It’s a Heck of a Time: 'Hellboy Retrospective'
He's the Anti Anti-Christ
There’s a film I watched years ago in theaters, which would be the last for quite a while. I had no idea what it was at first since I hadn’t heard of it, but now I’m pretty familiar with the mythos. That film is Hellboy, a fantasy superhero film which came out in 2004 and was directed by Guillermo del Toro. With a reboot underway, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the original's big screen debut.
The plot follows Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who back in World War II, travelled to Scotland with the Allies to stop a Nazi experiment. The experiment resulted in a young demon coming through a portal, which Trevor adopts as his son. The demon is named Hellboy and grows up to work with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a task force dealing with paranormal, supernatural, and mystical beings.
During the experiment, Russian priest Grigori Rasputin assisted the Nazis but disappeared through the portal. In the modern day, his minions Haupstein and Kroenen are able to bring him back, though now he has additional abilities, including summoning another demon, Sammael, to cause mayhem.
Hellboy features several characters with different and interesting attributes. First off is John Myers, played by Rupert Evans. The way he’s introduced and the way the film focuses on him makes him look like the main protagonist. He’s more of the film’s narrator, more or less, being a surrogate for the viewers. Myers is a FBI agent who was chosen to join the BPRD as Hellboy’s caretaker. While not actually the protagonist, he is the voice of reason for the others. He butts heads with Hellboy a few times throughout the film, but ultimately ends up on good terms. He’s young and eager to prove himself, though things don’t always go in his favor.
Then there’s the actual main character, the titular Hellboy, played by Ron Pearlman. Hellboy is…unique. He’s a large muscular red demon with shaved horns, a tail, and a gigantic stone right hand coated with strange markings. He smoke cigars, is sarcastic, and loves pancakes and Babe Ruth Bars. He’s super strong, uses a large gun, and despite being a demon he fights for the side of humanity.
John Hurt plays Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy's adoptive father. He’s also the head of the BPRD. It’s clear to see that he deeply cares for Hellboy, though he does get annoyed by Hellboy's carelessness. There’s a subplot with him where he has an unknown illness, but it ultimately goes nowhere. He’s kind, caring, and knowledgeable, basically he’s the mentor character.
Selma Blair portrays Liz Sherman, Hellboy’s Goth love interest. She’s a pyrokinetic who uses fire abilities when emotionally stressed. While not necessarily quiet, she spends time to herself and is somewhat soft spoken. Doug Jones portrays Abe Sapien, with David Hyde Pierce providing his voice. He gained his name from being discovered the day when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. He’s a humanoid amphibian similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He’s one of the smartest members of the BPRD and also has psychic abilities. He also loves reading and eats rotten eggs on his free time.
The main antagonist is Grigori Rasputin, played by Karel Roden. After being revived, his main goal is to use Hellboy’s right arm as a key to free a group of gigantic Cthulhu-like gods called the Ogdru Jahad, to destroy the world. Personally I liked him as a villain. He’s one of those villains who talks in a quiet voice, has tons of resources and is charismatic in his manner and appearance.
The other two antagonist are Rasputin’s henchmen, Haupstein and Kroenen. Haupstein, played by Bridget Hodson, is Rasputin’s right hand woman and acts as his secretary. She’s also immortal, at least immune to natural death. Kroenen, played by Ladislav Bernan, is Rasputin’s muscle. He’s cladded in armor and is also essentially immortal since he’s kept alive using mechanics. He’s an assassin who doesn’t speak and uses sharp blades for fighting.
The film is mostly a superhero-type of film, but it has a ton of comedy and chemistry between the cast. Hellboy constantly cracks jokes, which is an easygoing contradiction of the seriousness going on. This also transitions when he faces the antagonist. For example, another antagonist is Sammael, played by Brian Steele, a bipedal dog-like demon who resurrects every time he’s defeated. Hellboy cracks jokes to him which eases the tension of a killer dog demon running around.
One minor subplot is the love triangle between Myers, Liz, and Hellboy. Hellboy thinks Myers is attempting to woo Liz and becomes somewhat antagonistic towards Myers. Unlike many other films, this plot has a beginning and an end, and it does add to their character, but it doesn’t affect the overall plot.
Despite Hellboy’s humor he is serious when need be. The film is filled with serious moments, actually some pretty tense situations arise. But there’s an even balance between the two and it never feels awkward. The film is also based off the comic of the same name, with several Easter eggs scattered about that points to the comics. Characters and items that appear in the comics make appearances in the background in certain scenes.
Overall Hellboy is a solid flick. Hellboy’s sense of humor fuels the film’s progression. There’s not much else to say except to go check it out if you’re into off-name superheroes, such as The Crow, or Spawn. The CGI is noticeable and dated during action scenes and a subplot or two doesn’t really go anywhere, but the rest of the film holds up. While the villains are the ‘destroy the world’ type, it still feels interesting. The main cast is diverse and keeps you invested. I’d say give Hellboy a shot if you want a different but unique take on the superhero genre.
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