Director – Guillermo del Toro
Cast – Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Rupert Evans, Selma Blair, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, Brian Steele, Ladislav Beran, Biddy Hodson, Corey Johnson
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Anyone familiar with the comic book scene has to know of Mike Mignola’s highly successful and equally awesome “Hellboy” series. When I first heard that this story would be turned into a full-length feature film I was beyond stoked, and when word came out that it was horror director Guillermo del Toro(Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II) himself writing and directing the film my mouth dropped, and I cannot say that I have fully recovered from the ordeal. One of the most underrated superhero stories of all time, Hellboy delivers heavily on excitement and a loveable character with more balls than all other superheroes combined.
During the final days of WWII before the collapse of the Nazi empire, Hitler’s obsession with the occult lead him to conjure up dark forces to aid his dying cause. The Allied forces managed to obstruct Hitler’s plan to use black magic, but not before a young demon made his way into our world. The Allies deemed this demon “Hellboy”, and he has since worked for a secret sect of the US government as their front line defense against attacks from the supernatural. When a mysterious and well-hidden artifact within a museum is stolen by creatures not from this world, Hellboy’s usual ass-kicking antics get the job done at first, but a sinister plan from an ancient evil with ties to Hitler’s occult holds the power to bring on an apocalypse of Biblical proportions.
Nearly all of us can relate to superhero stories and films, especially if you grew up in the comic book or graphic novel scenes. While Hellboy may not be seen as the type of superhero that Batman or Superman is, I see him as a superhero because he does the right thing, and he kicks a lot of ass doing it.
Guillermo del Toro’s screenplay is air-tight, and despite coming in at a two hour runtime his film flows and moves smoothly without any delay or slow scenes. The bulk of his storyline comes from the “Seed of Destruction” storyline, but el Toro throws in elements from the “Right Hand of Doom” and “Box Full of Evil” short stories as well, as well as several shout-outs to “Pancakes” and “The Corpse”. He has always mentioned Hellboy as his dream film, and it is obvious that the guy is a fan with how well this film turned out. From the get-go we are thrown into the unique storyline of Hellboy’s origins, which I found fantastic due to the mystique involved given Hitler’s influence on the matter. Anything involving history will grab my attention, especially if it either rewrites history or shows us elements of history that are lesser-known to the general public. I am also a fan of the supernatural, so when you mix both the supernatural and history, especially WWII history, you have my devout attention. From then on out we are given the awesomeness that is Hellboy, and in more ways than one. We watch him battle the supernatural with his slew of awesome weapons and diabolical wit, which includes many unique and horrifying villains sure to please those looking for a superhero film with a strong element of horror. What surprised me about this film was the other way in which Hellboy is awesome…he has a heart. There is always a romantic element thrown into every superhero film, but I really was not expecting one in this film simply because of how badass Hellboy is. I mean, he is a demon for crying out loud. Nonetheless, we are given a well-written love element involving Selma Blair(Can’t Hardly Wait, Scream 2, The Fog remake) as Hellboy’s love interest which adds a nice human touch to this awesome superhero. Thankfully, the awesomeness of this storyline does not end there, and we are given several other positive characters that add to the film’s enjoy ability. For a film to run for two hours there has to be several elements to keep the viewer engaged, and Hellboy’s friends do just that.
The biggest reason behind this film’s very positive rating is the fact that del Toro’s direction is as good as his screenplay. I mentioned earlier that for a film this long to keep the viewer engaged there would have to be several elements required to do so, and del Toro’s visuals do the trick. Right from the get-go we are thrown into his visual masterpiece that includes numerous incredible sets and incredible camerawork, as well as awesome looking heroes and villains. His execution of every fight scene is invigorating, and was so well done that I never noticed just how little blood the film shows until after the climax, when I noticed the film was PG-13. He gets great character performances from all, and I applaud him heavily for stubbornly fighting for Ron Perlman(Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I Sell The Dead, Cronos, The City of Lost Children, Alien: Resurrection, Blade II, The Last Winter, The Island of Dr. Moreau – 1996) to land the role of Hellboy. Perlman was perfect in every aspect there is, including his physical features as well as his ability to show emotion and sarcasm. We also get a great performance from John Hurt as Prof. Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, the man who raised Hellboy, and Selma Blair did a fine job as Hellboy’s love interest. I do feel that a few characters were miscast, although their performances were as good as they could have been. Rupert Evans played a strong supporting role as John Myers, but I never found myself giving much of a damn for him. I do not really blame it on how his character was written, although that could be the case. The other actor I felt was miscast was Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning. I have loved Jeffrey Tambor(Hellboy II: The Golden Army) ever since he gave us the hilarious George/Oscar Bluth in “Arrested Development”, but I felt that he never really fit into his role in this film. Nonetheless his and Rupert’s performances were good, so they did not detriment from the film in the end.
Overall, this is an awesome film that finally gives us a superhero with a strong element of horror and an even higher level of ass-kicking. Fans of Mike Mignola’s comic series should be pleased with this film given Guillermo del Toro’s respectful treatment of the series, and Ron Perlman’s iconic performance as Hellboy. A unique story and incredible direction make this a hour film an incredibly engaging watch that I recommend to all.