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2/9/08

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I saw this film in the theater back in 2004 and enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. Some of it was to ridiculous, the ending in particular, and it never seemed to fully gel to make a fully compelling film. I never thought much about it after that, though every once and a while I kept thinking I should revisit it, since it was now from the “visionary mind” of Guillermo del Toro, who was relatively unknown then. That urge caught up to me when I saw the trailer for Hellboy 2: Golden Army; I decided to watch the directors cut of the film, hoping that it might be a more rounded film.


And after watching it a second time, I feel like it was. I’m not sure if it was the added footage, which I honestly didn’t notice, it’s been too long, with too many movies in between for me to remember every scene; or if I was more open to the idea of a devilish-looking child from another dimension becoming the world’s savior. Either way, I bought into Hellboy more this time around. While it’s still nowhere near a perfect piece of comic book lore, the ending is still pretty ridiculous; I enjoyed it’s dark humor and fantastical trappings enough to mentally connect it with Pan's Labyrinth, via del Toro, which I do hold up as a nearly perfect film.



Ron Perlman is perfectly cast as Hellboy, he’s got a great sarcastic sense of humor, mixed with a slight bit of melancholy brought on by his being an outcast, but also an urge to perform his duty as a dispatcher of other-worldly things, because he’s the only one with the strength to face them. While his outside looks monster-ish, inside he’s human, thanks to his upbringing by Professor Bruttenholm, who found him at the site of a Nazi experiment with alternate dimensions. When the Nazi, who lead the experiment and was ultimately sucked into the void, returns to earth with the intention of recreating the world in his twisted image, it’s up to Hellboy and his team of misfits to save it.


Joining him are Abe Sapien, some kind of aqua-man, who doesn’t offer up much in the way of strength, but makes up for it in eternal-fishy genius; and Liz Sherman, played a bit too dour by Selma Blair, who has the power of flame. She’s also the love of Hellboy’s life, as the only girl to ever look at him without disgust. There’s a great scene where Hellboy escapes the lab, after being put in detention, to chase Liz into the world on a date with their new FBI keeper. Hellboy and the others chase down doggy-demons and undead-Nazi’s through a variety of subterranean locations, before Hellboy singly battles a colossus-demonic-cephalopod.


The thing that I liked most about Hellboy is his sarcastic sense of humor that he retains while everything is falling to pieces around him; he’s sort of Hell’s version of Han Solo, with the complaints disguised as quick wit, under the face of danger. The stony-red make-up that they’ve wrapped Ron Perlman in, grows on you through the course of the film, from absurd to a fully grown character by the end. Some of the computer effects are laughably bad, but for the most part, del Toro has created another wonderfully weird movie world. I’m now much more anxious to see the sequel, hopefully they retain the good parts, lose some of the bad, now that they have the slightly awkward origin story out of the way; and not make the mistake of going overboard on the bad guys, like so many comic book films unfortunately do; remain focused on Hellboy, he is the lovable star of the show.




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