Retro Review: Hellboy

Comic writer and creator Mike Mignola has always had a flair for the dark, mysterious and heavily moody. His artistic style renders his creations and drawings often in heavy black backgrounds where only portions of their faces are seen. Mignola’s art style was always more about the words than the pictures when creating a comic. He drew on the strengths of the piece and one of those “heavy-on-the-inks” creations just landed in your multiplex.

Hellboy” was conceived by the brain-trust of Mike Mignola and John Byrne who must have wanted to turn your typical hero adventurer on his ear. Their creation was bright red, had huge horns which he kept filed down and a giant-sized gun. In some ways their hero resembled something that would have sprung from the mind of comics-icon Jack Kirby but it was their unique vision that steered Hellboy more to the dramatic than the flamboyant. Their demon-hero became a cult favorite as his exploits with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) garnered critical acclaim.

In the film adaptation, director Guillermo del Toro (Blade 2) begins his story as a sinister plot to destroy our planet is hatched in 1944 by the evil madman Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) but is thwarted by Allied Forces led by a young Professor Broom (older version is played by John Hurt). After Rasputin is struck down, Broom rescues a little red creature who seems to have been a reluctant witness to the events. Broom goes on to raise the red runt as his son and his adopted name sticks, Hellboy.

In present day, Broom and Hellboy (Ron Perlman) are joined by fellow BRPD agents, Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a telepathic Mer-Man and Liz Sherman, an unstable pyrokinetic to find the secrets to Rasputin’s master plan. The faithful to Rasputin have found a way to resurrect their leader and vow to bring forth Armageddon. As the battle is waged, Hellboy may have to finally confront his destiny and decide where his true loyalties lie if he can just stop fighting long enough.

Hellboy” is one power-punched slugfest filled with dazzling effects and is probably one of the more fun comic based films to come through the woodwork. The key to this film’s success is a strong and very memorable performance from veteran actor Ron Perlman. The actor probably is best known for his other infamous beastly persona, Vincent in the 1980s television series, “Beauty and the Beast”. His Hellboy is rugged, sympathetic, brave and in some cases a little vulnerable. It is a great role and Perlman uses every aspect with such panache. He is utterly perfect.

Hellboy” probably marks the best work from del Toro since his little seen but brilliant horror movie, “The Devil’s Backbone” which has developed a huge cult following on DVD. Del Toro crafted every aspect of this motion picture and you can see the hours he must have spent. It’s all up there on the screen. The film has so much passion that it is hard to ignore. You do have to admire a man who can cover his actors in a foot of latex and make the battles exciting without looking like a “Power Rangers” episode.

I have long admired del Toro ever since he made the underrated horror film, “Mimic” starring Mira Sorvino. I love monster movies and Mimic was hard to forget. “Hellboy” is definitely in that same vain. Then del Toro made “Blade 2” which left me a little off put on the whole Blade franchise but it was on that film that del Toro met his Hellboy, Ron Perlman.

I did have a few small problems with del Toro’s film. I felt that Jeffrey Tambor’s crooked leader character was never really dealt with as much as he probably could have been. The whole character seemed overly contrived and in portions I really wondered if he was necessary.

As one who didn’t really immerse himself in the Hellboy comic series there were some things I didn’t quite understand. Who is the real Grigori Rasputin? What are his motives to wanting to destroy the planet? Also why does there have to be a heavily tentacled demon coming to Earth every time we open a portal? I know I ask these questions when it is just supposed to be a fun-filled comic book movie but just curious.

I really liked this movie and I hope to see more of this monster-thumper in the future. I am going to be in “monster-hunter” heaven this year with similarly themed movies like “Van Helsing” and “Aliens vs. Predator” coming soon. For now let this “devil reign”.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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