Tuesday, 21 August 2012

26/07/2012: Hellboy [2004]

Hellboy is one of those movies that may have its flaws, but still has so many cool ideas that I love it despite of any shortcomings. Guillermo del Toro brought yet another comic book to the big screen but not just your well known superhero. While I’m not sure where Hellboy sits on the hero/anti-hero scale I do know that he kicks some ass, and his world of supernatural monstrosities and oddities is something special. I decided to rewatch Hellboy again after Ron Pearlman’s charitable deed and the new rumours of the third movie, and I think I liked it even more the second time.

Hellboy is not a well known comic book outside of the circle of people who read comic books. While over the years, Marvel and DC’s main line-up of superheroes have become well known to the public through their appearance in every type of media known to man. There are hundreds of other comics and publishers, that have yet to be translated to the big screen. Guillermo del Toro had wanted to translate Dark Horse Comic’s Hellboy to the big screen for years, and passed up a number of other movies to work on it. Honestly, I’d say Guillermo’s style was perfect to craft the world of Hellboy, which was full of supernatural beings and magic. 

As much as Hellboy’s name seems to insinuate that this is going to be a heaven versus hell supernatural death match, Hellboy’s demonology draws much more heavily from the ideas of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. We see visions of the massive imprisoned and tentacled elder gods who lie at the edge of the universe waiting to brings the apocalypse down on earth. Lovecraft’s mythos is then mixed in with a number of other elements, and combined they score a lot of points in my book. One of the best things about Hellboy’s world is that every being is original. There has always been two ways to go about crafting a supernatural world. You can define a set number of creatures and beings, and just have variations on them, or you can craft every single character to be their own unique being, with no two the same. While the first can be just as amazing, the later is always something special and is what has been created in Hellboy.

Does that loo like a flaming Jesus in the background or is that just me?
Personally, I think Hellboy is almost one of the least interesting characters in the movie. Sure he is some kind of demon embodiment of the Devil, big, red, tailed, hooved and horned, but his story is generally explained, whilst so many other interesting characters are shrouded in mystery. Abe Sapien for instance is introduced with about a line or two of dialogue explaining his name and how he was discovered, but you know there is so much more there. Then we have Liz Sherman, who doesn’t have a different skin colour or anything strange hidden under her clothes. But that doesn’t mean her pyrokinetic powers aren’t awesome, especially in blue. Then there are the villains. Rasputin is our standard thug type villain and as far as we are aware of human, until the end at least. Ilsa doesn’t get much mention, but she is interesting because, you know... she is apparently immortal. Then there is their minion Sammael, at least I think that is his name. The strange clockwork superassassin is never really explained, but damn was he cool. Overall, there was so many neat and mysterious individuals that they could almost all make their own movies. That is the difference between a movie and a comic, how much time you have to tell a character's story.

As for the story of Hellboy, it isn’t overly complicated at least if you just accept some things are magical and might not be explainable. Sometime during WWII the Nazis opened a portal to another dimension, or universe, or reality, or whatever. Nazi experiment equals major points in my book. While the Americans of course managed to stop them from summoning the Cthulhu like beings, Hellboy still managed to pass through. Now 60 years later, he works with the Bureau of Supernatural something or other, which Dr. Bruttenholm explains awesomely. This was probably my favourite line in the movie; “there are things that go bump in the night. We are the ones who bump back.” So, now a bitter Hellboy fights evil wherever it appears, and of course year later, are evil Nazi scientist Rasputin has returned. Hellboy of course overcomes all problems and in the end saves the day. It really isn’t that complicated, but it is good.

I like how all of his bullets come commercially packaged.
Hellboy mixes a good amount of imagination, humour, and action to create quite a fantastic experience. It is a little lacking in terms of overarching plot, and has to pack a lot of ideas and craft a world in a short time, but luckily it took itself a little over 2 hours to do it. The special effects are well done, and the CGI is by no means tacky or obvious. Abe Sapien’s makeup takes over 4 hours to apply, and almost as many to remove. At some points they would actually leave some of it on overnight, so that it would be faster to redo the next day. Hellboy himself also takes quite a few hours, as only his eyelids are that of actor Ron Pearlman. Recently, Ron Pearlman, put back on the makeup in order to fulfil a sick child’s wish which was the event that originally brought the thought of rewatching Hellboy into my mind. Ron Pearlman isn’t the most well known Hollywood actor, but he has gotten around, and he has a voice you’d recognize anywhere. Whether he is narrating the Fallout opening, fighting mutants or making a child’s wish come true, Pearlman is a great man and actor, and is an example for some of those more stuck up members of the film industry.

The  rest of Hellboy’s cast is great as well. With John Hurt and Rupert Evans playing their parts perfectly and Selma Blair doing a splendid job at being the rather depressed Liz. There are quite a few others, but another notable performance is that of Doug Jones as Abe Sapien. While the credits make no mention, Abe is actually dubbed by David Hyde Pierce, but he thought that Abe was so entirely Jones creation that he refused to take any credit. Guillermo del Toro also voices a large number of characters himself as well as making quite a few cameo appearances alongside Mike Migdola the writer of the Hellboy comics. I’d say you’d be hard pressed to identify all the references to him in the movie.

The glimpse we get of Hellboy's home are hilarious, with the man's love of cats and the shear amount of food he consumes.
Overall, Hellboy is a great fantasy outing, and a very interesting world. While the sequel wasn’t as loved, I am going to rewatch it and see what I think. This is all of course, in anticipation that a third movie does in fact get made. Since Ron Pearlman became Hellboy again for that child’s wish he has expressed desire to do a third movie. I do believe that Guillermo del Toro himself has expressed a similar interest and it seems that things are aligning such that we may see a third Hellboy movie in the works. I for one would be by no means disappointed.

Hellboy IMDb

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