two watch them from afar eating cookies and milk while Hellboy complains, and then one of the funniest scenes in the movie when he sabotages their date. There are truly some incredible make up effects here as is expected by my favorite make up artist of all time, Rick Baker and his company. Along with some excellent exact molding from the comic books, there’s also the effects of Abe Sapien. Sapien played very well by contortionist Doug Jones and voiced by David Hyde Pierce who is unfortunately un-credited here. Sapien’s make up is exactly faithful to the comic books resembling the creature from the black lagoon but with the intelligence of a Harvard graduate.

Our introduction to him in the film is a bit bittersweet as he’s said to be reading four books at once, but eats rotten eggs, a twist of irony letting us know while he is very intelligent, he’s still just a fish. Discovered in an abandoned hospital, Abraham Sapien was named after Abraham Lincoln because he was born the day Lincoln was shot. He not only serves as a scout on a crime scene, but he also helps Hellboy on stakeout investigating crime scene going hunting. Amidst the creatures there are also some truly good human characters including Rupert Evans is very good and funny as the young John T. Meyers recruited by Dr. Broom to watch and take care of Hellboy as a guardian. Hellboy doesn’t take a real liking to him from the get go and becomes very cruel to him, but inevitably they form an uneasy bond, there’s also Liz Sherman the beautiful and fascinating pyrokinetic who is locked in insane asylum but breaks out to meet hellboy.

The two form a sweet relationship with each other. Hellboy has a deep romantic infatuation with her sneaking out from his home to see her while she’s conflicted because of their difference in species. Selma Blair is great in the film as she always is used with great effect. There’s also the great John Hurt as the father figure Professor Broom who watches over his children with zeal, and Tom Manning played by the always funny Jefferey Tambor, the egomaniacal and pompous FBI agent whose job is to cover up the sightings of Hellboy and finally Kroenen, the nazi’s number one assassin who wields blades with an immense fury and skill and is a really great character. All the while “Hellboy” is approached with a lot of excitement and a mix of drama, romance, action and comedy as well with some great special effects and character chemistry which was a lot of fun.

Now, we get the sense that the evil Rasputin has plans for Earth, okay, but what exactly, we were never really sure, because the script never really tells us a whole lot about his plans. I mean bad guys have plans for the world or America, but what did Rasputin have planned? Did he want to bring the Nazis back? Did he want to have Hellboy rule the world? Though the film seems as if its reaching for a point with its villain during the story, it doesn’t tend to trail off from interesting gothic lovecraft-esque story and motif into basic dark special effects fodder without really verifying or developing what it seemingly sets out to do: tell a story, and we never do get to clearly discover what Rasputin’s plans are to begin with.

All the while we have some really confusing plot twists that were pretty baffling like if the BPRD is supposed to be a top secret organization that the government is so dead set on keeping a secret, then why do they have two huge battles in public but there’s not a stir from the public, you figure there may have been some slack given to the sector and to Hellboy but otherwise it’s hard to believe people are so hung up on Hellboy, witness him beat monsters and no one has caught on or said anything. Otherwise Rasputin is rather under-developed, we never had a lot of scenes with him alone performing a monologue or the usual villainous banter, so for the first time in years we see a lot more focus on the hero instead of the villain, but in the process we never feel as if the villain is a force to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile PG-13 may be too harsh for kids who are around the age due solely to the fact that the creative team behind the special effects of Rick Baker might prove to be a little too intense for the children and pre-teens with dead bodies, some brutal violence and intense imagery that won’t bode well as family entertainment in the long run. In spite of the fact that its main story trails off into the usual special effects fodder without really making sense, this is probably one of the coolest comic book movies to come around in years with really enjoyable performances and special effects. This sure is a lot of fun.