The Christian groups demanded “Heavenboy”, but Mel Gibson got that project.
In 1944, as soon as WWII was getting closer and closer to ending, some of Hitler’s Nazis occult experiments go wrong. Terribly wrong. By this, I mean that through a transportation device, somehow, a little red, devil-ish creature got stuck over here on Earth and was soon named Hellboy (Ron Perlman) by his founder, paranormal expert Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt). Cut to 60 years later, and that little red baby is a full-on, grown man with muscles, wit, and cigar-smoking and all. He also just so happens to be a government-funded crime fighter that has to be kept secret from the outside world, but all of that turns to shit once a scary dude, Rasputin (Karel Roden), comes back for revenge for the 60 years prior and wants it now, at any cost.
Some of you may find this hard to believe, but when I was just a wee, little guy, I never really went to the movies all that often. The movies that I did go see, were either ones that would have been out for longer than 2 weeks (cheapest), were usually seen with my dad (so nothing R-rated or too sexual), and were ones that we waited forever and ever to see, which means that my trips to the cinemas as a kid, were very few and far between. However, Hellboy was one of those very rare movies that my old man and I saw together and needless to say, it’s held a pretty close spot to my heart ever since. It wasn’t that I loved it or anything, I just remembering liking it and being awfully surprised that I would like something that was filled with freaks, monsters, and a red demon. Never was my cup of tea, but this film showed me that maybe I had to drop down those barricades and start drinking those cups.
All that said, about 9 years later after checking this movie out again, I still have to say it holds up, for better or worse.
What I mean by that is that the movie didn’t totally shock the hell out of me back in the day, and it still hasn’t now, but certain things I did and didn’t like about movies have certainly changed and I realize that more than ever with this flick. Guillermo del Toro will always be known for making creep-fests that stick with people for the longest time, whether they be disturbing or just plain scary, which is why it must have been a bit of a shocker to see his name attached to a mainstream superhero movie, that was also rated PG-13. It was a crazy idea that many people thought would not work (critically and financially), but the dude somehow pulled it off and it’s mainly because his attention to detail and beauty never ceases to amaze anybody watching his flicks.
The man just has an eye for style and where some directors would use their over-abundance of style to distract most viewers from the shit script they’re working on, del Toro uses it to his advantage to keep the story moving and even more relevant as time continues on. The darkness of the whole movie kind of got annoying after awhile, but once the man threw some color and CGI in there, then it was all good in the hood because it always offers you something new and interesting look at, regardless of if you feel it’s necessary or not. I feel like for a film that’s an adaptation of the Hellboy comics, it should look and feel as dark and as mystical as you can get, but that’s just me. Some people like that, and others don’t. I just so happen to be in the former.
But don’t be fooled by all of the “dark” talk I’m doing, because this movie is actually very light and fun in a way that doesn’t make it a romp, but doesn’t make it too serious either. It’s slap-dab in the middle, and it’s a whole bunch of fun for that main reason. Del Toro knows that the type of material he’s working with is a bit goofy, especially when you place it in a real-world environment, where human-beings scour the streets day-in-and-day-out, and he doesn’t shy away from those aspects. He treats Hellboy and everybody else with love and care, but also doesn’t forget that they’re also a bunch of “freaks” that obviously can’t connect with anybody else in the world except for themselves, and loves to watch as each and every one of them react to one another in a way that’s sometimes pleasant, and sometimes isn’t so pleasant. It’s sort of like an episode of Full House, but with a bunch of mutants and creatures and shit, instead of Danny Tanner, Uncle Joey, and *ahem* Jesse.
Once again though, del Toro finds perfect ground between these two elements of dark and light, and altogether, makes it a fun movie that can be enjoyed by all sorts of movie-going audiences. You got stuff for the nerds (swords going through countless people), the families (an endearing message lies within about loving the one who helped you through all of your years), the kids (Hellboy is a goofy guy who says funny things), the ladies (a nice love-angle between Hellboy and Liz Sherman), and even the guy who’s trying to get lucky with his girl on the second date (plenty of scary monsters). So basically, it’s the type of movie that anyone can see if they want to check out and have a good time with. Never thought I’d see that coming from a dude who’s most memorable trademark is the death of children in almost every one of his movies, but hey, surprises happen in life.
The even bigger surprise here is that Ron Perlman, an actor who has become a big name by now but wasn’t then, was probably the best and only person that could actually play this role as Hellboy because he’s got all of the features and elements to make this character watchable, even for a tad over two hours. On the outside, Hellboy seems like a hard-ass, tough dude that you do not want to mess with no matter what; but on the inside, he’s a big softy that has feelings, loves kittens, eats his Baby Ruths as if its nobody’s business, and has a heart that gets moved around a couple of times here and there. He’s basically a human, but not really. However, Perlman makes him feel realistic and charming enough to have us love him right from the start, and never lose that feeling we have for him. It may have been a risky move placing a relatively unknown character actor in a lead role for a big-budget, superhero flick, but it’s a risky move that paid off, because Perlman is such a class act that the dude can practically do anything, just as long as he isn’t scaring women and children away with that mug of his. Sheesh!
Everybody else in this cast is good too, and aids Perlman well, even when he doesn’t seem to need it. John Hurt is a great fit as Hellboy’s “adoptive father” that looks after him and knows all the ins and the outs of practically every mythological-being out there; David Hyde Pierce does “his thing” voicing Abe Sapien (Doug Jones actually “performed” the character), the fishy-man that can tell when, how, and where something happened, just by holding his fins down on an object; Selma Blair is boring and dead-panning her ass off as Liz Sherman, which bothered me at first because she seemed bored to death with the material and made me feel it as well, and then I realized that her character was hopped-up on nut-house drugs, so it all came together and made sense; and Rupert Evans is a bit bland as Kevin Myers, the FBI agent that’s assigned to looking after “the big red guy”, and seems to be struggling with trying to say nerdy, but smart and determined at the same time. The villains here are pretty forgettable, especially since they just seem to be nothing else other than “crazy, fucked-up Nazis!”
Consensus: By bringing some much-needed heart, feeling, and wit to it’s superhero, Hellboy ends up becoming a lot more of an entertaining-romp that can be seen and enjoyed by all, regardless of if they like del Toro movies, superhero movies, movies about weird creatures, or any of the above or not.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!