Hellboy (2004)
October 18, 2015 8:47 PM - Subscribe

A demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.

Roger Ebert:
"Hellboy" is one of those rare movies that's not only based on a comic book, but also feels like a comic book. It's vibrating with energy, and you can sense the zeal and joy in its making. Of course it's constructed of nonstop special effects, bizarre makeup and a preposterous story line, but it carries that baggage lightly; unlike some CGI movies that lumber from one set piece to another, this one skips lightheartedly through the action.

And in Ron Perlman, it has found an actor who is not just playing a superhero, but enjoying it; although he no doubt had to endure hours in makeup every day, he chomps his cigar, twitches his tail and battles his demons with something approaching glee. You can see an actor in the process of making an impossible character really work.

The movie, based on comics by Mike Mignola and directed by the Mexican-born horror master Guillermo del Toro ("Cronos," "Blade II"), opens with a scene involving Nazis, those most durable of comic book villains. In a desperate scheme late in World War II, they open a portal to the dark side and summon forth the Seven Gods of Chaos -- or almost do, before they are thwarted by U.S. soldiers and Prof. Bruttenholm (John Hurt), who is President Roosevelt's personal psychic adviser. Nothing slips through the portal except a little red baby with horns and a tail; he spits and hisses at the professor, who calms him with a Baby Ruth bar, cradles him in his arms and raises him to become mankind's chief warrior against the forces of hell.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of the most consistently underrated comic book adaptations. Such a great film. And the sequel was just as phenomenal.
posted by Fizz at 9:05 PM on October 18, 2015 [11 favorites]

I love both Hellboy films. The Troll Market scene in Golden Army is just gorgeous.
posted by brundlefly at 12:22 AM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Hellboy's not bad, but I've always liked Golden Army better. The first film is saddled with the kind of bland human guy in the lead and it feels like a pilot episode, while the sequel feels more like the pieces have gelled into place. The absence of Myers is dealt with in a single line in Golden Army, and I doubt anybody missed him.

I got curious whatever happened to that actor, and a quick look at Rupert Evans' IMDB page reveals that he was and is a British TV actor who scored a starring role in Hellboy and then just kind of went away. It's surprising to see how Hellboy just did not do anything for his career at all. Afterward he immediately went back to TV stuff and by 2012 he was starring in a segment of Dark Matters: Twisted But True. Jeez, now I feel kind of guilty for that crack about how nobody missed him in Golden Army! The character was pretty blah, but I think that was more the writing than the actor's fault.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:09 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

This and the sequel were great. Wish they'd make a third, there's still tons of source material to draw from.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:30 AM on October 19, 2015

When they make a third one , they better have Kate Corrigan in it!
posted by Pendragon at 4:09 AM on October 19, 2015

I'd certainly watch a third but what would be really cool would be a spin off with the sarcastic fish guy, maybe something like a life action space ghost talk show format?
posted by sammyo at 4:26 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I won both films and watch them often, and you can see the start of del Toro's "Eye Protein" ideas, where he loads the frame with imagery that, on repeated viewing, deepens the story. I can't tell you how many viewing of the first film it took before I realized that Hellboy sleeps in the back of a flatbed truck, which feels somehow significant. And I think the shot of the kleig light floating through space, and then bumping up against the frozen creature, whose eye opens, is the best representation of a Lovecraft elder god that I have ever seen on film.
posted by maxsparber at 8:40 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'll be the first to admit that I literally never watch movies like Hellboy (comic book adaptations, action flicks, anything with lots of 'splosions, basically anything that isn't a slasher movie or Wayne's World) but a friend had me watch this over the weekend. My thoughts, in total:

[beginning of movie]
Lol, why are they making the 60-year-old devil guy pine after the MPDG 20 years* his junior? Like she's gonna want to bone a giant red demon who's probably older than her dad?

[end of movie]


On a happier note, the fish guy reminded me very much of Data. I would watch a movie just about the fish guy.

* IMDB sez: actually 22 years
posted by divined by radio at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2015

Lol, why are they making the 60-year-old devil guy pine after the MPDG 20 years* his junior?

He's emotionally a teenager, though.
posted by brundlefly at 11:44 AM on October 19, 2015

There is such depth of mythos and dark beauty in the comics that just doesn't come across in the movies. I do like the movie and have watched it many times, but it doesn't match the amazing Hellboy/BPRD universe that lives in my imagination.
posted by Requiax at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think it's a stretch to apply the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope to Liz. In the first film she's a deeply troubled, morose woman who has split up with Hellboy. She's not a bouncy little cutie-pie who is trying to change his life with the Shins, and he spends the movie trying to win her back.

I don't think his age is nearly as much of an issue as the fact that he is a big red demon with a rock hand. Well, she's a girl who sets things on fire when she gets mad. She's certainly the more conventionally attractive of the pair, but they are both misfits who would have a hard time dating normal people. They are well-suited for each other, given the givens. I might even go so far as to say that Hellboy is more of the Natalie Portman in their relationship, trying to pull Liz out of her lonely funk and help her enjoy life.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:28 PM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

I love these movies, and to me the represent the high-water-mark of Del Toro's skills as a film-maker. His other efforts have stumbles and hiccups, but Hellboy as a text is a perfect complement to his strengths as a director, and I don't just mean special effects.

I think Del Toro is a fairly weak writer, especially when it comes to characters, and having Mignola's rich text with oodles of lore and flavour allows him to establish a strong through-line without consuming every other aspect of the story, which I really appreciate.

It seems we are unlikely to get a third, which sucks. The first two made money - but simply not enough to convince a studio to bankroll another one.

Props to Jeffrey Tambor in this one.
posted by smoke at 6:44 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Props to Jeffrey Tambor in this one.

Oh, yeah. I want to know how Jeffrey Tambor is choosing the projects he gets involved with, or if he just has someone doing it for him or what, because he has turned up a LOT in stuff that is both weird and good, to the point where I will now pay attention to stuff merely based on him being in it.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2015

I'm a fan of Hellboy and BPRD. I read the comics, got my fanboy autograph and photo with Mike Mignola. In general, I like what they did with the movies. Except Selma Blair. She's just so utterly dull, and they got Liz's character completely wrong.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:08 AM on October 23, 2015

Rewatch of both last weekend, and yeah:

The first film is saddled with the kind of bland human guy in the lead and it feels like a pilot episode, while the sequel feels more like the pieces have gelled into place.

Right, right -- and I think Del Toro is just a lot more confident and sure-footed about "sure, let's put all the weird stuff in" in 2, whereas in 1 he -- or the studio notes he was getting? -- were more cautious. And thus we got Myers as our audience-surrogate guide into the BPRD even though he's a cardboard character.

It seems we are unlikely to get a third, which sucks.

This still sucks. Yes.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:58 PM on March 9

Ah, go on then: I posted Hellboy II: The Golden Army to FanFare.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:13 PM on March 9

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